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Who is running for the Michigan State Board of Education?

Two seats are up for grabs Nov. 8 at the State Board of Education in Michigan.

The Nov. 8 election for Michigan State Board of Education pits parental rights activists against public school defenders.

The eight-member elected body has little oversight in the day-to-day operations of Michigan public schools, but it does set policy for K-12 schools including curriculum standards and hiring the state superintendent.

    There are eight candidates running for two eight-year terms in Nov. 8 general election: two Democrats, two Republicans, two Libertarians, a member of the U.S. Taxpayers Party and a member of the Working Class Party.


    Two Republicans advocating for “parental rights” and pushing against “leftist indoctrination” face two Democrats who say the right is trying to censor the curriculum and stop students from learning about slavery and institutional racism.

    Democrats have a 5-2 edge over Republicans on the board, which has one vacancy after Jason Strayhorn, who is a Democrat, resigned in July. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to appoint a successor to complete his term that ends in 2028.

    President Casandra Ulbrich, a Democrat, is not running for re-election. Here is a rundown of each candidate and where they stand on the issues:

    Pamela Pugh, Democrat, incumbent

    Pamela Pugh of Saginaw began serving on the board in 2014 and serves as the board’s vice president.

    According to her campaign website, Pugh has over 24 years of public health experience and is an advocate of the “whole child” approach to education. This approach focuses on improving a child’s education through a curriculum that involves their physical, social and emotional development.

    Pugh serves on several boards, like the Healthy Schools Network Board of Directors and the Board of Directors for the National Association of State Boards of Education.

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pugh initiated a program, InPACT at Home, led by the University of Michigan. The program offers students free online workouts developed by physical education teachers.

    Pugh’s website claims she is “a leading voice” opposing efforts to stop students from learning about slavery and institutional racism.

    Pugh said the Republican Party’s interest in schools is “intended to force us back to a pre-Civil War era.” 

    In Pugh’s speech accepting the Democratic nomination for state Board of Education, she noted that Republican attacks against “indoctrination” is an attempt to “manufacture a moral panic” so they can “call for the jailing of school administrators, teachers and librarians over books.”

    Tamara Carlone, Republican

    Tamara Carlone of Howell is a certified public accountant who says she became an education advocate more than 20 years ago after discovering that her children were receiving “biased teachings” in their public schools. 

    Since then, Carlone says she has worked with school leadership to “eliminate biased history books” and “rid the schools of several inaccurate and inappropriate books.”

    Carlone is a member of several coalitions and committees, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Michigan Republican Party Coalition and the Michigan Conservative Coalition.

    If elected, Carlone lists goals such as stopping “the leftist, Marxist, communist indoctrination” of students and stopping “educational mandates and boys in girls’ sports.” More so, Carlone wants schools to use “proven education methods based on proper child development” and instill “classical education” in classrooms by returning “local control and parental rights to our schools.”

    The Republican candidate would also lift any vaccination or mask mandates, and remove “unnecessary bureaucratic and administrative positions to save taxpayer money.” Carlone’s other plans are to ensure that information on students is “never data mined” and that school libraries are “free of smut and bias.”

    Mitchell Robinson, Democrat

    Mitchell Robinson of East Lansing is a “career educator” born in New York with over 40 years of teaching experience, according to his personal website.

    Robinson currently teaches at Michigan State University, serving as the music education chair and coordinating the music student teaching program.

    He has been a classroom teacher, district supervisor, school administrator and department chair in New York, Connecticut and Michigan. In Michigan, he helped develop the MMC Music Education Test and served as an assessment developer for the Michigan Model Arts and Education Assessment.

    Robinson says he is running the state Board of Education because he believes “public education in Michigan is under attack” as teachers and school board members are “being targeted” by political talking points like critical race theory and “liberal indoctrination.”

    Robinson does not support private schools getting public funding through a voucher system because they “contribute to school segregation” and “don’t help poor families attend the ‘school of their choice.’”

    He also wants testing to be the teacher's responsibility, “not multinational corporations whose agendas focus on market shares and profits.” Robinson also promotes more transparency and stricter oversight of charter schools.

    Linda Lee Tarver, Republican

    Linda Lee Tarver is a businesswoman from Lansing and a former Michigan Civil Rights commissioner.

    Tarver says that she is a “political activist” and serves as the National Director of the Republican Assembly, the former Ingham County GOP chair, and a previous advisory board member for Black Voices for Trump.

    According to Tarver’s website, she “aggressively challenged biases and ideologies that thwart progress for All Americans.” On her Facebook page, Tarver’s slogans are “educate not indoctrinate,” “back to reading, writing, and arithmetic,” and “protect students and empower parents.”

    In a Facebook ad, Tarver claims that Detroit Public Schools “openly embrace critical race theory” and that “Michigan used taxpayer-funded COVID relief for racial indoctrination.” In that same ad, Tarver alleges that the Michigan Democratic Party doesn’t believe “parents should have a say in what their children learn” and that the federal government has targeted “concerned parents as domestic terrorists.”

    Also running:

    Donna Gundle-Krieg, a Libertarian from Mancelona who was the former Mancelona Township clerk; Bill Hall, a Libertarian lawyer from Courtland Township in Kent County who ran for attorney general in 2006; Ethan Hobson of Hale for the U.S. Taxpayers Party and Mary Anne Hering, a teacher, of the Working Class Party.

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