Lipton, Strayhorn for state board of education

Detroit Free Press Editorial Board
Published 6:00 a.m. ET Oct. 18, 2020

Eleven candidates are vying to fill two open seats on the state Board of Education. 

We believe that balance is important in politics, that the public’s interest is best served when a range of ideology shapes policy; compromise should be necessary. 

But among the major party candidates in this race, only Democrats ELLEN COGEN LIPTON and JASON STRAYHORN meet even the minimum standard for election to any public office — and thankfully, both exceed it. 

Lipton, a 53-year-old attorney and former state lawmaker from Huntington Woods, is perhaps the most formidably prepared candidate for this office in recent memory. She became a fierce advocate for education during her three terms in the state House, and her relentless push for information from the Educational Achievement Authority, the former state reform school district, helped expose the district’s failings. 

The state Board of Education hires the state superintendent of education, but largely exercises advisory, planning and coordinating authority. Lipton understands the limitation of the board’s power but believes its members must form closer ties with the state Legislature, which makes school funding decisions. She says members of the state board can offer valuable insight and experience to new legislators and veteran lawmakers whose work hasn’t centered on education.

Lipton also has a nuanced understanding of how school funding formulae must be constructed to actually educate children, the concept of equity, and how to gauge student progress. She can be dogged in pursuit of outcomes — and when it comes to our state’s children, that’s decidedly in her favor. 

Strayhorn, 44, of Novi, comes from an unusual background for a candidate. But that’s exactly why he’s running, Strayhorn says — as a real estate developer, he’s seen the disparities that exist in our state.

Strayhorn is a former Michigan State University football captain, and is currently a color analyst for the university’s football team.  He believes Michigan should limit the use of standardized testing, and adopt equitable school funding, meaning that districts where students face more challenges should receive funding appropriate to meet those challenges. 

Strayhorn has some unconventional ideas about how private business could bridge the funding gap. 

Republican candidates Michelle Frederick and Tami Carlone lack even rudimentary understanding of the needs of Michigan students. Carlone believes Detroit schools receive too much funding, and that school dollars should be redistributed to suburban communities. Frederick believes Michigan spends too much on education across the board. These views are far out of step even with mainstream Republican politics. Both candidates are unsupportable. 

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