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State School Board Nominating Committee

The Salt Lake Tribune had an article in Monday’s edition about major problems with the State Board of Education nominating committee. (Did you notice that the Tribune continues to place quotation marks around the term school choice, suggesting that school choice is a misnomer?)

The article mentions two problems with the committee: the committee was stacked in favor of UEA supporters and the committee never fulfilled its responsibility to recruit candidates.

The first question someone might ask is why does a nominating committee exist in the first place? The committee exists because state school board races are low profile and non-partisan. As a result, very few people run for state school board, and those that do run are usually connected with the education establishment. The purpose of the recruiting committee is to actively recruit a broad range of people to run for state school board.

Unfortunately, the committee has never met. As a result, three candidates – all long-time members of the education establishment -- are running unopposed this year.

However, the decision not to have any committee meetings -- which meant that no active recruiting took place -- is only part of the problem. The 12-person recruiting committee was intentionally stacked with UEA supporters who are hostile to meaningful education reform. For example, the charter school committee slot was filled by former state superintendent Steve Laing, not a charter school provider or parent. The committee slot representing parents was filled by Granite School Board member Sarah Meier. Former state senator and long-time UEA loyalist Ron Allen, who is a member of the Public Service Commission, was chosen to fill the utility/transportation slot. (Interestingly, the utility industry is represented on this committee by one of its regulators, not an employee of the industry itself.)

Of course, the committee members filling the school boards, school administrators, and teachers slots are part of the education establishment. In fact, of the twelve committee slots, only a small percentage is filled by people who are known to be interested in genuine reform.

This is scandalous. Who's responsible? Huntsman? Herbert? Kearl?

Looks like too many people were asleep at the switch.

Who's responsible? Short term fingers point to the governor's office, but ultimately, I'd point to the Legislature. They're the ones that concocted and passed this silly scheme which ensures in races where several candidates file that only candidates with similar views will actually end up on the ballot.

It will *always* end up skewed one way or the other.

Sen. Stephens wasn't nearly as up in arms last time around when the committee was stacked the other way.

The committee's other responsibility is to pare the list down to between three and five candidates before sending it on to the governor, who in lieu of a primary election will select two candidates to appear on the ballot in the general election.

Like every other race, anyone may throw their hat in the ring. If the Senator is so worked up about it, who did he recruit to run for the State Board of Ed?

Or, if the Senator is truly interested in choice on the ballot, perhaps he'll complain about the 12 legislators running unopposed too.

Oh, blast.

I of course meant Sen. Howard Stephenson, not Sen. Stephens.

Nothing like getting the name of a prominent legislator wrong to torpedo a whole train of thought.

the man,

Don't believe the partisan rhetoric coming from UTA. This is an attempt to politicize and control a process that shouldn't be politicized and controlled.

I agree 100% with tom's well-written assessment. We're all tiring of Sen. Stephenson's arrogance in suggesting that voters cannot make informed decisions.

Regardless of your political leanings, this attitude should have no place in a state as highly educated as ours. Trust the voters!

Sen. Stephenson does not wear a crown.

Do you have examplse about how th committee was stacked the other way last time? Last time Governor Walker disregarded the law and many including Stephenson complained, this time around members of the committee under Walker urged the Governors office well before the deadline that this needed to be done. Simply stated the ignored the law, and the deadline and feel they are untouchable.

change required,

You said we should not politicize or control the process and we should trust the voters. But traditionally, the UEA has controlled the process. Now that someone else is trying to control the process, controling becomes a bad thing. Maybe you could come up with some euphemism for control when it is the UEA that is doing the controlling.

Trust the voters? Pretty easy to say when your side is controlling who gets on the ballot.

the man,

Are you also suggesting the UTA is now trying to control the process?

And do you really mean to suggest that the political positions espoused by Sen. Stephenson are not well-represented in this state?

In an election, organizations do not control who runs for office. Anyone can run for office. Right?

