Republicans Move to End Democratically Elected School Boards

Republicans in the state House of Representatives will hold a hearing on Thursday to discuss a series of bills that puts an end to your ability to vote for university boards and the State Board of Education.

Currently, voters have the ability to elect members of the University of Michigan Regents, Michigan State University Board of Trustees and Board of Governors at Wayne State University. The boards, of course, serve in an operations and oversight capacity for the state’s three largest universities.

The university boards and the state Board of Education are written in the state Constitution as elected offices, so in order to change that, representatives must create a constitutional amendment. There is also legislation tied to the passing of the amendments that would change definitions elsewhere in state law.

What members of the House Elections and Ethics Committee will take up tomorrow is to make the State Board of Education and university governing boards appointments by the governor (House Joint Resolution DD), as well as a separate proposal to then tack on term limits to university boards (House Joint Resolution EE).

The committee will meet on tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. at the House Office Building in Lansing to discuss the legislation and constitutional amendments. More information about the meeting and the proposals at hand can be found online.

Should the House and Senate both pass the proposed constitutional amendments by a two-thirds majority, as is required in state law, and the people pass them in November’s general election, the candidate who wins the general election in November would have the ability to appoint university boards effective their first day in office. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is running for governor, has proposed a similar constitutional change should he be elected governor.

Schuette has also been tasked with investigating what all had transpired at MSU and whether there was any wrongdoing by current or former faculty or elected officials with regard to the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal. Schuette instead appointed Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth to handle the case. Both have ties to major MSU donor Peter Secchia, who has in the last month blamed victims of Nassar’s abuse for effectively not knowing better or trying hard enough to raise awareness about Nassar’s sexual assaults.

Further complicating matters is that former Michigan Governor John Engler has since been named interim president of MSU and had issued an endorsement for Schuette’s bid for governor. Engler has since asked Schuette to remove his name from his endorsement list, though Schuette has not yet announced that he would also give back money Engler had given to Schuette throughout Schuette’s political endeavors, including for governor.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson