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School Board Candidates To Face Off In State-Wide Debate Series

Utah State Office of Education

The first of several state school board candidate debates will occur on Tuesday night in St. George. The races have generated significant interest and participation as Utah transitions away from a limited nomination process to an open primary.

Roughly 30 Utahns are vying for a seat on the 15-member state school board this year. Seven of those seats are up for election. Jennifer Napier-Pearce is associate communications director at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics. She says the greater interest prompted Hinckley to join the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools, Sutherland Institute, KSL NewsRadio and Deseret News to organize debates across the state.

“We have overcrowded classrooms, a perennial education funding shortage, we have tremendous growth in charters, which shows me that parents are looking outside of the traditional public school system for alternatives,” Napier-Pearce says. “But parents still want to support traditional public schools too.”

This is the first election cycle since the Utah legislature voted to move to an open primary and abandon the old nomination process, in which the governor had a hand in selecting school board candidates. Republican State Senator Ann Millner sponsored the legislation. She says in the past, voters didn’t have a voice in the process until the general election.

“This allows the voters in each of the school board districts to participate in the process much earlier, get to know the candidates, select the top two candidates that they want to be on the general ballot,” Millner says.

Tuesday’s debate between candidates in District 15 takes place at George Washington Academy at 6:30 pm. Audio recordings of each debate will be available at  

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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