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A proposal to keep state school board elections nonpartisan is currently stuck in the House Rules Committee and likely to stay there, House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said Monday.

Without legislative action, elections for state school board are scheduled to become partisan in 2018, the result of what Hughes called a "hard-earned" compromise approved last year.

But after years of debate on the issue, Hughes said the state needs to see its existing law put into effect before looking to make changes.

Previously, school board candidates were nominated by a committee and placed on the ballot by the governor.

But that process was struck down on constitutional grounds by a federal judge in 2014, leading to two years of debate among lawmakers over how to seat members of the state school board.

Last year, a proposal was adopted that allowed for direct, nonpartisan elections in 2016, followed by direct, partisan elections beginning with the 2018 campaign cycle. Eliminating the nominating committee and the role of the governor resulted in a lively election cycle last year, with elected leaders, including Hughes, endorsing candidates and the Utah Education Association coming under fire for offering financial and networking support to individual campaigns.

Hughes said the nonpartisan elections had the "flavor" of partisanship, without the structure and vetting of the party nomination process.

Heidi Matthews, president of the UEA, warned that partisanship will be harmful, making education candidates more accountable to party platforms than the needs of students, teachers and parents.

The sponsor of the nonpartisan election bill, Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, said he respects the decision of the Rules Committee, but added that the overwhelming majority of his district, and most voters statewide, support nonpartisan elections for school board members.

— Tribune reporter Lee Davidson contributed to this story