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Editorial: School elections shouldn’t be R vs D

Don’t make school boards partisan.

First Published Apr 24 2014 02:54 pm • Last Updated Apr 25 2014 11:15 am

Partisan politics have done enough damage to American democracy. The last thing we need to do now is impose that increasingly tribal divisiveness — a system seemingly designed to make sure that no one listens to anyone else and nothing ever gets done — on Utah school boards.

Yet some leaders in the Utah Republican Party, apparently unsatisfied with their control of just about everything else, are pushing a resolution to urge the state Legislature to shift local school district elections, as well as the state board of education, to partisan contests.

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It’s a really bad idea. If convention delegates don’t see that, and vote the measure down, then the cooler heads who sometimes prevail in the Utah Legislature should squelch the idea as soon as possible.

If there is anything wrong with the way in which Utahns choose school board members now, it is that far too few of us know anything about any of the candidates, and may not have a clue about who serves on our school boards or any of the decisions they make until some kind of dissatisfaction or controversy pops up.

Turning those elections into partisan races won’t help that one bit. Instead of knowing nothing about candidates and office-holders, most people will learn only one thing: the party affiliation of those candidates and office-holders.

That may determine how many of us vote, but it won’t be because voters have suddenly learned about the characters and backgrounds of the candidates. It will only be because they see an R or a D next to a name, and vote accordingly.

There is already entirely far too much of that going on in the elections for state and federal offices. Any move to have that flaw trickle down to school boards would be wrong.

If such a change were made, the first thing that would happen would be for everyone to start referring to school boards as being Democrat or Republican controlled. Board members would start aligning themselves in tiny caucuses and start making decisions based on what would be good for the party, playing to the extreme base, wasting more time on red meat issues like state sovereignty or religion, rather than puzzling out what would actually be best for the students.

It isn’t that school boards, like all other human assemblages, are not already vulnerable to factionalism and cliquishness that can replace cooperation with confrontation, usually to no good end. But to start choosing school board members in a partisan manner would be to practically demand that the boards operate in conflict rather than in concert.

Leave the school boards out of partisan politics.


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