Utah State Board of Education elections still partisan, despite some opposition

Feb 2, 2024, 6:35 PM | Updated: 7:41 pm

Utahns responded to a survey that will help state and local decision-making guide Utah's developmen...

The Utah State Capitol is shown on March 3, 2023, in Salt Lake City. This year, there are eight seats open on the Utah State Board of Education, and 20 candidates are hoping to fill them. (AP photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(AP photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — We’re eight years past the change that made Utah State Board of Education elections a partisan race. And, it’s been five years since the state Supreme Court said that decision is okay under the Utah constitution. This year, there are eight seats open on the board, and 20 candidates hoping to fill them.

This will be the fourth year using partisan elections to determine state school board members. A bill was passed to change the law in 2016. That bill’s sponsor, Sen.  Ann Millner, R-Ogden, said there is still some opposition to partisan voting.

“Everybody has different ideas about this,” she said. “I think there’s some people who believe that this is the only way for us to get a good vetting process.”

Millner is one of these people. She argues keeping school board races partisan ensures the vetting of all candidates.

“We have a caucus system that is set up, both on the Democratic side and the Republican side, where candidates can be vetted,” Millner said. “There are people that, really, are looking at their policy stances on issues and determining who they believe the best candidate would be to stand for election.”

Millner said there are people who would like to return to nonpartisan elections.

“We’re probably gonna continue to have that debate,” she said. “But, right now, it’s set up as partisan elections.”

Overall, Millner believes that the a partisan election brings different viewpoints to board meetings.

“All those viewpoints are getting out on the table and that’s really what should be happening,” she said. “It should be robust conversations that focus … on what’s best for our school kids and how we (can) best support them.”

Primary elections are on June 25 with general elections on Nov. 5.

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Utah State Board of Education elections still partisan, despite some opposition