Appoint state school chief? ‘It’s all about leadership’

After four years in the Legislature, Mike Dudgeon decided to boldly go where others have gone — just not succeeded — before.

The Johns Creek Republican wants the state school superintendent to be appointed rather than elected as now. That means a constitutional amendment, a high hurdle to clear for an idea Georgia’s voters have rejected in the past.

Dudgeon Mug

“Right now,” Dudgeon explained in a recent interview, “you elect a superintendent who is primarily an administrator, not a policy maker. So in some ways people, I think, believe … they’re getting more of a say than they actually are in policy.

“If a superintendent campaigns on policy A, B or C, he can have some influence there, but he doesn’t have that decision-making power. That’s in the state (school) board’s hands and the Legislature’s hands.”

Dudgeon’s proposal would, after the current, four-year term of recently elected Superintendent Richard Woods expires, make that position a gubernatorial appointment. (He made a point to praise Woods’ “attitude toward cooperation” so far and to say “this is not about” him.) The state school board would no longer be appointed by the governor and instead would be chosen by legislators.

There might be cost savings for the state if the next governor didn’t feel the need to maintain a separate Office of Student Achievement in parallel to the Department of Education. But Dudgeon mostly emphasized the potential — and great need — for leadership and alignment.

“It’s all about leadership,” he said. “The governor appoints the superintendent, and they run the state DOE. They’re executives … they should be aligned together. You shouldn’t have the superintendent and the governor saying different things; you can’t have leadership when that happens.

“At the same time, the Legislature is setting policy. We’re passing all the legislation that says what the schools are supposed to do, and the state board just takes that and does the detailed work behind that policy. So if the Legislature is appointing the state board, then we’re aligned on policy. The governor and the superintendent are aligned on leadership. So that to me is the ideal case.”

To voters who worry they’d no longer have a voice in setting education policy, Dudgeon offered this counterargument:

“Today, the citizens of Georgia vote for their local school-board member, they vote for their state House member, their state senator, the lieutenant governor and governor, all of which have a very strong hand in education policy. To vote for another person — I understand why some people feel that’s very important. In my mind, it’s better to have more accountability for the leaders you are electing for policy than to have so many different hands in the pie that there is no accountability and leadership.”

That last word, if you hadn’t already noticed, was one he repeated often during our conversation.

“It’s so hard to do things without consistent leadership,” he said. “If you’re into public education — you’re a teacher, you’re a principal — and you’re looking to what the state is saying, and you’re hearing four different messages from the state, it’s just hard for you to buy in.”

Reader Comments 0

20 comments
TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

It makes no difference whether the General Assembly is controlled by Democrats (as it was until around 2000) or by Republicans (as it is now.) It is a purely political body, and will bend and sway in the political winds. As long as schools are operated by politicians (as they are now and have always been in most states) schools will also bend and sway in the political wind. The only true way to cure that is by giving parents a real choice on where to send their children to school. The state's interest is in an educated populace, not in public schools,  and it will get that wherever the child goes to school. Let the parent choose, and you will see public schools improve, for they will have to compete in a free and open market. It is a system that works exquisitely well in Europe; let's try it here.


Get politics OUT of education and allow our parents to make freely informed choices.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@TaxiSmith


Most of the present day Republicans in office in Georgia were former Democrats, now having relabelled themselves as Republicans.  The Republican, big-money agenda is for having Georgia's schools controlled by business interests, tapping into public tax funds to do that.  You are being manipulated if you think "choice" really means "choice."  Support our public schools and public charter schools which are not aligned to making money for corporations.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@TaxiSmith You reference serving the "state's interest" in framing their legitimate interest and yet you still somehow believe politics can be removed from the schools? Even if there was a Constitutional Amendment to remove education from the purview of the State you'd still be left with inevitable political interference and Court challenges.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

"“It’s so hard to do things without consistent leadership,”


Or. 


It's so hard to do when you don't have yes-men surrounding you! 

I think a dedicated educator should be in the position, and if they happen to disagree with the governor, then more weight will be given to their ideas.  As it happens, if an appointee disagrees with the governor, he just puts in a yes-man, and moves on. 

There is already too much cronyism in this state.  We do not need more. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

"The state school board would no longer be appointed by the governor and instead would be chosen by legislators."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Bad idea.  Since Georgia's Republican-dominated Legislature contains the 3rd largest number of ALEC members in the nation, Georgia's State School Board would essentially be controlled by the top CEOs in the nation.


Moreover, since Governor Deal is aligned with Georgia's Republican-dominated Legislature in agendas, ex. the fervent refusal of both to expand Medicaid as part of the ACA in Georgia, I do not think that it is in the best interests of Georgians to have their Governor appoint the State's School Superintendent.  


This state could easily become an oligarchy controlled by the few of power and wealth who are aligned with those of power and wealth in the nation.  Let us keep our Democracy intact. 

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Why not let the Catholic Arch Bishop appoint the Gov ?  Why would he be any different ?

MarkVV
MarkVV

It is an interesting argument, Mike Dudgeon and Kyle are presenting. The superintendent is primarily an administrator, not a policy maker. If he is elected, it might be because of his policy views, but he/she will not be one of those making the policy. Therefore, the governor should appoint a person, who presumably agrees with the governor’s education policy, although he/she will still be an administrator and not one of those making the policy.


Sounds more like silencing someone who might oppose governor’s policy, even if he/she cannot actually do anything about it.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Inconsistency makes for good politics. It's impossible to criticize what's working. 

HDB0329
HDB0329

.....and what's to say that appointing a school superintendent wouldn't be nothing but another "good ol' boy" case of CRONYISM!!

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

I'm not very close to this situation, typical voter perhaps, but I'm just not grasping the problem. If there is such a driving need for the Governor to have his preferred choice in the seat then the Governor needs to get out and campaign for that person. As it stands, political and policy leanings of the candidates are aired in public and the Governor and State School Superintendent are each accountable to the same voters. If accountability is the problem and needs to be tighter, the Governor needs to speak to the people.

straker
straker

"that decision making power"


Is that the power to mandate a Christian fundamentalist curriculum in our public schools?

IReportYouWhine#1
IReportYouWhine#1

We already have a federal level education czar, a state level superintendent,  a county education official, a city education director and who knows how many administrators have been stuffed into each individual school, and our children still can't spell cat without being spotted the C. 


Maybe the bureaucracy has absorbed all the oxygen in the room? 

IReportYouWhine#1
IReportYouWhine#1

I'm just thinking what this would mean to the state's education system if millions of illegal immigrants moved to GA and the democrats finally had enough votes to get elected to the governors office. Wouldn't that be just awful for the children, kinda like atlanta writ large, with the teacher's unions pillaging the educational funding for themselves? Oh wait, democrats getting elected in Georgia? That'll never happen. 


Sounds like a good idea.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@IReportYouWhine#1 Oh wait, democrats getting elected in Georgia? That'll never happen. 


Unfortunately you might be right


And we will stay 20 years behind and last in things like education transportation and unemployment


All while having one of the highest uninsured rates in the country.


Not really much to be proud of. 


IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

@LogicalDude @IReportYouWhine#1 I honestly hope that is all that obama gives them, the "right" to vote. I'd probably let it go if they weren't getting food stamps, welfare, housing, scholarships, drivers licenses and free pedicures.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 The Johns Creek Republican wants the state school superintendent to be appointed rather than elected as now.


Absolutely not. Especially given the current Governors highly questionable ethics


One also can imagine Republicans would simply leave the position vacant should that be preferred.


We have seen them do this nationally with important posts such as the Surgeon General etc ( Thanks again Ted Cruz )