Editor’s note: Term limits lead to lost talent

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

Kudos to state Rep. Tim Kelly, who is in line for a job with the U.S. Department of Education. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has tapped him to serve as assistant secretary of technical and adult education. While the White House is still vetting him, he’ll likely land the position.

Given his background in education policy and workforce development, Kelly is an excellent choice.

The Saginaw Township Republican is chairman of the House Appropriations school aid subcommittee as well as the House Education Reform Committee. He’s one of the smartest people in the Legislature, and he’s not shied away from tough issues.

Kelly is a staunch defender of school choice and making schools work for all kids. When lawmakers debated what to do about Detroit Public Schools, Kelly suggested offering Detroit families a form of voucher to attend the school they wanted. Even though that kind of choice isn’t possible in Michigan right now because of constitutional provisions blocking vouchers and tax credits, Kelly isn’t afraid to propose bold ideas.

He has also previously introduced a resolution to abolish the State Board of Education, and he’s backed giving private schools some reimbursement for state health and safety mandates.

If Kelly heads to Washington, he’ll make a difference there, too. But it will be Michigan’s loss.

His political options are limited here, however. In his third term in the state House, Kelly is term-limited in that chamber. And the Senate seat in his district is occupied by a GOP senator in his first term, so Kelly doesn’t have many choices.

As Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, who is also term-limited, opined last month, term limits are a “failed social experiment” in this state. Voters approved them in 1992, embedding them in the constitution.

This could be the time to revisit term limits. If paired with making the Legislature part-time, voters may be more open to the idea of extended terms. A resolution introduced earlier this year proposed the part-time idea and there is also a pending petition drive.

As long as Michigan’s term limits stay in place, the state will continue to lose its best lawmakers.