From: Peter Cannon
To: Peter Cannon,
Subject: Please vote YES on HB228 (Brian Greene)
Date: Fri Feb 07 22:41:12 MST 2014

HB228 Utah State Board of Education Elections and Reporting Amendments


A Better Way to Choose State School Board Candidates

By Peter Cannon 801-499-9091


     Many Utahans pay little attention to issues of their state school board. After all, there are only 15 members of the board. They only come up for election every 4 years. They cannot directly levy taxes.  And besides that, it’s hard to know how they vote and what the issues are, because the press hardly covers their meetings. And yet nearly everyone in Utah believes that education of our children is the most important issue state government has to deal with.

     Why would we as citizens be so uninformed and uninterested about electing those who directly control the issue we see as most important? We are not simply apathetic citizens. We pay considerable attention to the election of our governor, state representatives and state senators. The press actively reports issues, bills and political maneuvering when the Utah legislature is in session.

     Is it possible that our method of electing state school board members is so different from the way we elect governors and our state legislators that we don’t get the same degree of accountability?

     Here is the difference between the two current methods of election:

     State school board candidates currently submit an application to a committee appointed by the governor. That committee then chooses and recommends to the governor three candidates for each district which is due for election. The governor then chooses two of those three candidates to appear on the general election ballot.

     Candidates seeking the office of governor and legislator file their candidacy for nomination by their party or as an independent candidate.

The big difference is the involvement of the governor or neighborhood delegates in choosing their candidates for each office.

Benefits of Political Parties in a Republic

     By nature political parties strive to win the support of citizens for their positions by informing them of the party’s principles and positions on issues and organizing to help their preferred candidates win election. So, parties provide valuable information to voters as well as an organization to help citizens be involved in the political process.

     In Utah, delegates selected by their neighbors also provide the very valuable service of evaluating candidates and selecting the best in their party conventions to move forward to the general election. This evaluation service is performed by citizens elected by their neighbors in biannual neighborhood caucus meetings throughout the state. These elected citizens are known as delegates and are the best known and most trusted members of their communities. It is because of their excellent vetting that Utah has such outstanding elected officials and is known as one of the best managed states in the Union.

Responsibility for Education: Divided between Legislature and Board of Education

     Our Utah State Constitution forms three departments of state government: Executive, legislative, and judicial. It divides responsibility for our public schools between the legislative department, which establishes and maintains the public education system, and a state board of education, which is not assigned to one of the three departments and controls and supervises the system.

     Because legislators are elected in a very different manner than state board of education members, our system experiences a fundamental conflict in values and priorities between the two bodies. My personal experience over years attending legislative sessions and state school board meetings has confirmed stark philosophical differences between the two bodies. This conflict has significantly hindered the implementation of a unified vision for the education of Utah’s children.

The Solution

     I am convinced that if we elected our state school board members by the same method as other state officials, we would see a much more effective education system. We citizens will also become better informed because our political parties and media will more actively inform us about education issues.

     Fortunately in this 2014 state legislative session Representative Brian Greene (R-Pleasant Grove) is sponsoring House Bill 228 (HB228) to require candidates for state board of education to be elected by the same mechanism as the governor and legislature. His bill would also require them to meet the same campaign finance reporting requirements.

      HB228 will align the process for electing those who have a role in public education, make the selection process for state school board members more open and transparent and raise the profile of members of the state board of education.