Education, Rick Snyder — March 9, 2017

Mich Gov. Snyder’s hand-picked commission to recommend governor appointment rather than election of State Board of Ed.

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Back in 2002, Governor John Engler, one of the co-founders of the Koch brothers-funded, corporatist front group Mackinac Center for Public Policy, recommended doing away with the Michigan Board of Education and make it a group appointed by the governor rather than the elected body it was then and still is today:

Viewing the State Board of Education as an enemy of reform, Gov. John Engler on Thursday said it should be abolished and a new body appointed by the governor.

Engler, long a critic of the elected board that oversees K-12 education, wants his successor in 2003 to create an appointed body.

“The State Board of Education needs to be abolished,” Engler told the Lansing State Journal on Thursday.

He says the eight-member board would be more efficient and more accountable under direct control of the governor.

Fifteen years later, a state commission largely comprised of Gov. Rick Snyder’s hand-picked appointees will be making the same misguided, anti-democratic recommendation in a report to be released tomorrow according the Bridge Magazine:

A commission convened to offer reforms to Michigan’s troubled education system recommends a major shift in oversight power to the governor’s office – and the possible abolition of the State Board of Education.

Scheduled to be released Friday, the report by Michigan’s 21st Century Education Commission forwards two proposals that would grant the governor authority to appoint board of education members, while a third proposal would have the governor appoint the state superintendent and “abolish” the SBE. Currently, the eight-member board is elected directly by statewide vote.

The commission was created by an executive order issued by Gov. Snyder nearly a year ago. It is comprised of 25 members. Two of them are top Republicans in the legislature. Three others are members of Gov. Snyder’s administration. Sixteen of them are appointed by Gov. Snyder directly. In other words, it’s a group dominated by individuals beholden to and/or politically aligned with the governor.

The elimination of the State Board of Education as an elected body would be an anti-democratic power grab that would prevent the citizens of Michigan from having a voice in the makeup of the group that oversees education in our state. It wouldn’t be the only education-related power grab taken by Snyder, of course. Recall that two years ago Gov. Snyder pulled the School Reform Office from under the purview of the State School Board of Education and put it under the control of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget. It was a clear signal that Gov. Snyder sees education, particularly struggling schools, as one more budget item to be managed rather than as something to be invested in and nurtured by trained education experts.

Like that move, if Gov. Snyder pushes for a revision of the state constitution to eliminate the Board of Education and replace it with an appointed group answerable only to the person who appointed them, it will clearly reveal what we already know: His goal is to consolidate education-related decision-making power to people who support his corporatist worldview.

Given that the Education Commission is so heavily aligned with Gov. Snyder, it’s no surprise to learn that a critical statement relating to charter schools and schools-of-choice never made it into the final version of the report:

A draft critique of the state’s charter and schools-of-choice laws, which didn’t make it into the final report, said: “If anything, evidence suggests the current dynamics of expansive cross-boundary school choice and opening of more than 300 charter school and cyber districts has contributed to student performance declines.”

Given who is on the commission and how they got there, it’s easy to understand why that particular observation was not allowed to see the light of day.

[Caricature by DonkeyHotey from photos by Anne C. Savage for Eclectablog]

  • judyms9

    The GOP wants control of education because they believe the young are being indoctrinated with liberal ideas and ideals that are so potent that parents, churches and others in the community are unable to influence these youth in ways that counteract all that liberalism, which in most cases is nothing more than learning US history, good citizenship and avoiding littering.
    And, yes, we are not allowed to speak ill of the ill prepared who became the head of the Department of Education.

  • John Telford

    A fascistic and Jim Crowist intent.

  • J Snyder

    Maybe they can put Betsy DeVos in charge of new commission (if it flies) after she’s sacrificed in one of Trump’s purges (which we know are coming).

  • Dexter

    To be sure, the Board of Education is a constituionally created body. That would mean that they’d need a supermajority in both houses to destroy it or restructure it. They have it in the Senate (though, it’s doubtful they’d be able to get all the votes even there), and they’ll never get it in the House (there are simply too many safe Dem seats for however cynical may have become about our politics). They also wouldn’t send this to the voters, because the voters would rejected such a change. So, basically, they’ll just have to keep daydreaming about this.

    That said, it’s never bad to have the GOP on record as wanting to do something this bad.

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