Toward the end of the year, along with announcing the end of his own controversial education agency, Governor Mike Pence said he wants the state legislature to consider changing how the SBOE operates. To help diffuse tension between State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and other members of the board, Pence has suggested allowing the board to elect its own chairperson, rather than automatically giving that seat to the superintendent.
This isn’t an unusual move – plenty of other states do it this way. In fact, the majority do.
Board members in thirty-six states plus Guam and the Northern Marianas elect their own chairs. Governors in eight other states appoint the board chair, and in Alabama the governor him- or herself serves as chair, according to the National Association of State Boards of Education.
Three states – Minnesota, New Mexico and Wisconsin – either have no state board, or a board that operates in a different capacity. For example, New Mexico has a “Public Education Committee,” which serves as an advisory board to the state’s secretary of education.
Right now, Indiana and Oklahoma are the only states in which the superintendent automatically assumes the position.
Organization and the power structure in education is something that a number of states frequently change and struggle with, according to Bruce Atchison, Executive Director of Policy at the Education Commission of the States.
“In almost every state you have a commission on higher education, and you have your state board of education and department of education,” Atchison says. “Very few states have figured out the whole governance structure. Everyone is still grappling with these issues.”
The Indiana General Assembly will likely take up the item of board governance during the 2015 legislative session, which begins January 6.