A couple Saturday’s ago, the Utah county delegates voted to enact a couple resolutions against Common Core, and in favor of partisan school board elections, and leave a meeting on time instead of listening to all the debate and running over time. I was asked by Kirby Glad to make remarks in favor of the resolution for partisan school board elections, while Dave Thomas, a member of the state school board was to present against the resolution. You can obtain a copy of the resolutions by clicking here and scrolling to the end:
Since the delegates didn’t get to hear both sides of the story and I would have preferred they got the opportunity, I invited Dave Thomas to send me his remarks against the resolution and told him I would publish them here. He didn’t respond, but Kim Burningham, another State School Board member wrote a blog post sharing his reasoning against partisan school board elections.
I will now post my speech, a link and quote from Kim’s, and my brief rebuttal of Kim’s reasoning.
My fellow delegates,
Is there a single delegate in this room who would put party politics above your own children or grandchildren?
I don’t believe so. The purpose of the delegate system is to elect people willing to spend the time to find principled people who are NOT beholden to anyone, but share our values.
We have before us a resolution which gets to the heart of the caucus system. Either we believe in the ability of delegates (us, our friends, our neighbors) to ask tough questions and make good decisions, or we do not accept the premise of representational government and might as well complete a transition to an oligarchy of hopefully benevolent rulers.
When the Framers of the constitution guaranteed a republican form of government to every state, the core issue for them was pushing control to the local level. Let the local wards, Jefferson said, elect representatives amongst themselves. Why? Because the general populace will never take the time to investigate candidates to find good and wise people to hold office.
What is the role of a school board member? Is it to defend the school district from public scrutiny or to be a watchdog for taxpayers and parents? You and I know it’s the latter but that is not the reality. Board members who are not elected by the people are not likely to feel accountable to them. At the state level, board members are subjected to a Governor appointed vetting committee who eliminate all candidates that don’t match their views such as their litmus test for supporting Common Core. At the local level we have board members who are supported by their party, the education establishment, and they are rubber stamps to the administrations that got them elected.
We know the current system doesn’t work. We keep seeing the same people appointed to the ballot who actually favor federal dollars in our schools which come with federal strings attached to them. The alternative of non-partisan elections just guarantees that the NEA/UEA candidates have strong support through their network while true conservatives do not have anyone to get the word out – a key purpose of a political party. They condemn conservatives for wanting a greater say in education through partisan elections, but have no problem maintaining political power through their Union.
Partisan elections allow a small representative segment of society elected as delegates to dig in, ask the tough questions, and make a representative choice for the greater whole of a political party and notify voters that the candidate they’ve chosen is the one they feel is the best for the job and shares core values and beliefs with members of that political party. It doesn’t make that candidate beholden to party politics, it’s a matter of having candidates closely vetted before getting to the ballot and making sure their core values match yours.
The largest budget item in Utah is education. 15 people are selected to run a $4 billion budget. We can’t elect the people we encourage to run because the governor’s appointed board eliminates most candidates before they are seen publicly, and everyone who opposes Common Core.
In Alpine school district, each of 7 non-partisan elected board members is responsible for $84 million. By comparison, each of our 3 county commissioners is responsible for $24 million.
In 2009, the state office of education submitted a signed Memorandum of Understanding with the federal department of education, to begin the process of participating in Common Core and contains an entire unconstitutional paragraph they had to acknowledge titled “Federal Role” in education.
During the last legislative session, two senior officials at the State Office of Education sent out an email to educators all across the state against Representative Brian Greene’s partisan election bill stating, “This bill essentially gives more power to parents over curriculum standards, and would prohibit us from adopting any national standards.” Don’t tell me the state office favors local control.
A vote for this resolution is a vote for trusting the caucus system. A vote for this resolution is a vote for common sense and trusting our neighbors.
A vote against it is a vote for maintaining a concentration of political power in special interest groups who can sway the general public with sound-bite campaigns instead of meaningful dialog. I urge you to support this resolution.
Kim Burningham’s article:
Kim argues that state school board members should be chosen in nonpartisan elections. His actual argument is based in the Utah Constitution. He said:
“For a similar reason, I find alternative # 2 very troubling. The State Constitution specifically prohibits it. Article X, Section 8 of the Utah Constitution: ‘No religious or partisan test or qualification shall be required as a condition of employment, admission, or attendance in the state’s education systems.'”
It is stunning to me that someone so experienced as Kim Burningham would take the state constitution so far afield of what it actually means. Kim quoted Article X, Section 8 of the Utah Constitution as: “No religious or partisan test or qualification shall be required as a condition of employment, admission,or attendance in the state’s education systems.” This is merely saying we can’t put a litmus test on a particular office such as “only Mormons or members of the Church of England can hold that position.” It’s why the Framers put similar language into the U.S. Constitution, which reads: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Partisan elections ARE LEGAL and used in a majority of political races in Utah in order to closely vet candidates for office.