Tentative new boundaries drawn for State Board of Education seats

Published: Monday, Aug. 22 2011 6:40 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The state Redistricting Committee approved new preliminary boundaries for State Office of Education seats that it intends to tweak in coming weeks.

The committee adopted a base map, which was created by Logan resident Robert Horning, and submitted to the RedistrictUtah website.

With the internal deadlines looming for having recommendations in place, leaders of the committee wanted to at least adopt a tentative map in order to have a concrete starting point in place.

"We are getting close to September and we do need to start moving forward on some of these ideas," chairman Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, said.

The Legislature is to hold a special session sometime this fall to vote on the committee's recommended boundaries to the State School Board, legislative districts and congressional districts based on the 2010 Census population changes.

There are 15 State School Board seats, which the committee worked to divvy up along school district lines as much as possible in order to keep from having one school district divided among several board members, lawmakers said.

That gets tricky along the Wasatch Front, however, with its major population centers.

A map suggested by the State Board of Education divided up some districts too many times, according to Senate President and committee member Michael Waddoups. According to that map, the Granite School District was divided among seven different state board member districts.

"That's exorbitant," Waddoups said. "I think holding districts together makes some sense."

Granite is divided among at least three school board seats, according to the base map.

State education board member Joel Coleman told the committee there wasn't strong agreement among state board members on the map the board suggested.

Committee members seem to agree on the way the map divides up rural areas, said Rep. Merlin Newbold, R-South Jordan. But it will require some tweaks to the boundaries drawn along the Wasatch front, she said.

While the rural school board districts cover expansive swaths of the state, Rep. Christine Watkins, D-Price, who represents parts of central and southeast Utah said she's happy with the recommendations.

"I don't think we've every been treated badly or ignored," she said, despite only having one seat from her area on the board.

From here, the redistricting committee's job will only get more involved, as board members try to hammer out new boundaries for state House and Senate seats in addition to U.S. congressional seats.

Despite the several hours-long meeting that included multiple recesses and the formation of a subcommittee, Watkins said the process for deciding school board seats is simple compared to the lawmaker boundaries.

"If you can believe it, this is the easy one," Watkins said.

E-mail: mfarmer@desnews.com Twitter: mollyfarmer

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