Eye on Education

Feedback Loop: Should Board of Education Members Have College Degrees?

Tim Sloan / AFP/Getty Images

Gov. John Kasich’s appointment of former pro-football player, current TV sports commentator and apparent college drop-out Stanley Jackson to a vacant seat on the Ohio state Board of Education led some of our commenters to ask:

Should the people who serve on the state Board of Education have college degrees?

Legally, Jackson appears to be fully qualified to serve on the board:

He’s a “a qualified elector residing in the district in which the vacancy occurred,” as required by state law. He appears qualified to represent a rural district. And with his resignation from the board of a charter school he planned to help open, he doesn’t seem to have disqualifying conflicts of interest.

But StateImpact commenter Kathy M says just meeting the legal qualifications isn’t enough:

Where else can you be hired for a job without the employer knowing your educational status? Really, don’t they require potential employees to be “highly qualified” as they do for teachers? Such a high-stakes position should have more stringent qualifications for those who are appointed by the governor.

Why We’re Hedging Things Here

You may notice we’ve using words like “appears” and “seems” a lot in describing Jackson’s background. That’s because we haven’t been able to confirm some details of his background, work experience or education.

When Jackson was appointed, Kasich’s spokesman said the administration did not have a copy of his resume. Last week, the spokesman did not provide a resume in response to another StateImpact request.

We spoke briefly with Jackson last week and scheduled an interview for the following day. But he called back, canceled the interview and referred all questions to the governor’s office.

According to official state biographies, 13 of the 19 state board members have at least a bachelor’s degree. (The actual number may be higher since some members don’t include educational credentials in their biographies.)

In the Ohio Statehouse, 81 percent of legislators have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to a 2011 analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education. About 94 percent of members of Congress have at least a four-year degree.

Does that mean those educated legislators are doing a good job? Well, an April Gallup poll found that 17 percent of Americans approved of the way Congress was “handling its job.”

(Imagine what the approval rating would be if they hadn’t gone to college.)

StateImpact Ohio commenter Dean writes that having a college degree matters, but isn’t everything:

There are other qualities, skills and experiences that are just as, if not more valuable, in some cases, than a college degree. People without a college degree can often-time teach others, including people with a college degree, just as much, if not more, about what is important in education.

Stanley Jackson’s experience with and views on postsecondary education wouldn’t be much of our business, except that he’s been appointed to the state Board of Education, which makes decisions about things whether being ready for college-level work should be a prerequisite for graduating from high school.

Jackson told the Marion Star, ”I don’t think you have to have a college degree to be successful.” He also told the Star, ”College is not for everyone … We have to make sure our young people have options.”

Our brief phone conversation with Jackson last month ended before we could ask him about his views on postsecondary education and on the issues the board will be tackling in the coming months.

But Jackson did suggest he was at a loss to explain why his appointment had raised questions.

“For some reason, this has become a five-star issue,” he said.


  • Historycat

    It should be a requirement to have a teaching license to serve on ANY school board. This is like having the state Bar Association being run by people without any legal background, or the state Medical Board being run by people without any experience in medicine. Why do we believe that anyone can be educators or set education policy?

  • Aerawleigh

    I agree with Historycat. A teaching license or at least a bachelor’s degree should be the minimum required to serve on ANY school board! As a retired special needs, vocational educator I also agree that a college degree isn’t everything. Skills, aptitude experience are always relevant. However, those things should be in addition to a college degree. For an individual to serve on a state board of education a degree in education should be an absolute requirement. Experience in a classroom teaching, planning, writing, developing and implementing curriculum should be part of a foundation for all board members. In addition, experience in administration, executive planning and community involvement with parents and employers is vital. Things like attendance in conference workshop meetings that discuss line item funding allotments in the annual budget the state has set forth provide useful experience. All other experience should be considered fluff. The future of our country is what is at stake here. A strong Ohio, a strong America must have strong schools. A high school dropout has absolutely no place on a state board of education. It stinks of cronyism

  • http://twitter.com/EBTBalance EBT Balance

    I also agree with Historycat, need to show proof of your abilities.


  • Boreal04

    As someone who has had his feet in academia, the private sector, and on a school board, I disagree strongly with Historycat. School boards are not like the ABA or AMA, neither of which establish legally binding policies. In fact, a lot of what district school boards in Ohio do has little to do directly with pedagogy. In a well run district, the board hires the superintendent, and the superintendent runs the district. Ideally there is a lot of communication and intellectual give and take between the board and administration (and yes, a college degree and at least a little classroom experience helps) but the board doesn’t (or shouldn’t) handle the the nuts and bolts of education. I suggest that there is one criteria more important for a board member than any credential: a willingness to learn.

    That said, Gov. Kaisch’s appointment of Mr. Jackson to the state board of education is a slap in the face to anyone who cares about education. But perhaps that was the best Republican available.

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