To: David Lifferth,
Subject: Please stop SB104 related to partisan school board elections
Date: Thu Feb 26 01:44:23 MST 2015
Dear Rep. Poulson,
I am writing to ask you to please make a priority of defeating SB104, which is being considered in committee tomorrow. This bill, which cleared the Senate last Wednesday with appallingly little reflection or debate, considering the types of effects it would have, seeks to revise current election procedures relating to the selection of candidates for the State Board of Education and for the local school boards of a few select municipalities in the state.
I am stunned that the Senate found so much support for a bill that arbitrarily selects only certain parts of the state to be effected, and in such a way that has virtually no justification. Therefore, I am calling on you to help prevent its passage.
I am employed in one of the large school districts that will feel the effects of SB104 if it becomes law. It is simply unacceptable to restructure our local school board elections in a partisan-based way. Political party philosophies are based on national and state issues and are far too general for effective reach to localized education agencies. Unless the intent is to increase state-government overreach into local decisions, this bill has little respectable justification. Public schools are not appropriate forums for the promotion of specific political ideologies. By having candidates run with the affiliation of a particular political party attached, board members will be more likely to feel beholden to certain ideas and positions that their party embraces but that impede the progress of the district and may only minimally relate to the most important issues. Creative dialogue seeking solutions to challenges within our schools would stagnate and the school district morale would suffer. Just because an individual is seemingly a "good" Republican or a "good" Democrat does not mean they will have the skills to meaningfully impact local education decisions, and I have already seen negative results in some of the districts I have worked with as overzealous partisans put unimportant outside issues ahead of the learners in their stewardship.
In my position as an educator, it is currently HIGHLY unacceptable for me to promote personal political positions in my classroom. If our state decides to invite party principles into our school district elections, they would be effectively eliminating the safe space that schools are in the students' explorations of personal principles and causes. In such a politically polluted class environment, I would have to also insist that teachers be allowed to discuss the positions and platforms of board members in light of their own personal views, in order to recreate a semblance of balance and to heighten the accountability of the school board members to the people they are elected to serve.
As a recent graduate from one of the state's top education colleges, I have already had plenty of cause to contemplate leaving our great state to work in in order to work in a state with more evidence to back up its proclaimed support of education. We have some exemplary children in our state and school districts, and fortunately the privilege of working with them has made up for some of the shortcomings teachers often must face here. However, injecting party politics into our school board races would do a lot to damage the our potential for progress. I also worry that partisan administrators could be more likely to allow for, whether consciously or not, a 1960s-style political inquisition in which teachers found to teach outside of the box matching the current school board majority would be squeezed out of the system.
I appreciate your careful consideration of this matter and would hope for your immediate action in defeating SB104.