Appointing Instead of Electing School Board Members

A proposal on Utah's Capitol Hill would make the 15 members of the State School Board appointed by the governor instead of elected.

Last September a judge ruled the way Utah picked candidates for the State School Board was unconstitutional. Previously, the pool of candidates for the 15 spots was narrowed down by a committee before the final candidates were selected by the governor.

Lawmakers are scrambling to fix the system. Proposals include both partisan and non-partisan elections. 

Now, freshman Sen. Ann Millner (R-Ogden) is proposing that the 15 spots on the state board be appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate. She says she realizes her proposal is competing with other ideas, but she thinks an appointment process is the best way to go.

"There are only 10 states that elect their school board," she says. "What I want to achieve is a way to build a connection betwen the governor, the school board and the legislature."

Millner envisions a process where potential candidates are nominated by local entities. The governor would then appoint candidates and the Senate would have to approve those nominations. 

"There are more bills about education than any other single are in the legislature. I may be a bit idealistic, but I'd like to get people talking about what is good public policy for school kids in this state."

SJR 5 would require a constitutional amendment in order to become a reality. 

The idea is clearly a long shot. Lawmakers would likely not favor putting that much power in the hands of the governor, especially when it comes to education.

If approved by the legislature, it would go before voters during the next general election.