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UTAH EDUCATION IS STABLE BUT STAGNANT, PANEL SAYS

Utah's educational system may be buying stability at a cost of stagnation, said a member of a legislative committee studying the governance of education.

The state is doing well in comparison with other states but not in comparison to what it could be doing, said Robert Bennett, Salt Lake businessman.The committee has met a half dozen times so far to consider how Utah's educational system can best be designed to accomplish goals that will take the state into the 21st century.

Change often promotes temporary instability, but change is necessary to achieve those goals, Bennett said. Utah's system is large and has become "muscle-bound" and inflexible, he suggested.

Former State Superintendent James R. Moss, now representing the Utah Partnership for Education and Economic Development, said the diffuse nature of the present governance system leaves "no one in charge." Linkages sometimes are missing among the diverse organizations and agencies that have a share in governance.

The present system for electing a state board lacks a nominating process, Moss said, and it is hard to get good candidates to run for the office. The balance of power shifts constantly and too much time is spent protecting turf.

Among the strengths of the current system is the assurance of equity and financial parity and the availability of services for the local districts, said Interim Superintendent Scott Bean.