Monday, May 26, 2008

State School Board Elections? Who Cares!

With all of the to do about the meetings of the State School Board Nominating Committee being kept open to the public, I got to wondering why anyone would even WANT to serve on the State Board and what the responsibilities would be anyway. I'm probably not alone in my ignorance of what the Board of Education does and why we should care who is elected. With a bit of research, I found out that the State Board of Education Members do make many important decisions and their duties and responsibilities are contained within the Utah Constitution. Wading through so much code can be a daunting task. If you don't care to duplicate my efforts, simply read on. If you have something to add, please feel free to comment.

The State Board of Education approves charter schools and sets policies and rules on class size and teacher licenses. They decide the CORE, UBSCT and graduation requirements. They award grants and scholarships to teachers and students. They appoint the state superintendent who administers all the programs assigned to the State Board of Education. They also verify audits and provide assistance to districts and schools.

With so many areas of responsibility it's easy to see how anyone opposed to any public school system or just disenfranchised with ours, could undermine it from within by getting himself/herself elected to the State Board of Education. I know it sounds like some conspiracy theory, but let's not forget the length and expense that voucher supporters went to in trying to get their private school tuition paid for by taxpayers. Five and a half million dollars of effort. In light of that expensive and unsuccessful attempt, why not try to take over the same State School Board that refused to implement the flawed law before the referendum? It's not so far fetched when I put it into that frame of reference. If a majority of the State Board members supported vouchers, they could make it look like the idea came from within the very system they were trying to dismantle.

This might be why Utahns for Public Schools (UTPS) and others would have such consternation over possible closed meetings and/or flawed processes for nominating candidates. After all, the public doesn't get to have a vote until Governor Huntsman puts two names on the ballot from each of the State School Board Districts. If the committee sends only the names of voucher supporters to his office, none of us has much choice, do we? In fact, they could retaliate against the current board by not putting the names of incumbents on the list at all!

Are you concerned? I think you should be. If so, attend the meeting of the State Board Nominating Committee on June 2nd, where they will be making their selection of "suitable candidates" for which we can eventually vote. It will be held at the Jordan School District Offices on 300 East and 9400 South from 10:00-2:00. It should be open to the public, but who knows?

I'll get to work now on compiling some information on the people who applied so you can decide for yourself if there are candidates that you think will do a good job of supporting our public schools. As always, if you have any other information that others would benefit from reading, please share.