Gov. Ted Strickland may not have formal control of the Ohio Department of Education, but he got half of what he wanted last week when Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman announced her resignation (see here). The news wasn't a surprise. Zelman had been actively seeking a new job and the State Board of Education had already started working to replace her. Given changing dynamics within the board and the anticipated turnover of members this winter, Strickland may not need a cabinet-level education overseer after all.
Members who have long been prominent voices and leaders on the board now seem less influential. Broad policy positions agreed to months ago now appear up for debate. Heather Heslop Licata, Strickland's sole appointee on the board and who previously was reticent to weigh in during policy discussions, now has strong opinions and takes an active role in guiding the panel's work.
There is speculation that the governor is exerting power over the department and state education policy via select board members, including some that were meeting privately with him and his staff in recent months (see here). The current board has granted the governor a significant role in choosing the next superintendent by allowing his chief of staff to participate in the selection process. Also, seven board seats are up for election in November, and the governor will appoint four board members in December. That newly comprised board elects its president in January. The new superintendent will be in place when Strickland proposes his new biennial budget and his comprehensive education reform plan next spring. So who needs an education czar?