The people who set the policies dictating what Utah's 423,386 school children learn and how the state's educational dollars will be divvied up will be determined in state and local school board elections.
Earlier this year, it looked as if there might not even be a state board race. The state school board was put on the defensive when Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Brigham City, proposed that the state board be eliminated, saying that local school boards, not the elected state board, better represented the state's educational interests.The board supporters won out. The proposal was defeated, and the board will continue in its State Constitution-mandated role of setting the policies for Utah's public education system.
But the attention focused on the board's role during the Legislature might spill over into the campaign.
Incumbents Keith Checketts of District 2, Ruth Hardy Funk of District 4 and M. Richard Maxfield of District 6 will face challengers in an effort to keep their seats on the nine-member board. District 6, where Maxfield is challenged by University of Utah sports psychologist Keith P. Henschen, will be the only one without a primary.
The District 2 race has drawn three seasoned educators into the political arena. Checketts is a Utah State University professor, while challenger Dale Schimmelpfennig, a former State Office of Education employee, is a retired Weber School District clerk and candidate William L. Garner is the retired superintendent of the Ogden City Schools.
District 8 will be wide open with five contestants competing to represent the Provo area. The incumbent, Margaret R. Nelson, did not file for re-election. A six-year veteran of the board, the attorney decided to step aside because of a job switch. She works and lives in Salt Lake City during the week, returning to her residence in Provo on weekends.
In the Salt Lake County, the school board contest with the potential for the most fireworks will be in the Salt Lake School District.
Many patrons are still smarting from the bloody high school boundary fight that drove a wedge into the board's unity. The 4-3 vote that decided the new boundary changes has since carried over into other decisions.
Board Chairman F. Keith Stepan of Precinct 1 and Vice President Stephen G. Boyden of Precinct 5 have announced bids for re-election.
Colleen Minson, who represented the South High area of Precinct 3, decided against another re-election try, saying time spent away from her five young children, not the boundary fight, was the determining factor in her decision.
In Precinct 7, longtime board member Carolyn Kump, who voted with the minority on the boundary decision, also decided against another four years on the board.
For weeks for the filing deadline, rumors circulated that Stepan would not refile. But they were only rumors. Stepan said he never seriously considered bowing out, although he consulted with his family before committing to another race.
Among the 14 running in the board's four contests will be Tab Uno in Precinct 1. He is a former board member who resigned when he moved to a new district.
In the state's largest school district, Granite, with 75,000 students and a $161 million budget, longtime board president Gary C. Swensen announced his intentions to stay out of the race before the filing date. Four contenders hurried to file for seat representing the Taylorsville-Bennion area. The other two incumbents, Patricia Sandstrom and Lynn Davidson, will try to stave off attempts by contenders to take away their seats on the five-member board.
Although the Jordan School Board oversees the instruction of 63,000 students and a budget of $156 million, interest in school board matters appears to be lacking. Jane Callister of Precinct 4 is unopposed. Orr Hill of Precinct 5 has only one opponent, Clint Warby, Utah Dairy Commission administrator.
In tiny Murray School District, with 5,000 students and a $19 million budget, there will no primary because each race in Precincts 4 and 5 has two candidates.