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Niederhauser and Hughes ask business leaders to help defeat UEA-backed school board candidates

First Published      Last Updated Sep 14 2016 09:55 pm


Education » Senate president discourages return to the past, when group was “run by education interests.”

State school board races too often fly under the public radar, according to Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, creating the potential for big-money groups to effectively buy the election.

And that is what could happen this year, the Sandy Republican said Wednesday, if the National Education Association is allowed to fund its preferred school board candidates through the Utah Education Association.

That would mean a backslide into the past, Niederhauser said, when an obstinate school board clashed with state lawmakers.

"The previous [school] board that we had to work with was so much conflict," said Niederhauser, R-Sandy. "It was just completely run by education interests."




Niederhauser, joined on the phone by House Speaker Greg Hughes, hosted a webinar Wednesday, encouraging Utah's business and technology community to start writing checks to keep the school board in the right hands.

And he offered his own slate of preferred candidates: lobbyist Shelly Teuscher, Utah Technology Council President Richard Nelson and board incumbents Dave Thomas and Stan Lockhart.

"Those are the candidates that will help us and work well with us as a Legislature going forward," Niederhauser said.

The announcement for Wednesday's webinar took particular aim at teachers unions, saying those groups "value a less responsible bureaucratic status quo over innovation and local control" and are attempting to take over the Board of Education.

Allowing the union's candidates to win, the announcement said, "will turn back the clock and cause real harm to our students."

Heidi Matthews, president of the Utah Education Association, objected to that language.

"The UEA is comprised of hardworking teachers across Utah," the union's leader said. "Teachers who increasingly feel disrespected from those in authority."

She said it was "disappointing" that Hughes, R-Draper, and Niederhauser would imply that a teacher-supported school board would harm children.

"While this type of divisive rhetoric has become evermore commonplace in politics," she said, "we find directing it at Utah schoolteachers to be not only insensitive, but highly offensive. We should expect more of our elected leaders."

Niederhauser opposes three school board candidates who are classroom educators.

There is room on the state school board for educators, he said, as long as they don't dominate the board or supplant business and technology representatives.

"If you create a board with candidates like that, with a supermajority, or the lion's share of the board," he said, "then you create the imbalance and the conflict that I experienced for many years in the Legislature."

He also said it was not necessarily a UEA endorsement that caused him concern, but that "it just happens that those that we're concerned with happen to be UEA endorsed."

When asked what platform and policy positions the UEA-backed candidates disagreed with him on, he said they seem to be "the same profile of what we were dealing with years ago."

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