September 12, 2019
Sutherland Institute applauds the Utah Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of SB 78 – a 2016 law that created partisan elections for members of the Utah State Board of Education.
The court offered a common sense ruling that board members are not employees of the state — acknowledging voters’ understanding that they are electing state leaders, not state employees. Therefore, SB 78 cannot run afoul of the prohibition on partisan tests for employees in the state’s education system.
Reinstating SB 78 is good news for Utah voters and public school students. Partisan elections in board member races is prudent policy because it raises the profile of the 15 elected offices that create important statewide policy on licensing, standards and assessments. Each elected board member represents almost twice as many people as a state senator does. Unfortunately, without efforts to improve the visibility of these races, few people know who their elected board members are – breaking down public participation and government transparency.
Helping Utahns have clear choices at the ballot box creates the opportunity for their voices to be more clearly heard on public education policy decisions.
Education helps students reach their unique potential. The way public education is governed in the state plays a crucial role in making sure this can happen.
National attention on the state of civics and history knowledge is surging – and it can help states improve civics and history education.
“Americans know we need real change. You want to be in charge of your health care without asking Washington politicians or health insurance bureaucrats for permission.”
“We have a crisis in civic education that can no longer be ignored….It is really a crisis of understanding and devotion. Too many young people do not understand the principles of our Founding or see America’s history as the story of our struggle to live up to those principles of freedom.”