A legislative proposal that would authorize background checks on teachers to determine if they have been involved in criminal activity has won the support of the State Board of Education.

The proposed bill will go to the 1991 Legislature with the endorsement of the Education Interim Committee.The state board said the ability to screen prospective teachers - and those seeking recertification - would help protect Utah schoolchildren. The provision would apply to concurrent enrollment teachers working in the public schools as well, said Superintendent Jay B. Taggart.

Teachers seeking first-time employment in the state, or to have their certification renewed, would be required to submit to fingerprinting, with the prints to be checked against state, regional and national criminal files. The individual would have a right to respond to any information elicited in such a check and would be guaranteed due process.

The information could be used for no other purpose than for consideration in hiring of the individual as a teacher.

The board also approved a potential bill that would provide extra money for 20 schools to develop programs according to the site-based management theory. The schools would receive $25,000 the first year, $15,000 the second and $10,000 the third. No more than three schools in any one of the 40 districts could receive the incentive grants.

The proposed legislation also says that a pilot school may ask the local district or the State Office of Education to waive policies or regulations that prevent it from achieving its objectives. No waiver could be granted if the request ran counter to state or federal laws.

The legislation would test the theory that decisionmaking at the local level would lead to better education.

Another upcoming bill that was approved by the board would allow students to take the written portion of a driver licensing test at school. Passing the end-of-course written examination would entitle the student to a temporary learner permit, good for six months. Full licensure would require that the student also pass the regular driving test at a Driver License Division facility.