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Senate Advances Bill to Make School Board Elections Partisan

Photo Dean via Creative Commons

Utah lawmakers are forced to find a new way to elect state school board members this legislative session after a federal judge ruled back in September that the current process is unconstitutional.

For several years now, the sticking point for many state lawmakers is whether candidates should be subjected to partisan or non-partisan elections. But on Wednesday, the Senate approved SB 104, which requires state school board and some local school board candidates from the largest districts in the state to list their party affiliation in order to run. GOP Senator Daniel Thatcher supported the bill.

“Make no mistake. These elections are partisan now. But they are partisan behind closed doors.”

Right now Governor Gary Herbert hand-selects a committee to vet and recruit candidates. He then narrows those selections to two names per district.  Democratic Senator Luz Escamilla took issue specifically with making local races political.

“I have a lot of concerns with this. This is not what the four school districts that you guys mentioned want for their communities and we should not be imposing that on them.”

Many republicans argue the caucus and convention system would increase the visibility of the races. Utah Democrats are opposed to injecting party politics into education.

The four largest local school district in the state are Alpine, Davis, Granite and Jordan.

The bill has been sent to the House Floor for a vote.

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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