Having been a member of the Utah State Board of Education during what was perhaps its most "rocky period," 1976-1984, I am, of course, always interested in USBE news and the many issues and accomplishments of this important body.
I was surprised and very concerned when our Utah Legislature passed SB78, State Board of Education Candidate Selection, which requires a partisan election for school board candidates. What a step backward for schools in our Beehive State! The schools belong to all the people and should not be part of a political party platform. SB78 is wrong. Party politics have no place in free and open public education for all children and young adults. They must be nonpartisan in state and local elections. What will be next, making all judges and every other elected official a partisan position?
I grew up in a family where my father worked at the copper smelter in Garfield. He was an electrician. Our community was largely Democratic in voting, but what party the Granite School Board members adhered to was never known or important. My brother-in-law, Norman Bangerter, ran for the Legislature, the seat then representing the west side of Salt Lake County. Norm was a Republican, but he could have been a Democrat just as well. My father was an active Democrat, but campaigned for Norm as he felt he was not a "party man" in that he would be a strict Republican, but rather do what was best for the people, all of the people, which he did in the House of Representatives and as Utah’s governor.
Now, Utah is fast becoming the "reddest" state in the nation with Republican domination. I guess they want schools to be political, too, and follow their philosophies and platforms by passing SB78. I have been an elected official in Cache County. I ran as a Republican and was elected a Cache County commissioner. Then, with the League of Women Voters support, we changed the form of government in Cache County to the county council form, a vast improvement, one of the first counties in the state to do so. And we ended up with a council that had Democrats and Republicans on it. Much better. A few years later, I ran for the Logan City Council, which, thankfully, is nonpartisan, and no party politics existed there, none whatsoever. Nonpartisan is best.
I doubt we will ever have nonpartisan state and national elections, but it’s too bad we can’t do that. Party politics is way too large of an issue of what’s best for the USA, and for Utah, than it should be. Let’s not add State School Board elections to party politics. “Count My Vote” passed with flying colors in Utah, but the Republican Party is still working diligently to go back to the old way where party political leaders made the decisions as to whom would end up on the ballots.
Sheryl Allen and all who serve in Utahns for Public Schools and the Alliance for a Better Utah, are to be commended. I support their work. And I sincerely hope that SB78 will be rescinded before 2018 when it is to go into effect.
Do the right thing for all Utahns, current elected officials. Please do not alter the Utah Constitution.
Jay Monson lives in Logan. A retired USU professor, he served on the Utah State Board of Education, 1976-1984.