To the editor:
A few members of the Utah House of Representatives propose changing the method of election the members of the State Board of Education.Their method would have a nominating committee of a few persons in each of the nine districts choose three candidates from whom the governor would choose one whose name would go on the general election ballot unopposed. Voters would vote yes or no for that candidate. A majority of the three members of the nominating committee would be members of local school boards.
As the system now stands, candidates for the State School Board nominate themselves and go through the election process just like all other elected officials.
Is it better to have State School Board members hand-picked by a committee, or is it better to allow the public to choose them through the primary and general elections?
Proponents say hand-picking candidates will result in better quality persons on the board - persons who don't bicker with each other, can get along better with other governmental bodies such as the Legislature, who are really interested in education and who will not use the state board as a stepping stone to higher office.
If hand-picking candidates is the best way to avoid having self-serving cranks in public office, then surely hand-picking the candidates for the Legislature would rid the House and Senate of the same kind of people.
But hand-picking candidates will not cure any of the problems mentioned but could well make them worse. The open election system presently in use has produced a current state board of persons with professional experience in organizational behavior and motivation, personnel, rights of women, rights of handicapped persons, business, classroom education, educational psychology, educational assessment, finance, accounting and administration.
There are two Ph.Ds, one MBA and three with masters' degrees. All have children or grandchildren in Utah's public schools. They spend hours all year long working for education in Utah.
The proposed new way of "electing" state board members is really not an election at all but an effort by a small group of persons to sidestep the democratic process by having state board members appointed and then ratified at the polls.
There is a sense of independence and responsibility that comes with being elected and a knowledge of the wants and desires of the people that no appointed person could ever acquire.
One-half of the state's money goes into education. A state board that is independent of the Legislature, the governor's office and local boards can be an integral part of the check and balance system, but one that is appointed could only do what it is told to do. An independent board will use the state's money better and do more good for education than aboard that is not free to act.
State School Board member