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Democrats poised to increase their majority on state board of education

Robinson
Michigan State University
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Democrat Mitchell Robinson, a Michigan State University music education professor, was elected to the Michigan Board of Education.

Democrats are poised to expand their majority on the Michigan state Board of Education after last week’s elections.

That party currently holds a 5-2 majority on the board. Voters chose two Democrats, incumbent Pamela Pugh and newcomer Mitchell Robinson, to fill two open seats.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is also expected to make an appointment to fill a vacancy the board, which would give Democrats a 6-2 majority.

Robinson, a music education professor at Michigan State University, said he felt compelled to run because of what he called ongoing right-wing attacks on public schools and their teachers.

“I take it personally, because I am a teacher,” Robinson said. “I'm married to a teacher. I help other people become teachers. And I think that we need to defend and protect public education.”

Robinson said he also hopes to promote educational equity across Michigan. And he added one more priority: “To listen to all parents in the state. Not just the loudest voices, but all parents in the state. And I believe that that's what parental rights really means and represents.”

The state Board of Education largely serves as an adviser to the Legislature. Most budget and curriculum decisions are made by local school boards. The state board does have the power to hire and fire the state school superintendent.

Robinson said he thinks Democrats’ victories last Tuesday show that overall, Michigan voters largely support their vision for public education.

“All eight education positions [including university trustees] were swept by Democrats,” Robinson said. “What I read from that is that it's a repudiation of this strategy to try to drive a wedge between families and schools, who are natural partners.

“I'm sick and tired of the lies, of the disinformation, and of the other side of the aisle trying to drive a wedge between parents and families, and schools and teachers. I don't think that wedge exists. And I'm here to say that we need to get rid of that," he said.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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