SB 104 is the education elections and reporting amendments bill, also known as the “partisan elections” bill. Today the senate voted 21-7-1 on it’s second reading to pass it. I believe it’ll still have a third reading and another vote but those votes shouldn’t change significantly. It has been amended so that local districts only do partisan elections if the student population in the district exceeds 20,000.
In short, this is the only way to have school board elections be fair and transparent to the voting public. Otherwise we have the 1-party education establishment campaigning for their choice of candidate and telling everyone how it’s unfair that they have competition to who they deem the best candidate.
Today, the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) sent out an email to all school board members, superintendents, business officials and education leaders around the state giving them their talking points to oppose this bill. Here is their email with my comments in-between segments.
This bill will either create the need to make a Constitutional change or will create a lawsuit as Article X, Section 8 of the Utah Constitution indicates that “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 read to include both state and local school board members. It appears clear that Utah’s founding leaders intended NOT to have partisan politics influence their public education system.
The public in Utah is not likely to make a Constitutional change related to partisan politics in public education oversight and governance.
This item is ridiculous. This is merely saying we can’t put a litmus test on a particular office such as “only Mormons or members of the Democratic Party 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.
Local school board candidates are well known by their constituents, both in rural and in urban Utah. Local school board candidates often walk door to door to talk with each constituent. They do not need further vetting by a narrow group of party delegates.
Well known? A school board member runs every 4 years by putting up yard signs and walking the streets asking people to vote for him/her. Sometimes they pass out a flier with their talking points. Attendance at school board meetings is pathetic. Nobody is watching candidates and an extremely small number know anything about the candidates, even just their name! Vetting by a representative sample of every neighborhood in an area is both logical and logistical. When a neighborhood gets together at a caucus meeting and elects people to speak with candidates, they are picking people JUST LIKE THEMSELVES to go ask questions that get beyond the sound bites candidates deliver on fliers and their websites. This is grass roots involvement at its best.
Can you imagine a parent who wants non-partisan elections for school board members, actually spending even 15 minutes with each of 6 school board candidates to try and contact and vet each of them and make an intelligent vote in a primary race to reduce the field? It isn’t going to happen among the masses.
The bill creates a vacuum for many patrons of the district who may not be affiliated with a party. School board members will largely be held accountable to their delegates that elected them, leaving parents and taxpayers from other views to feel as if on the fringes. This is less representation, not more. School board members should be accountable to all members of the taxpaying public and all parents.
Depending on where one lives, there may be a majority of people from one political party. Other areas will flip that or be more balanced. Every party should run candidates that stand for their principles and the members of those parties should vet the candidates to see who has the best ideas so they put their very best candidate forward.
Party delegates are not viewed by the majority of Utahns as representative of their views on many matters, as has been shown most recently by the Count My Vote initiative.
The Buy My Vote initiative is hardly representative of an informed populace.
Delegates may or may not know much about their public schools. Volunteers and other school community leaders are often in public schools and are much more helpful in vetting candidates for local school board races. This undoubtedly holds true for state board candidates as well.
Dear USBA, delegates are our neighbors. They have families. They have children in school. They volunteer in schools. They are not from Mars or Venus. When someone is elected as a delegate, it’s a neighbor who we trust to make good decisions after weighing ALL the facts obtained from candidates and their opponents. This holds true for both local and state delegates.
Direct, nonpartisan school board races for local and state races, is already constitutional and restores the voice of the people to this electoral process.
NEWS FLASH: PARTISAN RACE ARE CONSTITUTIONAL. They actually get used quite often in Utah and it’s a big part of what made this the “best run state” in the nation. Non-partisan races never have, and never will “restore the voice of the people.” They are the races that special interests dominate because there is nobody to vet the candidates so their money goes to the “beauty contest” where whoever has the most advertising and “it’s for the children” sound bites wins with the help of the single-party education establishment. Through their channels, they get the word out through the school system as to who to vote for. Non-partisan races only work in small areas. Certainly not in areas where a candidate might not even live in your city.
For those who have further questions or concerns about partisan races, I invite you to read these pages:
Action Item: Email your senator and representative and ask them to vote FOR SB 104, education elections and reporting amendments. Get their email addresses from:
2 thoughts on “The arguments against partisan elections – SB 104 S2”
I completely disagree with you on this issue. The spirit of Article X, Section 8 is that politics should not impact school boards. A partisan school board election in Utah County would effectively prohibit any registered Democrat from being elected (even though 46.8% of the vote for District 4 last time went to a Democrat). One complaint I hear is that the system we have right now has created a “rubber stamp” mentality among the school board. Without opposing viewpoints among board members, wouldn’t the “rubber stamping” be worse?
Jeremy, I don’t know where you live, but among the Republicans in the legislature, you have people who vote consistently conservative like Senator Dayton, and republican’s who vote to the left of Democrats like Rep. Powell. Just because people belong to the same party is certainly no guarantee that they think alike. The herd mentality you are suggesting just doesn’t exist. Amongst the 7 school board members in Alpine School District, all 7 claim to be conservative republicans but a number of votes are 4-3 or 5-2. The community here is republican so it makes sense that republicans are going to get elected. In areas like Park City, Salt Lake, Ogden, etc… you’re going to have democrats elected.
As for article X, section 8, here’s what it says:
“No religious or partisan test or qualification shall be required as a condition of employment, admission, or attendance in the state’s education systems.”
There is no “spirit” of this article. It’s quite clear it is saying there can’t be a test or qualification as a requirement for office. Having partisan elections doesn’t mean only one party can hold office. The results of an election in a certain part of the state may always be for a certain party based on the demographics, but in no way does holding partisan elections violation Article X, section 8 by requiring a person to be of a particular religion or party. Anyone can be voted for. This bill just guarantees that a smaller number of committed citizens reduces the field of candidates down to the one with the best ideas rather than the current system which guarantees the public remains clueless about who they elect to school boards.