| January 26, 2011

Statement from OCPA: Legislature Should Reform the State Board of Education

The following statement was issued today by constitutional law professor Andrew Spiropoulos, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow at OCPA:

The actions taken by the State Board of Education today—not allowing the newly elected superintendent to hire her own staff—are a perfect illustration of dysfunction in state government. It’s time for the state Legislature to reform the state Board of Education.

Though the state constitution does require the establishment of a State Board of Education, it explicitly states that, in addition to its composition, the board’s “powers and duties shall be prescribed by law.” The Legislature, therefore, can restrict or even take away the board’s managerial powers; at a minimum, the Legislature must ensure the superintendent possesses sufficient power to hire staff and manage the department as she sees fit. The Legislature can also reform the board by altering the length of its members’ terms and how they are appointed.

The members of the board, except for the superintendent, are currently appointed by the governor and hold six-year terms. The Legislature could easily revise the law to require that the term of each incumbent member ends with the election of a new governor and that each new member is appointed by the new governor or, maybe better yet, by the superintendent. The larger point is that control of our public education system is the hands of the Legislature and governor—they should be held responsible for remedying the board's unconscionable acts.

Today’s actions are a perfect example of why our government is dysfunctional. We tie down our executive officials with a dizzying array of boards and commissions that act like leeches on our public circulatory system. Why? Because we are unwilling to trust either the individuals the people have chosen to do their jobs well, or to trust the people to throw these officials out if they have performed poorly.

The architects of our national government long ago explained that the prerequisites for good government are energy, stability, and accountability. There is no doubt having our educational system run by Gov. Brad Henry’s people long after his departure makes for a more stable government. But a government that both lacks the power to reform itself and ignores the clear command of the people to change is no good at all.

OCPA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank which formulates public policy research and analysis consistent with the principles of free enterprise, limited government, and individual initiative.


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