It's been a long week...especially if you are a political junkie like me who has been feverishly refreshing Secretary of State and county clerk websites in multiple states and jurisdictions since Tuesday night. But while the national saga continues, the impact of the election at the state level is something we can break down. The short version is that the state House remained in Republican control with neither side gaining or losing additional seats; a couple of state senators got new jobs, which could have a domino effect later on; the State Board of Education remains solidly under Democratic control with a 6-2 margin; the State Supreme Court now has a majority of members nominated by the Democratic party (though the Court itself is a nonpartisan body); and every school bond issue on the ballot passed.
But what fun is it if we stop there? Let's go a bit deeper down the rabbit hole!
Despite polling leading up to this election that indicated a possibility that the state House would flip to Democratic control, House Republicans maintained their 58-52 majority. Both sides of the aisle successfully flipped two seats. Democrats successfully gained seats in House Districts 61 (Kalamazoo) and 38 (Novi). For Republicans, they were victorious in flipping House Districts 96 and 48. In doing so, they unseated two incumbents seeking re-election, Rep. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) and Rep. Sheryl Kennedy (D-Davison).
Representative Kennedy in particular will be a loss for MASSP members and for education policy generally. As a former secondary principal and teacher, Rep. Kennedy has brought a refreshingly well informed perspective to state education politics and her loss is going to leave a knowledge gap among elected officials.
On Thursday, the House held caucus elections for the upcoming session starting in January. This has some implications for education since members in high-level leadership positions do not usually serve as committee or subcommittee chairs. Here's a list of the major leadership positions for both parties (and if you know any of these folks personally or have particularly good relationships with them, please let MASSP know):
- Rep. Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) House Speaker
- Rep. Ben Frederick (R-Owosso) House Majority Floor Leader
- Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Twp.) House Speaker Pro Tempore
- While not yet announced formally, Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) is expected to become chair of the House Appropriations Committee, which is not technically a leadership position, but functions at the same level as one.
- Rep. Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) House Minority Leader
- Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) Minority Floor Leader
Taken together with the election results, here are immediate implications we see for education policy:
- The House Education Committee will likely be getting a new chair with Rep. Hornberger moving to a leadership position. Though her move will also ensure that she continues to have influence over big picture decisions regarding education policy.
- With only two of the current members being term-limited, there is a chance that – other than the chair – the committee will have some stability after starting this year with only two returning members.
- In contrast to the policy committee, the House School Aid Appropriations Subcommittee will not only be getting a new chair – Rep. Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis) is term-limited – but could lose as many as half of its members between turnover and people moving into leadership positions. This could mean a much steeper learning curve for members during the 2021-22 budget process, which is going to be a tough budget year given current economic projections.
Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-Rockford) won his race for Kent County Treasurer, and Sen. Pete Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.) won his race for Macomb County Prosecutor. They will vacate their Senate seats starting next year and will leave the Republicans with a 20-16 majority until there is a special election to fill those seats.
When the special election happens, we fully expect current House members to run for the vacated seats. In particular, Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Twp.), will be eligible to run for Sen. Lucido's seat if she chooses to do so. Regardless of who runs, any House members elected to the Senate in a special election would, in turn, create vacancies in the House, thus necessitating more special elections. In other words, there could be a rousing game of electoral musical chairs in our future.
State Board of Education
Former State Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton and Jason Strayhorn won the two open seats on the State Board of Education. Democrats will continue to hold a 6-2 majority on the board, though the interplay with these new members could be interesting. Representative Lipton, in particular, was formerly the minority vice chair of the Education Committee when she served in the State House and has a history of working across the aisle with current Republican State Board of Education member Tom McMillin, which could create an interesting dynamic.
State Supreme Court
Elizabeth Welch and Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack won their races for the Michigan State Supreme Court. Justices who were nominated by the Democratic party will have a 4-3 majority on the court when the newly elected Welch is seated. Since this is the same court that recently decided on things like the Governor's emergency powers and which will hear oral arguments on this month (November 10) in a case about Michigan's law prohibiting the allocation of public dollars to non-public schools, the shift in power on the court has direct and important implications for schools.
School Bond Issues
Six school districts held qualified school bond elections on Tuesday and all of them passed. Congratulations to all of these districts, especially for managing to pass a bond issue amid all the election noise! Here's a list of the successful districts:
- Charlotte Public Schools (0 mill increase) - $36,000,000 (3rd attempt)
- Eaton Rapids Public Schools (0 mill increase) - $45,175,000 (1st attempt)
- Elk Rapids Public Schools (1.63 mill increase) - $49,995,000 (1st attempt)
- Godfrey Lee Public Schools (1.67 mill increase) - $17,790,000 (1st attempt)
- Linden Community Schools (.39 mill increase) - $55,000,000 (1st attempt)
- Saginaw City School District (7.00 mill increase) - $99,950,000 (1st attempt)