Michigan state school board race features 8 candidates for 2 seats

Two people cast their ballots in voting booths. Their top halves are behind a voting screen and their legs are visible beneath the table. The voter on the left is sitting in a chair with legs crossed. The voter on the right is standing.
Eight candidates are running for two seats on the state Board of Education in Michigan. (Matthew Hatcher / Getty Images)

One is a public health expert. Two have taught college. Two work in real estate. Another is an organizational psychologist. One is an accountant. And all of them want to be members of Michigan’s State Board of Education.

Eight candidates are running for two seats on the board, whose most significant duty is hiring and firing the state superintendent. Most education policy decisions in Michigan are the responsibility of the Legislature and local school districts.

Seven of the candidates responded to a Chalkbeat questionnaire ahead of the Nov. 8 election. 

Their responses show stark differences in ideologies and priorities. They offered divergent opinions on how students should learn about racism, whether schools should limit access to controversial books, and whether the state should give tax breaks for vouchers that can be used for private school tuition.

Candidates also weighed in on state Superintendent Michael Rice’s performance. Responses ranged from high praise to a call for his resignation. Read more below in Chalkbeat’s voter guide.

The candidates include two Democrats, two Republicans, two Libertarians, one member of the Working Class Party, and one member of the U.S. Taxpayers Party.

The current board comprises two Republicans and five Democrats, including two whose eight-year terms are ending: incumbent Pamela Pugh and Casandra Ulbrich, the board’s president, who is not standing for re-election.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is expected to soon appoint an eighth member to replace Democrat Jason Strayhorn, who resigned in July with 5½ years left in his term.

Biographical responses were edited for length and clarity. 

Tracie Mauriello covers state education policy for Chalkbeat Detroit and Bridge Michigan. Reach her at tmauriello@chalkbeat.org.

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