A bill that would require local school boards to agree where schoolchildren enroll following annexations narrowly passed the House Education Standing Committee Monday.
Committee members voted 5-4 to forward HB386, sponsored by Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley City, vice chairman of the committee.If annexation results in service by more than one school district, the bill would require affected school board presidents to determine whether district boundaries should be adjusted to permit city residents to be served by a single school district.
Five city school districts exist in Utah: Murray, Salt Lake City, Ogden, Logan and Provo.
City school districts are required to absorb students in the annexed territory within three years. Bigelow's measure would repeal that law.
A proposal for Murray to annex the Millcreek area of Salt Lake County, whose students are served by Granite School District, has resulted in heated debates and protests. The Murray Board of Education opposes the proposed annexation.
Murray Superintendent Ronald Stephens opposes the bill, which he says favors county districts. Granite district, for instance, serves much of Salt Lake County.
"This bill is not in the spirit of compromise," Stephens said. "This bill totally favors county school districts" should annexation talks reach a stalemate.
Richard Clark, business administrator for the Murray School District, said the bill stands to disrupt communities with a city school district. He called for further study on the matter.
"We fear the bill would disengage the city school district from the city itself, and that sense of community . . . will be destroyed," he said.
But Bigelow says the bill would give all parties involved equal power in deciding district boundaries.
"This bill makes it a little more fair," Bigelow said.
Supporters - including the Granite Board of Education, State Board of Education, Jordan School District and the Utah League of Cities and Towns - say the legislation would allow school boards to consider the interest of students in annexations.
"School district realignments are very emotional issues, as emotional, if not more emotional, than annexations themselves," Jordan Superintendent Barry Newbold said.