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2 state school board members vow to show up for canceled meeting

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Two Republican members of the State Board of Education condemned the cancellation of Tuesday’s board meeting and vowed to be present in the boardroom.

Tom McMillin.

Tom McMillin and Nikki Snyder issued a joint statement on Monday questioning the legality of canceling the regularly scheduled 9:30 a.m. board meeting.

"Hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents are going to work — grocery store and restaurant workers … and the legislature is meeting on Tuesday," McMillin said in a statement.

"Why in the world are we not? Many of the 1.5 million public school students’ education is in turmoil. The state board of education needs to meet to help local districts cope with current challenges."

Snyder noted the board meets once a month.

"… And we can’t meet this Tuesday?  We have to wait until after the election to meet?" he said.

On Friday, state education officials announced the board meeting was being postponed until November due to a lack of clarity about whether public bodies can continue to hold virtual meetings.

The Michigan Department of Education said the confusion comes after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled Oct. 2 that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did not have the authority to continue declaring a state of emergency and nullified her executive orders. Among those orders was one allowing public bodies to meet virtually.

Monday afternoon, the court denied Whitmer's request to delay the effective date of its decision voiding her emergency powers and declared her emergency orders "are of no continuing legal effect."

On Monday, Casandra Ulbrich, state Board of Education president, said there is still no lawful mechanism for a virtual meeting.

"If the board were to meet in person, capacity would be limited. Given the number of board members, presenters and staff, this would mean that the general public would not have adequate access to the in-person meeting," Ulbrich said.

"In addition, the board table itself does not allow for adequate social distancing, and without it, presents a challenge for at-home viewers to appropriately watch the proceedings."

Ulbrich said she is hopeful that state lawmakers will act Tuesday to clarify the issue.

"In the meantime, if Ms. Snyder and Mr. McMillan choose to visit Lansing on Tuesday, I encourage them to wear their masks and practice social distancing," Ulbrich said.  

jchambers@detroitnews.com