In last year’s state school board race, we had 9 candidates file for 1 seat in our area. These 9 people were reduced to 3 in an unconstitutional process, the governor then eliminated 1 more, and sent 2 names to our ballot. A lawsuit added 1 more person to the race, and THAT is the individual that won.
Obviously the current process doesn’t work.
But will non-partisan races work? Think about this... There are about 3 million people in Utah. Per state school board member (15 of them), that’s 200,000 people PER MEMBER.
Our school board race of 3 people had the FIRST EVER DEBATE for a state school board seat. 120 people attended. That’s it. There simply isn’t the interest to attend such debates. Can you imagine under a strict non-partisan race with 9 candidates that 200,000 people are going to take any time to vet all 9 candidates? No way. The only organization that IS going to vet those candidates and promote one of them is the UEA, PTA, and other education organizations that find the candidate they feel will best meet their agenda. Non-partisan races produce a single party race.
However, the field of candidates must be reduced. The most efficient method is partisan elections where locally elected delegates, our neighbors, closely vet the candidates. This does not inject partisanship into elections. It’s a vetting system to reduce the candidate field. It’s not reasonable for anyone to say that an elected member is going to listen more to the party than the public. Do you as a legislator listen more to your party chair than your constituents? No. When you hold town hall meetings, you value everyone who comes. It’s going to be the same with state school board members. They’re going to have donors just like you, whether or not the race is partisan or non-partisan, (or appointees of the governor with a narrow view that doesn’t display the diversity of opinion across our state).
Please pass SB 104 ONLY. It is only going to make state school board races partisan and that’s a good thing for Utah to have people willing to dig deep into candidates and ensure the ones who might not be best funded, but have the best principles and ideas, rise to the top.
Oak Norton, Highland