Not a Dime’s Worth of Difference Who’s on State Ed Board



Tim Skubick opines this week that the system for selecting state Board of Education members is seriously broken because, “The vast majority of Michigan voters don’t have the foggiest notion as to who the nominees are.” He’s right that voters don’t know their names, but that doesn’t mean voters don’t know anything about them. These elections are partisan, so candidates all have an “R,” “D,” “L,” “G” or whatever after their name.


Unless you believe that candidates who are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens etc. don’t tend to differ on their philosophy of education, then that party label can provide important and useful information to voters. Of course sometimes there really isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties, especially when candidates are catering to a self-serving government school establishment (the Blob) as these ones often do. Still, one can discern differences in the focus and behavior of state Board members based on their partisan affiliation.


Here’s the more important fact about this state Board of Education, however: It’s almost completely irrelevant. Except for a much greater quantity of bureaucratese spoken at its marathon meetings, Board discussions often have no more relationship to real world outcomes than do the passionate debates at Libertarian or Green Party conventions over platform minutiae.


However, these state Board of Education elections do serve one useful purpose, along with the constitutionally-mandated elections for regents at the UM, MSU and Wayne State: Since voters don’t know the candidates, they vote almost purely on party lines, and it’s on these vote totals that  pundits, political pros and political scientists base their estimates of party base percentages in precincts and legislative districts around the state. 


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3 Responses to “Not a Dime’s Worth of Difference Who’s on State Ed Board”

  1. Jason Gillman Says:

    “it’s on these vote totals that pundits, political pros and political scientists base their estimates of party base percentages in precincts and legislative districts around the state.”

    Clearly the BEST reason to have these expanded bureaucracies..

    pitiful, and a good point.

  2. Scot Jenkins Says:


    I think if you vote for me you and I win – you will see a change on the board. I am not good at following rules. I would appreciate your support.

    By the way, I think we used to work together a few years ago.

    Scott Jenkins

  3. Chetly Zarko Says:


    You’ve made a case then for having only one position of this type with meaningless elections – the rest should be reformed. (so poli sci folks and consultants like myself have baselines). We should have an office of glorified raincatcher to serve that purpose. But the State Bd. does have power to do some damage – witness its violation of Proposal 2 I caught two months ago, where it grades university K-12 teacher training programs using a hard diversity quota.

    I don’t think you’ll argue that each of the Regents/Trustees offices are meaningless (though they don’t use their power over university president well enough or make them accountable). Same type of election as St. Bd – I say reform them all to have them be elected BY DISTRICT. Say something on the order of Congressional District sized or may be twice that size (works out mathematically nice with 8 seats and 16 CDs.)

    Districts are “campaignable” without nearly the monetary input that statewide campaigns cost (which is why almost no serious money is put into these races). This would restore some competition to the elections.

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