Appointed or Elected?
Janet Barresi’s opponent in 2010, Sen. Susan Paddack, is proposing that Oklahoma eliminate the elected position of state superintendent. The Tulsa World agrees, and goes a step more, suggesting that we consider making many of the elected statewide positions appointed. This is a long-overdue idea, though I wish it had come from someone other than Paddack. Yes, she is one of the legislators I respect the most, but following the campaign, she’s just not the best champion for the cause.
Public policy should be situational, meeting the needs of citizens as they arise. The structures supporting the services government provides, however, should be rooted with a deeper sense of permanency. When it comes to how the state provides services to public education, we should look periodically at the bureaucracy and see if it can be tweaked.
In fact, the legislature did this in 2011. When holdover board members questioned some of Barresi’s early hires and decisions, lawmakers quickly changed the law to allow the governor to remove them from office and replace them with new appointments. Our elected officials created a counterbalance to the state superintendent position that could be replaced at the governor’s whim.
Many have speculated that the governor’s influence over her hand-picked board ensured the eventual passage of A-F Report Cards in October. And that Phyllis Hudecki, her education secretary, is going to take a more active role with stakeholders in the implementation of future reforms.
Paddack’s suggestion cuts out the middle. We’ve had state superintendents and governors of opposite parties in the past. We’ve had them in the same party, but not on the same page before as well. I’m not in favor of changing the structure of governance just because of people who hold office don’t always play nice. This needs to be about what we honestly think is the best way to govern.
I’ve had conversations for ten years with friends, family, and colleagues about this. I’ve always been on the side of reducing the number of statewide positions. (I’d also be in favor of a unicameral legislature.) I want Oklahoma’s state superintendent to be an appointed position, but not because of the person who holds the office now. Having a state superintendent and a secretary of education seems redundant.
The governor is going to influence education policy, and this would make that influence more direct. This change (along with other statewide offices) would also strengthen the executive branch in the state. Again, this has nothing to do with the person in the governor’s mansion – it’s just my preference for state government.
Paddack is unlikely to have much support for her measure. While this is unfortunate, I hope still that the legislature gives the idea some discussion.