How many people do I vote for? – Part 4: Education elected officials

Talk to youth about the voting process and discuss the roles of education elected positions.

This is the fourth article in a series about the different people you vote for on Election Day. It includes some basic information, questions for discussion and things to consider. Take time to talk to the young people in your life (and adults too) about who you are voting for, why and their opinions on the issue. Why is our government the way it is? What would happen if we changed things?

In Michigan, we elect many people who manage our educational system. I haven’t seen any data, but my guess is very few people know the individuals in these positions. Do you know any of them? I did an informal poll in my office, and only two of them knew anyone in any of those positions, and even then they only knew a few people. How do you find out about the record for an educational candidate?

Members of the State Board of Education

Members of the State Board of Education (eight members) are elected in groups of two every other year to eight-year terms, with no term limits. The State Board of Education selects the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, who runs the Michigan Department of Education. This is the only Michigan-level department head selected in this way.

How might a department head selected by an elected board act differently than one directly elected or appointed by the Governor? Do you think one method of selection is better than another? An eight member board could lead to a tie vote. Could this be a problem?

University board members

Members of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees (eight members), University of Michigan Board of Regents (eight members) and Wayne State University Board of Governors (eight members) set the budget, tuition rates and hire the president of the university. Three of our 13 public universities in Michigan have boards selected by the voters of Michigan elected in groups of two every other year to eight-year terms, with no term limits. The other universities have board members appointed by the Governor.

Do you think all universities should have statewide elected boards? Should they all be appointed by the Governor? Should the boards be elected regionally? Should students or staff and faculty at the university elect the boards? Should we have university boards at all? Should we elect the university presidents rather than the boards?

Even though I work for MSU Extension, very few folks in my office could name one member of the MSU Board of Trustees.

In an interesting side note, in Indiana the university boards are selected by the Governor. The university boards then select their university president. At Purdue University, the former Governor appointed eight out of 10 trustees. When the Governor was term-limited out of office, the trustees he appointed selected him to be the university president.

Members of the Community College Board of Trustees

There are 29 community colleges across the state of Michigan with elected boards. Community colleges have districts that they serve. The entire state is not covered by a community college service area. Should the entire state be service by a community college? Why are there community colleges in some parts of the state, but not others? Each community college has a seven-member Community College Board of Trustees elected to staggered six-year terms. There are also three tribal colleges in Michigan whose boards are selected by their respective tribal councils.

Member of the local school board

There are 545 school districts in Michigan, each governed by a school board. Most school boards have seven members. School board terms can be four or six years based on their individual bylaws. School districts usually have boundaries that do not follow any political boundary. What are the pros and cons of having school districts and political boundaries line up? Why do you think your school district is shaped the way it is? Should students get to vote in school board elections? Why or why not? Is there a limit to how small or how large a school system should be?

Hopefully these questions get you thinking about our government and generate some interesting ideas as you head to the polls. They might also encourage the young people in your life to make a difference in their community, country and world.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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