Utah school board fight heads to floor

Michael A. Kruse
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY — The fight over school board elections is headed the house floor.

Several bills passed out of house of committee Tuesday morning represent different options on how to elect the school board.

Three options made it through it the House Education Committee Feb 24. The issue was created by a supreme court decision that declared the current system unconstitutional .

Some lawmakers have proposed making school elections partisan.

Sen. Alvin Jackson, R-Highland, sponsored a bill to make state school board elections partisan. Jackson said the ability the Utah’s current caucus system gives parents the ability the probably connect with the candidates.

“It’s time to give the power back to the parents,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s plan would keep local school board elections nonpartisan Much of the Debate centered on whether Utah’s current caucus convention system was an effective way to vet candidates.

Mary Neilson, a local school board member in rural Utah, spoke of her experiences as a party delegate. She said the first meeting she went to had twenty people and she brought 15 them.

Rep. Marie Poulsen, D-Salt Lake, said she worried that making school boards partisan would cut independents and democrats out of the process.

“We run the risk of disenfranchising many people.” Poulsen said.

“We have to be careful about saying you become vetted having gone through a caucus convention system. You become vetted by meeting the people in your district,” she said.

Royce Van Tassel, from the association of charter schools said that non-partisan elections has created a state school board that was hostile to charter schools.

Rep. Daniel Mckay, R- Riverton, proposed a constitutional amendment that change the state school board from elected potion to an appointed by the Governor. Mckay said the State Board of Education is sometimes referred to as the fourth branch of Government. Mckay said it was time allgin the state board of education with the executive branch.

Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden, has a similar proposal in that has already cleared in senate committee and is now on the senate floor. If the proposal does pass both houses it would then go on the ballot for the people to decide whether to amend the Utah State Constitution.

Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, proposed a non-partisan election bill that would require a candidate to get 2,000 signatures in order for a candidate to be placed on the ballot. Gibson says that requiring people to get signatures will force candidates to knock on door forces them to get out and meet the people.

All three passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation, leaving the debate on how to elect school board members for the full house.

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