Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
Many provisions of federal law — including several that pertain to grants and other federal funds for state schools — require action by the “State educational agency” (SEA) in each jurisdiction.
For example, under the “Race to the Top” (RTTT) grant program, the SEA in each state was responsible for identifying the lowest-achieving 5% of public schools and ensuring compliance with several requirements of federal law. See, e.g., 74 Fed. Reg. 59688, 59773.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended, defines an SEA as “the agency primarily responsible for the State supervision of public elementary schools and secondary schools.” 20 USC § 7801(49). As the word “the” demonstrates, Congress intended that there would be only one, single SEA in each state. See Voting Integrity Project, Inc v Keisling, 259 F3d 1169, 1172 (CA 9, 2001); see also In re Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC, 793 F3d 1268, 1283 (CA Fed, 2015); Gunter v Coca-Cola Bottling Co United, Inc, unpublished opinion of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, issued December 19, 2012 (Docket No. 11-AR-0522-S) (2012 US Dist LEXIS 179327 at *25).
Article 8, § 3 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963 provides that “[l]eadership and general supervision over all public education . . . except as to institutions of higher education granting baccalaureate degrees, is vested in a state board of education.” Thus, it is clear that the State Board of Education is the “agency primarily responsible for the State supervision of public elementary schools and secondary schools” in Michigan within the meaning of 20 USC § 7801(49).
By means of 2009 PA 204, § 1280c, the Michigan Legislature created the State School Reform/Redesign Office (“SRRO”) to exercise the powers of the SEA under the RTTT program, including the identification of the lowest-achieving 5% of public schools in the state. The Legislature deliberately placed the SRRO in the Michigan Department of Education, which is in turn under the direction of the State Board of Education. Governor Rick Snyder later stripped the SRRO out of the Department of Education and transferred it to the Department of Technology, Management & Budget (DTMB) by Executive Order 2015-9.
No one disputes that the Governor of Michigan has immense constitutional authority to transfer powers and functions from one state agency to another. However, given that Congress intended for Michigan to have only one SEA (i.e., the State Board of Education), and that the SEA was the only agency empowered to identify the lowest-achieving 5% of public schools in the state under the federal RTTT regulations, you really have to wonder whether Snyder’s transfer of the SRRO to the DTMB was consistent with federal law.
It’s just something to think about.