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Legislators seek to remove partisanship from state education board

February 12th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Jesse Dredge
Utah Public Radio

SALT LAKE CITY—Utah legislators are proposing a non-partisan election system for members of the Utah State Board of Education. Representative Carol Moss, a Salt Lake City Democrat, led the effort last week by introducing a bill to the House Education Committee.

Another bill, sponsored by Representative Jim Nielson, a Republican from Davis County, is set to be introduced to the same committee. Both bills, in a bi-partisan effort, aim to modify the current State Board of Education’s election process.

Click here for Utah Public Radio report.

“It’s a process capable of being manipulated, and it is [manipulated],” said Kim Burningham, member of the State School Board.

Applicants for the board are reviewed by a governor-appointed committee, which narrows down the list of applicants to three names that are sent to the governor. The governor then chooses two candidates to appear on the ballot.

The problem with this system, critics say, is that it can allow a partisan committee to choose which applicants appear on the ballot.

“It just makes a lot more sense to let the public narrow them down, because that’s who we represent: the public.  Not some political group,” said Burningham.

Both the Nielson and Moss bills propose to remove the committee process and allow a direct primary election. Although it passed through the House Education Committee, Moss’s bill met speculation from committee members that there is, in fact, a problem with current committee elections.

The Moss bill goes to the House floor for debate and the Nielson bill will soon be introduced to a House committee.


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