School board candidates quizzed on funding, school choice, Common Core

Published: Monday, June 2 2014 5:55 p.m. MDT

Candidates for the State School Board were interviewed by a 12-member nominating and recruiting committee Monday, and several individuals were removed from consideration.

Jordan Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Candidates for the Utah State Board of Education took one step closer to November's ballot Monday, facing questions from a committee tasked with narrowing the candidate pool.

The interviews, held throughout the day Monday and continuing Tuesday, eliminated several individuals from contention after a review of their qualifications and based on their responses on subjects such as funding priorities, charter schools, the Common Core State Standards and the role of the State School Board.

"It would be ideal if these candidates who don’t make it go back to their local districts and try to make a difference there," said Shannon Greer, a member of the nominating and recruiting committee.

Seventy candidates originally filed to run for one of seven seats on the State School Board, though 12 later withdrew from consideration.

Under Utah's oft-criticized election process, the 12-member review committee selects at least three names per seat to advance to the governor, who then picks the final two names to appear on the ballot.

After the first round of interviews Monday, the committee advanced:

Terryl Warner (incumbent), David Clark and Bryce Day in District 1, which includes the northwest corner of the state.

Spencer Stokes, Willard Maughan and Jana Rae Shaw in District 2, which includes Ogden, Weber County and surrounding areas.

Michael Jensen (incumbent), Linda Hansen, Jeffery Meservy and Garrick Hall in District 3, which includes Tooele, West Valley City, Nephi and a large portion of the central-west part of the state.

Dan Griffiths (incumbent), Melissa Johnson, Pat Rusk and Brittney Cummins in District 6, located around West Jordan.

In all cases where an incumbent was seeking re-election, their name was forwarded to the governor.

Griffiths, the incumbent in District 6, said he viewed his service on the board as voluntarism and encouraged the committee to consider other candidates if they could contribute more to the state.

"If you feel like there are others who could contribute better, please choose them," he said.

Candidates were commonly asked how the state should prioritize the limited funding available for public education, with responses including a need for technology in the classroom, investment in STEM education — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — and compensation and training for Utah's teachers.

"We need to pay teachers what they're worth," Maughan said. "We need to pay them on a level that they will stay and they will do it."

Most of the candidates were supportive of the role that charter schools play in providing options to Utah families.

Shaw said education should be viewed as a business, albeit one with a more emotional inventory.

"What is good for business is competition, and we shouldn't be afraid of that," she said.

Hall was dismissive of the idea that charter schools and traditional schools need to compete to excel. He said charter schools provide a great option to some families, while others are more comfortable in a traditional setting.

"I don't think they have to compete against each other," Hall said. "I think they should complement each other."

On the controversial Common Core State Standards, which define the minimum skills a student should master in math and English, candidates were routinely asked what they would do to help create a positive atmosphere as the state moves forward with implementation.

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