Editorial: Our choices for State Board of Education

The Detroit News Editorial Board

For a guide to The Detroit News endorsements in all races so far, click here.

Editor's note: As with the state's three major universities, the state Constitution calls for the statewide election of the State Board of Education. Every two years, two of the positions on the eight-member board are up for election, and candidates are chosen at state party conventions. Members serve eight-year terms and oversee K-12 public education by making policy recommendations and appointing the state superintendent. 

We have long raised the alarm over the problems with governance of Michigan’s K-12 schools. This state is one of only a few that doesn’t allow the governor any control over who sits on the Board of Education and/or the ability to appoint a state superintendent of education. As a result, there is no one clear direction for education, and not much gets done. 

This would take a constitutional change. So in the meantime, we must deal with one of the least effective elected bodies in Michigan. 

More political balance would help, as the board is currently 6-2 under Democratic control. Yet Republicans — and Democrats — have struggled to offer strong candidates who would provide comprehensive leadership over the issues facing our public schools. 

Democratic incumbents Lupe Ramos-Montigny and Michelle Fecteau are not seeking re-election, leaving two open seats. 

Our recommendation goes to Republican Tami Carlone of Novi, who is a CPA and an advocate for improving schools. She’s a little too focused on overturning the Common Core curriculum, which has been in place now for years in Michigan. 

Tami Carlone

But she has some good ideas around ensuring teacher programs are effective, in addition to increasing accountability over education. “If everybody is making education policy, and there is no transparency and accountability, excellent overall results will continue to elude Michigan,” Carlone said in our questionnaire.

Our other recommendation goes to former state Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, a Democrat from Huntington Woods. While in Lansing, she served on the Education Committee, as well as the appropriations subcommittee on K-12 schools. And she says if elected she would work to establish more communication between the State Board and lawmakers — something that is sorely lacking now. She’s also an advocate for more equitable funding for high poverty districts. 

Ellen Cogen Lipton

The other candidates include real estate broker Jason Strayhorn, a Democrat from Novi, who makes a good case for why there should be more diversity on the State Board; and Michelle Frederick, a Republican from Goodrich, who is a special needs advocate. 

But we think Tami Carlone and Ellen Cogen Lipton are the best options for voters.

Endorsements are determined independently by The Detroit News Editorial Board and have no influence on news coverage.