New paper: Partisan elections would improve Utah’s state school board

Sutherland Institute is calling for a partisan election system – or a hybrid system with a significant partisan election component – for selecting state school board members. In a new paper released today, Sutherland proposes that the primary goal of the state board selection process should be to protect public trust in the integrity and legitimacy of the State Board of Education. The paper can be found at

Sutherland Director of Public Policy Derek Monson, the paper’s author, analyzed the current system and several proposed alternatives using the criteria of clarity, transparency and voter accountability. Monson’s analysis showed that partisan elections, or a hybrid solution that includes partisan elections, hold the greatest promise for protecting public trust in how state school board members are chosen.

“Voters need to have an idea of who the candidates are and what they stand for when they step inside the voting booth,” Monson said. “Because of the nonpartisan elections in the current system, it almost always guarantees that these candidates are mostly unknown to voters.”

The purpose of the paper, “Making the Right Choice: Evaluating State Board of Education Selection Systems,” is to move the debate on public education governance forward by basing it on a widely accepted set of three criteria for evaluating the various options for choosing who serves on the state school board.

First, does the proposed system have a high level of clarity? Is it easy for voters to understand the process by which state school board members are elected?

Second, does the system create high levels of transparency about who the candidates are and what their positions are on various education issues?

Third, does the system produce accountability to voters? Voters need to feel that state school board members can and will be held accountable for their decisions. Does the election system produce enough information (i.e., transparency) about state school board candidates for voters to be able to hold those candidates accountable once they are elected?

Click here to read the paper.