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A resolution that could give the governor control over Utah education moved one step closer to becoming law Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the sponsor of another resolution that sought to amend the state constitution to make it clear that the state school board's control and supervision over education is "as provided by statute," said he will likely no longer push that measure.
The Senate voted 23-6 to give preliminary approval to SJR9, which seeks to amend the state constitution to place public and higher education under the governor's control. The Senate must now vote on the resolution one more time for it to advance to the House.
In order to take effect, SJR9 would ultimately have to pass the House and Senate by a two-thirds majority. The question would then be put to voters in the 2012 general election.
"In my view, it's a critical time to give the governor this authority that he can coordinate education in support of his economic development goals and work to provide the prosperity in this state that's so badly needed," said resolution sponsor Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden.
Now, an elected State Board of Education supervises K-12 education and a governor-appointed Board of Regents oversees higher education. Reid has said if his amendment passes, the governor could still choose to keep the state school board and State Board of Regents, which would work under the governor's authority.
"This resolution doesn't mean the dissolution of the state school board," said Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights, who spoke in support of the measure. "This just means that we enhance the governance of our public education system, moving from a State Office of Education to a potential state department of education with someone who could sit on the governor's cabinet, I think could only help education."
Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, also spoke in favor of Reid's resolution on Tuesday, saying, "Every governor I've served under ... has declared they're the governor of education, yet the truth is they don't have a doggone thing to do with it."
Buttars had been sponsoring his own resolution, SJR1, that sought to amend the constitution to make it clear that the state school board's control and supervision over education is "as provided by statute," which he said would allow the Legislature to override the state school board and set checks and balances. But Buttars said after floor debate on Reid's resolution Tuesday he's throwing his support behind SJR9, saying he thinks "it's the best way to go."
Buttars' decision comes several weeks after the governor said of the resolution: "I'm not too excited about the Legislature becoming the school board. I think that's just a super school board of 104 personalities."
Buttars, however, said opposition to his bill did not affect this decision. He said he believes Reid's bill is "superior."
"Every governor wants to say [he's] the education governor and this would do it," Buttars said.
Some, however, spoke against Reid's resolution, such as Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, who said lawmakers have yet to approve making state school board races partisan, yet putting education under the governor's control would "make it even more political."
And Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City, said, "None of the data has suggested to me a causal effect between having the board of education under the governor and that resulting in a higher quality education system." Rather, he said education funding may have more to do with quality education.