A committee studying educational governance in Utah rebuffed a request from the State Board of Education to reduce the governor's role in a proposed plan to screen board candidates.
In its final meeting Tuesday, the study group stuck by its original plan to have the governor name seven members to a nominating committee in each of the state's nine school board districts. The district committee would be charged with finding the best possible candidates for the state board and would submit names to the governor, who would then select two to stand for election.The committee has prepared a draft bill that will be presented next Tuesday to the legislative Education Interim Committee. If legislative committee endorses the conclusions of the study group, the bill will bypass initial committee study during the 1991 session, going directly to floor consideration.
The state board asked the governance committee to rethink the amount of input the governor would have in the process, suggesting that the proposal is tantamount to having the governor appoint state board members.
The board offered an alternative that would allow the nominees chosen by the selection committee to participate in a primary election, rather than having the governor choose the candidates for whom the public would vote.
The majority of the governance committee members, however, said they believed it would be difficult to find three to five potential candidates in each of the state board districts who would be willing to go through the time and expense of a primary election for the right to be a final candidate.
Former legislator Lamont Richards said that a very small number of voters usually participate in a primary election for the state board and it would be possible for special interest groups such as the Utah Education Association to influence the selection.
"I don't foresee political appointments. You'd have to convince me that that would happen," he said.
Rep. Douglas Holmes, R-Weber, noted that until 1950, state board members were appointed. He said he didn't see any problem with the governor's involvement in choosing candidates.
State PTA President Pat Hales and Rep. John B. Arrington, D-Ogden, represented the minority view that the election process would be diluted by the plan proposed by the committee.
Arrington said, "You are taking away from the people the ability to nominate themselves. If you have one or two bad board members, that's the process."
The draft bill does allow people who are interested in serving on the board to make their interest known to the local screening committee, or to run as write-in candidates.
Despite the arguments and the reservations of some committee members whose groups have not had an opportunity to study the final version of the draft bill, the ultimate vote was unanimous.
Sen. Dixie Leavitt, R-Cedar City, urged the committee members to promote the draft bill among the groups they represent and with the public. The committee spent many hours considering possible alternatives for governance of education in the state, he said, and compromised several times along the way to a proposed bill. The final version deserves the support of the committee, he said.
The only change made by the committee Tuesday was to modify a provision that would have required that each school district nominating committee submit five names to the governor. Because of concerns that the number would be too large in some districts, the committee changed the wording to allow the district committees to submit "up to five, but no fewer than three" names for the governor's consideration.
Some members of the governance task force felt the would virtually guarantee that the local committees would not try to find five good candidates, but the majority voted for the provision.