Failed Proposal To Elect Tennessee School Board Reveals Broader Motivations

Sen. Frank Niceley has opposed Governor Bill Haslam on several fronts this year, including Common Core State Standards. Credit: SenFrankNiceley via Twitter

Sen. Frank Niceley has opposed Governor Bill Haslam on several fronts this year, including Common Core State Standards. Credit: SenFrankNiceley via Twitter

It looks like Governor Bill Haslam will keep appointing members of the state school board. But a failed proposal to take that power away reveals the motivations behind a legislative power grab.

The state school board is widely viewed as a rubber stamp for the governor. So Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains thinks members should be elected, just like local school boards. The East Tennessee Republican contends the current process keeps people outside the mainstream from populating boards and commissions. 

Niceley fancies himself an outsider, regularly facing opposition from members of the GOP establishment. He’s also proposed elections for other positions, like school superintendents. He says it gets the public more involved. He made his case to the Senate Education Committee Wednesday.

“I kinda like running for election. If I had to wait to be appointed, I’d never be down here.”

While Niceley’s legislation failed, other efforts to wrest appointment power from the governor have gotten traction. A restructuring of the state textbook commission was approved by the Senate. Supporters say more laymen should be part of the decision-making.

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