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State Board Of Education: A Down Ballot Decision That Really Matters

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Lee Hale
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The Utah State Board of Education is responsible for policies that reach every classroom, like the statewide core curriculum standards.

 

Eight of Utah’s 15 school board seats are up for election this November. But in a year dominated by a presidential election those down ballot candidates can be overlooked.

Justin Lee, Utah’s deputy director of elections, says that in a year like 2016 school board elections aren't a top priority for voters.

“Virtually everyone will vote for president," Lee says. "Virtually everyone will vote for senate and governor but yeah the lower down the ballot you get the less people are voting on a given race."

He calls it "drop off voting."

This years school board elections are different than usual. In the past the governor would appoint two candidates for the November election. But not anymore.

 

"Anyone that declared candidacy their name would show up on the ballot," says Lee. "And then voters vote on that in the primary and the top two vote getters proceeded to the primary.”

 

By 2018 it will move to a partisan process, meaning the school board will be chosen much like state legislators.

Among those who are clued into this election is Gordon Gibb, professor of Special Education at Brigham Young University.

Gibb says it matters to him that candidates for the state board have teaching experience themselves. “I think it’s the contact with day to day teaching that is an important informative in this process," he says."

As it stands now, only three of the current 15 board members have public school experience. And only one was a full-time teacher.

It’s for that reason that Gibb encourages all of his students—future teachers—to get involved with the state board. He wants their voices from the classroom to be heard. He believes the board needs that input.

“In fact I wonder if they get enough feedback to fulfill their job," Gibb says.

What is their job, exactly? To put it simply, the board creates policies that affect every school in the state.

For example, the recent state standards created to match the core curriculum. And a change to teacher licensure allowing more college grads to apply for classroom positions.

To Gibb, these elections are really important. No matter where they are on the ballot.

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