SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education voted Thursday to oppose a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate elections for the body.
HJR13, sponsored by Rep. Melissa Garff Ballard, R-North Salt Lake, would eliminate any references in the Utah Constitution to "electing" the state board.
The joint resolution would have to pass each legislative house by a two-thirds margin to be placed on a statewide ballot. Constitutional amendments then require the majority approval of voters.
The proposed resolution then calls on the lieutenant governor to place the issue on the next general election ballot. If voters approve it, the change would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
"I very much oppose this bill. I very much believe that state board members should be elected and I think the constitution said that for a reason and should continue to say that for a reason," said State School Board member Carol Lear.
"There’s nothing more near and dear to people’s hearts than how their children spend their days. The board that oversees that work, the curriculum, various services that are provided in schools, I believe, should be an elected board that represents the people through election."
A similar resolution was considered by the Utah Legislature in 2018, but it would have taken the additional step of vesting the board's powers in a governor-appointed state superintendent. The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, passed overwhelmingly in the Utah Senate but was defeated by the House of Representatives in the waning hours of the session.
A majority of board members voted to oppose the legislation, although some members, such as Laura Belnap, said they wanted to hold off on a vote until "an accompanying" bill is released to the public.
Lear disagreed, urging board members to take a position of opposition to HJR13, which was introduced in the House earlier this week.Comment on this story
"Anything in my mind that takes the protection of election out of the constitution I cannot support," Lear said.
Meanwhile, the board, lawmakers and others await a Utah Supreme Court's decision whether a statute passed by the Utah Legislature in 2016 that calls for partisan State School Board elections is constitutional.
A lower court ruled that the law conflicts with the Utah Constitution.
That decision was appealed by state attorneys on behalf of Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, the lone defendant in the case.