A proposal to create screening committees in Utah's nine school board districts to select nominees for school board seats got a thumbs up Tuesday from a legislative committee.
The proposal was developed by a committee that has met twice monthly throughout the summer and fall. The committee was charged with studying educational governance in the state and proposing methods to assure the quality of the state board.The Education Interim Committee voted to support the governance committee's draft bill, which could mean quick approval.
The bill would involve the governor in two ways. He would select members of the nominating committees, with prescribed membership of four people representing education and three at-large. The committee would try to find good candidates for the state board, submit the names of three to five to the governor and he would then select two to be on the district ballot.
Some members of the legislative education panel felt the proposed format would give the governor too much input into the process.
However, Sen. Dixie Leavitt, R-Cedar City, noted that three previous attempts in the Legislature to change the way school board members are selected had failed to pass the Senate because senators felt more study of the issue was needed. The current bill is the result of intense study by a broad-based group and represents the best compromise that could be reached, he said.
The legislative committee did not give any consideration to a suggested alternative presented by Davis School Board member Ray Briscoe. It would have reduced the governor's involvement and increased the input of local school groups. Under his plan, the governor would appoint three at-large members while the education groups would directly select their own representatives to the nominating committees.
That approach was ruled out during governance committee meetings because of the overlap of school districts in and across school board districts. It was believed to be a logistical problem to allow for appointments by the various groups.
Rep. Jerrold Jensen, R-Salt Lake, characterized the draft bill as an awkward "hybrid" that avoids the real issue of whether Utah should have an appointed board or an elected board. A constitutional amendment eliminating the requirement for an elected board would be more direct, he said. "This is a step in the wrong direction."
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Brigham City, long an advocate of change in the way the state board is seated, countered that the election process is "great in its idealistic form. But it isn't working in this case.