Jackson Continues to Push Partisan School Board Elections

Senator Alvin Jackson (Republican - Highland)
Senator Alvin Jackson (Republican – Highland)

“This plan is more or less a genuine compromise. This is in the spirit and heart of compromise as it gives supporters of nonpartisan, partisan, and governor-appointed elections something they can support, while actually requiring them to accept something they don’t like,” Senator Al Jackson (Republican – Highland) said of his proposal to reform Utah State School Board election procedures. Debate on the matter continued to rage on Wednesday during the August meeting in the Education Interim Committee.

The proposal, which was put together by Jackson and Senator Evan Vickers (Republican – Cedar City), seeks to remedy the issue of the status quo (which the courts noted were illegal an needed to change) by shrinking the state school board from 15 to 13 members. Of those 13 members, four would be chosen through a partisan election, four through a nonpartisan election, and the final five appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The new seats would be based on Utah’s congressional districts, with each district being represented by a partisan and nonpartisan school board member.

In addition, Jackson’s proposed bill would require an amendment to Utah’s constitution, which doesn’t allow appointed school board members.

Jackson feels that this plan is in the best interest of schoolchildren. “Just as the founders wisely checked and balanced the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the President against each other, the 5-4-4 compromise checks and balances nonpartisan, partisan, and a governor-appointed school board by ensuring that no one group has the majority.” He believes that it will force “broad consensus” on policy.

Representative Carol Spackman Moss (Democrat – Holladay) questioned Jackson’s assertion that the proposal is a genuine compromise. “It’s a compromise among the three of you that worked on this, but the public has repeatedly responded to polls overwhelmingly to say that they are opposed to partisan elections for school boards, so when you say it’s a compromise it’s not according to the public’s stated desires.” Jackson would respond by saying “Then get a nonpartisan bill passed in both houses.”

Senator Jim Dabakis (Democrat – Salt Lake City) concurred with Moss, stating that the plan is more of a “Republican proposal,” rather than an inclusive compromise.

Senator Scott Jenkins (Republican – Plain City) presented a dueling proposal in the Government Operations Interim Committee. Under his plan, the new seats would be drawn along local school district boundaries. Jenkins believes this would energize voters and make them more aware of who their state school board representative is. While he has opened a bill file, Jenkins said that his bill is “strictly conceptual.”

Neither committee took action and will continue to discuss both proposals in the future.

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