State education board election could impact Michigan schools for years

High school teacher giving a lecture in the classroom.

It’s a little-known elected body that’s easy to overlook when you’re trying to navigate a lengthy ballot. But the two people elected to eight-year terms on the State Board of Education will have a hand in making a decision that could shape education in Michigan for years to come.

That decision? The hiring of a new state superintendent to lead the Michigan Department of Education. That person will become Michigan’s top education leader at a time when schools across the state, as one candidate put it, “are in crisis.”

It’s one of the biggest issues in the race for two seats on the board, which meets monthly in Lansing and is responsible for setting education policy in the state.

The superintendent’s position has been open since May, when Brian Whiston, who had been state superintendent since 2015, died after a battle with cancer. Sheila Alles, who had been chief deputy superintendent, has been serving in an interim role since May.