Well, almost...and such is the problem with the law that alters this time-honored democratic process when it comes to our state school board. The assumption being made is that voters are too ignorant to make an informed decision and so a nominating committee must weed out "bad" candidates for us. With the advent of forums such as these, such an assumption evaporates into thin air. We now have the technology and the reach for all voters to become incredibly informed.

I would like to see legislation which abolishes the nominating committee and instead provides a common forum for state school board candidates to express their views and "introduce themselves" to the voters. Let the voters pare down the list of candidates in a primary election (should there be more than two who apply). Then let them vote for the person that best represents them.

The only way to get broad-based involvement is to make these races partisan. Even then, some of the races in the dark red and dark blue parts of the state will not be competitive in the November election but most will still be competitive at the party conventions and primaries. That's infinitely better than what we have right now where the UEA actively recruits and no one else does.

The only non-partisan races that attract significant numbers of candidates are city council races. However, state school board races are much more obscure than city council races.

Therefore, if a balanced selection committee is not recruiting and the races remain non-partisan, we'll continue to get lopsided UEA supermajorities on the board. Maybe that's what you've wanted all along.

Partisan boards may be good for elections, but may be less so for getting things done.

I've had the chance to meet with State Board of Education members from Boards in other states, some with configurations or authority drastically different from our own. (Appointed versus elected, partisan and non-partisan, the highest education authority or subservient to elected/appointed commissioners of education. Think of a method of governance and chances are some state has it.) In these encounters, each time partisan boards (including those selected by a partisan body) are compared with non-partisan boards, members of partisan boards express their wish that their boards were less partisan.

Maybe it's a common case of "the grass is greener..."

If the problem is recruiting members, I don't see how partisanship will solve it. Those who recruit now will continue to do so in the future--and I predict they would hold *more* sway over the outcome during party conventions.

As for the committee being stacked the other way last time around: in 2004 the nominating and recruiting committee removed the incumbent from consideration in the district North of me, and in my district removed from consideration the past president of the National Association of School Boards. Newspaper articles at the time suggested the committee was stacked with business interests (read: Republican, tuition-tax-credit supporters) who met at a time when many on the committee with long-standing education ties were unable to attend.

As a former member of the State School Board, I feel obligated to comment on this issue. While many excellent individuals have served and are serving on the State School Board, many of the comments I read on the Blog are close to reality. The most prevelent comment and the one I wish to make, concerns the efforts of the State Teachers Union, commonly refered to as the UEA. In my last election for the Board, I was opposed by a UEA (Union) leader from the Jordan School District. He was not recommended by the nominating committee. He was chosen, by the then Governor, as a favor to the UEA for their support. He was not only a "former" teacher, but had been serving as the full-time union representative for insurance and other union issues. The Jordan Teachers Union, in direct conflict of District policy, used the "send home" opportunity provided in schools for school issues, to send election material to thousands of homes in the District touting the virutes of "their" candidate. Having been defeated in the election, I quietly left public life, where in various capacities, I had been active for over 40 years.

It is this kind of abuse that needs to be addressed by legistators and by the public. While I sat on the Board (for ten years) I was only one of three or four business oriented members. Nearly all the rest (15 in total) came from some area of education. They came, axes in hand, already to start grinding them as soon as possible. Hours and days are wasted by the Board due to this kind of insfratructure.

In my opinion, the Board needs to be re-structured and the number of members reduced from 15 to 9 (11 at the most). More emphasis needs to be made as to their roles as policy makers. Much time is spent "second-guessing" the professionals we hire to run the State Office.

Now, with members from the Board of Regents (the Governors hand-picked selections) serving ex-officio on the State Board and the same happening on the Board of Regents, perhaps it is time we determined why we need two separate boards. Perhaps we should just have one elected board to oversee all education issues in the State. Many states do this and do it quite sucessfully. I think it is an idea whose time has come.

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