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House passes bill clarifying role of local school board members

Published: Thursday, July 30 2015 11:20 a.m. MDT

The Utah House voted Wednesday in favor of a bill emphasizing that local school board members represent the interests of the voters who elected them. (Jordan Allred, Deseret News) The Utah House voted Wednesday in favor of a bill emphasizing that local school board members represent the interests of the voters who elected them. (Jordan Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Local school board members should act in the interest of an entire district, but their primary concern is the will of the voters who elect them.

That emphasis is the crux of a bill sponsored by Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, and approved Wednesday by the Utah House.

Draxler said he was motivated to run HB250 during interim meetings of the Education Task Force. He said task force members learned that in some instances, local school board members felt pressured to publicly agree with the decisions of their board, even when those decisions conflicted with their personal views or the views of their constituents.

"There may be a little confusion on the duties of a school board member," Draxler said. "This in no way diminishes the responsibility of a school board member to also look out for what is good for the school district as a whole."

But Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, questioned whether the bill sends a message that encourages school board members to place the needs of their area over the needs of others.

"You have a responsibility to make reasonable policy that’s good for every child in that district," Briscoe said.

Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, who also participated on the Education Task Force, said the bill is an attempt to better define roles in the public education system.

Like state lawmakers, school board members vote in matters affecting many people but also have a responsibility to their constituents, Gibson said.

"What we’re asking is for our local school board members to remember they were elected by a body of individuals," he said.

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