Sen. Rodney Tom wants state’s top education official to be appointed by governor

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Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, announced plans Thursday, Oct. 30 for a proposed amendment to the state Constitution making the Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position, giving the governor more control over the state’s largest budgetary expenditure.

The office is currently an independent agency led by a superintendent elected every four years by a statewide vote. Under Tom’s plan the state’s top education official would be appointed by and report to the governor.

“The governor doesn’t have control over how education policy is implemented and it’s 41 percent of our state’s budget,” Tom said. “Education is our paramount duty, yet our governor doesn’t have oversight authority over the agency.”

The education agency currently drafts education budget proposals for the governor and Legislature to consider or disregard. But once a spending plan is enacted OSPI manages education spending with no oversight from the governor’s office even though it’s the single largest component of the state’s operating budget.

“Agency implementation is totally out of their hands,” Tom said. “It’s crazy.”

“The public holds the governor responsible for education policy,” he said. “It’s time we give the Governor’s Office the authority to implement the needed changes.”

The measure wouldn’t go into effect until 2012, meaning it would have no bearing on new four-year terms for governor and superintendent of public instruction that begin in January. To become law the measure must be approved by a two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate and gain a simple majority vote in the November 2009 election.

The measure will be introduced in time for consideration during the 105-day legislative session that begins Jan. 12.