Education consumes more than half of Utah's tax revenues. It affects more families, proportionally, than in any other state in the Union. It has become an extremely complex, challenging public undertaking.
It is recognized by just about everyone as the route to keeping Utah (and the United States) economically competitive in an increasingly competitive world.It has, by default, shouldered many of society's problems, including the decline of the family and a burgeoning moral decay. It has become a major national concern in the past few decades as it has continually fallen short.
It deserves the attention of the best minds in Utah - the most able, qualified and dedicated leadership. The magnitude of the challenge demands people of ability equal to that challenge.
In short, the State Board of Education should comprise the most creative, innovative and forward-looking Utahns who can be found.
The proposal by a state committee that has been looking at educational governance is a step in the right direction. The group will submit a bill to the 1991 Legislature that calls for a nominating process for members of the state board.
If passed by the Legislature, the bill would create local committees charged with scouring school board districts for the best qualified people to sit on the state board. The committee would submit the names of three to five potential candidates to the governor, who would then select two to stand for election.
The plan would preserve the right of Utahns to vote for their school board representatives, while providing a mechanism to do as much as possible toward ensuring the quality of the board.
Voters have no objection to the involvement of political parties in the selection of candidates for other state and local offices. They should not find fault with a screening process for state board candidates.
At the ballot boxes, they seldom favor an independent candidate for office, but all state board members run as self-selected independents with no prior screening mechanism.
There is concern from some quarters that the governor would be involved in selecting members to the nominating committees and again in selecting final candidates.
The governor routinely appoints members to boards and committees in the state who are charged with overseeing important government functions and the spending of huge sums of money, including the State Board of Regents, the State Board of Education's counterpart in higher education.
He should have some involvement in selecting the board with whom he needs to work closely to pursue the interests of education.
Until 1950, the members of Utah's school board were appointed. A variety of formats were used for seating the members over the years, with involvement by the Legislature at times, as well as the governor. Utah is, in fact, among the minority of states today that have elected boards.
There is no absolutely ideal method of seating school board members; each format has its drawbacks.
The plan proposed by the governance committee is a compromise among a group with wide interests. All elements of the educational family were represented on the 25-member study group, along with the Legislature, business and the public.
It deserves the support of the Legislature and the public as a well-considered effort to assure the quality of the state board.
If it doesn't pass, look for another move within the Legislature to do something that could be even more drastic.
There have been attempts for the past three years to change the way the board is selected. Dissatisfaction among legislators with the current board has not diminished, and almost certainly there will be action of some sort.