From left: Scott Smith, Michelle Boulter, Wes Christiansen and Neil Walter.

State school board debates get underway

Education policy directly affects families and students, which is why it’s so important that voters do their homework in selecting state school board members.

The Utah State Board of Education has a number of responsibilities that include appointing the state superintendent of public instruction, adopting administrative rules for the whole system, creating standards, budgeting and auditing, and managing adult education. Traditionally, the board of education race has been overshadowed by other elections, but with the recent change in the state school board election process and current education controversies, it’s gaining greater attention.

Sutherland Institute, KSL/Deseret News, Hinckley Institute, and the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools are hosting a series of state school board debates with the hope of offering voters some elevated dialogue about education issues. Here is a recap of the past two debates:

On June 7 at George Washington Academy in St. George, Jennifer Napier-Pearce from the Hinckley Institute moderated a debate among state school board District 15 candidates Scott Smith, Michelle Boulter, Wes Christiansen and Neil Walter. Topics included the qualities of a good superintendent, the meaning of “local control,” and SAGE testing. The audience asked questions about standards and being able to compete nationwide, auditing practices, rejection of federal funds, stealth assessments and turnaround schools, and systems to help parents stay involved.

The next night, KSL Newsradio’s Ethan Millard moderated a debate among District 4 candidates Elizabeth Carlin, Brad Asay, Brent Strate, and incumbent Dave Thomas. Jennifer Graviet, who is also running for the District 4 seat, was absent from the debate. Topics included educational philosophy, partisan elections, the role of assessment and standards, technology, and how to retain teachers.

Recordings from these debates will be made available on Written responses to candidate surveys can be found on Sutherland Institute’s website and Utah Association of Public Charter School’s website. For a schedule of the debates, look here.

Come watch the debate in your district, participate in audience questions, and learn about your candidates. We hope to see you there.

In photo, from left: State school board District 15 candidates Scott Smith, Michelle Boulter, Wes Christiansen and Neil Walter, at June 7 debate in St. George.