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Utah's education groups are divided on the issue of whether the method of selecting members of the State Board of Education should be changed.

HB296, a proposal by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Brigham City, would eliminate the present election method and replace it with a combination of selection and election. Nominating committees in each of the nine regions from which state board members are elected would choose three candidates, with the governor choosing one individual. That person would face a yes-no election before being seated on the board.The measure passed the House easily but has not yet come up in the Senate. Bishop said Tuesday he is not certain if the bill will be heard in the Senate before the end of the current legislative session. This issue could become a subject for interim study if the bill does not pass.

The State Board of Education has opposed the bill on grounds that the electorate should not be deprived of a free choice of candidates.

The State School Boards Association, however, favors the change. Bishop's bill would give local school boards a much stronger voice in the selection of state board members, creating a more cooperative relationship between the two levels of school governance, said Winston Gleave, association spokesman.

The State Society of Superintendents, on a 14-16 vote, opposed HB296, said Don Richards of that organization. However, he said, the vote was taken before amendments were made to the bill that might have made it more palatable to rural school districts. As originally proposed, the bill would have chosen three nominators in each of the nine districts and they would have sat as a combined group to select candidates. Rural school districts opposed that configuration as it would have given large Wasatch Front districts more clout in selecting candidates for both urban and rural areas.

The bill was amended in the House to increase membership on the nominating committees to seven and to make each nominating committee responsible for its own district only. That might have influenced the votes of the rural members of the superintendents group, Richards said.

Because the School Boards Association would have responsibility for selecting four of the seven members of each nominating committee, there would be a shift in power from the state board to the local level.

The State PTA opposes HB296 but wants the issue of governance to be thoroughly studied during the 1989 interim period. The Utah Education Association did not take a position on the bill.