Current members of the State Board of Education, meeting Friday at the Ogden/Weber Applied Technology Center, were critical of a proposal to be considered by the 1991 Legislature that would change the way board members are chosen.
The board authorized its executive committee to compile a list of opinions to be presented to a committee studying governance issues. The committee, authorized by the 1990 Legislature, is to meet Nov. 27.A preliminary bill created by the governance committee proposes creating nominating committees in the nine school board districts to select five potential candidates for open board seats. A seven-member panel would represent education groups and the citizenry at large, with three members named by the governor.
The governor also would select two names from the candidate list to be on the ballot. The object of the pre-election screening would be to recruit the best possible candidates for the board, said board member Keith Checketts, who said he supports the principle of a pre-election process. At present, candidates are entirely self-selected. Checketts noted that political parties screen potential candidates in other election categories.
The Legislature has had bills before it for the past three years seeking a change in the election process for the state board.
The governance committee's proposal gives the governor too large a role in the selection of board members, said board member Neola Brown.
Member Valerie Kelson, whose service on the board will end next month, agreed. "Why play games?" she said. "If the governor wants to select the board members, just let him select them."
Kelson, however, also expressed disappointment with the recently held election. "If the people screw up, they're stuck with the results."
Member Don Christensen suggested that having a selection committee choose five candidates and then having those names on a primary ballot could be an option that would dilute the governor's role in selection of the board.
Board President V. Jay Liechty made the most outspoken objection to the governance committee's proposal.
"I feel strongly that it's tantamount to appointment by the governor. The people have indicated by the state's constitution that they want to elect state school board members. It's absolutely wrong for a legislative committee to make a decision (that changes the process)." He suggested there could be a legal challenge to legislation that disturbs the current election system.
Any change that fully precluded an election would require a change in Utah's constitution. The committee studying governance has avoided that option, and members believe the selection of candidates by a screening committee and the governor would meet the constitutional requirement for an election.