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Senator halts own resolution to give governor, Senate power over school board

Published: Monday, March 11 2013 12:55 p.m. MDT

Expressing his desire for more consideration and discussion, Sen. Stuart Reid effectively withdrew his own resolution Monday that would have granted the governor and Senate approval and confirmation power over the state superintendent of public instruction

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Expressing his desire for more consideration and discussion, Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, effectively withdrew his own resolution Monday that would have granted the governor and Senate approval and confirmation power over the state superintendent of public instruction.

The resolution, SJR5, would have amended the Utah Constitution and, as such, would have required a two-thirds majority of both congressional houses and ratification by Utah voters in November's general election.

Reid said he was confident he had the support of two-thirds of his Senate colleagues but felt the issue warranted greater input from the education community and consideration by the Education Task Force, which would be created by another bill Reid has sponsored.

"With that consideration, I thought it would be useful to delay this legislation and allow the State School Board and others to come before the task force and talk about what the governor's relationship should be among the parties," he said.

Reid moved to strike the enacting clause of his resolution, which effectively withdraws the proposal from consideration during the current legislative session. There was no debate on the motion, but several senators voted no in the ensuing voice vote.

SJR5 was comfortably advanced at the committee level in a 4-1 vote, but several members of the education committee testified in opposition to the proposal.

State School Board Chairwoman Debra Roberts said the resolution, if passed, would lead to the "pollution of politics" entering the public school system. Roberts also said the motivation behind the resolution did not meet the high threshold of demonstrable need that warrants an amendment to the state constitution. 

"This amendment seems to fit the old saying of a solution in search of a problem," she said.

Currently, the state superintendent is selected by members of the State School Board, who are elected to their positions through an often-criticized process in which the governor selects the two candidates to appear on the ballot for each school board seat.

Reid said in committee that the public would be "alarmed, surprised and shocked" to learn that the governor has no authority over public education, but education officials counter that the governor's candidate selection power gives him a high amount of oversight and authority.

Reid has also sponsored SB169, which would create an Education Task Force comprised of minority and majority leadership from both the House and Senate. He has said the task force is needed to establish a strategic vision for public education and to reduce the amount of time and resources spent on bills that distract from the state's long-term goals.

Before striking the enacting clause of SJR5, Reid said the governance of public education is an issue that would benefit from deliberate and open discussion by education stakeholders and the task force. He also suggested that many of the bills currently under consideration by the Senate should similarly be delayed, but added that he would not attempt to exert influence over his colleagues to follow suit.

E-mail: benwood@deseretnews.com

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