SJR1 and SJR9 are Bad Policy
I’m a big fan of local control for practical reasons. You often get elected officials that are much more responsive and in-tune with the needs of their constituents. Bad decisions are contained to a much smaller effective area and experimentation with good ideas leads to more of them. When elected leaders fail to make good decisions or respond to the needs of the people, the “throttle factor” is often much better with your city council member than a state or federal representative.
We’ve seen this play out on the federal level for decades now. Bad decisions made at that level affect everyone rather than just a limited subset of the populace. The all-or-nothing gamesmanship often leads to contradictory laws and policies that are confusing and keep either from actually prevailing. Our state legislature often rails upon these failings, but now they’re turning around and doing the exact same thing to the cities and counties.
SJR1 and SJR9 are attempts to bring the State Board of Education under the control of either legislatively-proposed and passed statute or the direct control of the Governor. Given the acrimonious relationship between those parties, it doesn’t surprise me too much to see a power play being made. The SBOE was vocal in opposing vouchers and often butts heads with legislative proposals concerning education.
The reason this matters is because the SBOE can hand down mandates to local school districts, the very same kinds of mandates that many members of the legislature often howl about when they come from a federal level. The noise only increases when those mandates don’t come with any funding. That said, the legislature often engages in micromanagement of schools, an authority that I can’t find as explicitly granted by the state constitution in Article VI or Article X. There are, in fact, dozens of bills before the current legislature to regulate everything from the use of school property by private groups to what isn’t a permissible reason to grant an employee leave. Again, the irony is that so many in the legislature adhere to a strict constructionist view of the US Constitution, yet find plenty of wiggle room for their own actions. Wouldn’t these kinds of decisions be better made by school districts or individual schools?
It’s also very expensive to force local districts to comply with a series of rules and regulations that change almost annually and often in drastic, often contradictory fashion. Data on regulatory compliance in Utah isn’t something I’ve been able to find, but examples from California and Colorado show that it can consume as much as 1/3 of class time and hundreds of millions of dollars.
If the Utah legislature is serious about education, they will suspend as many state education mandates as possible while continuing to fight against the federal ones. Eliminating the layer upon layer of administrative bureaucracy will allow school districts, administrators, and teachers to much more effectively do their jobs while saving taxpayers a significant sum of money.