Parents and teachers across Tennessee are watching closely as major changes could be on the way for the state Board of Education. Legislation being debated at the General Assembly would have voters decide on some or all board members in regular elections. Gera Summerford, president of the Tennessee Education Association, says currently all are appointed by the governor to five-year terms and can be reappointed.
“Many of them serve for many, many years,” she explains. “And in addition to that, their accountability then is only to the governor. In fact, a governor no longer in office appoints many of them. “So we feel like that a different method of appointment where there’s more accountability or certainly the voters electing those board members would be
In addition to the bills seeking elections for the State Board of Education, others have proposed taking the power to appoint members away from the governor and giving it to the speakers of the State House and Senate. Another concern that lawmakers are looking to address this session is the background of those serving and their experience with what’s happening in the classrooms and cafeterias on a daily basis.
As it stands now, Summerford says there’s only one member who’s an active teacher. “In fact, the reason there’s even one teacher on the board is due to TEA’s lobbying efforts in years past,” she says. “So there’s a bill out, I believe, that would require one-half of that state board to be licensed educators. Again, this is more in line with what happens with other professional bodies.”
The Board of Education is composed of nine members, one from each of the state’s congressional districts, along with a student member.
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