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Lawmakers voted against party politics in education Friday when a bill that was to have established partisan elections for the Utah Board of Education failed in the House.

Democrats in the House spoke against HB228s1, arguing that partisan elections for the state board would spread into local boards, school administrations and classrooms.

"Partisan politics are not appropriate in the classroom," said Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights. "Children are not Democrats or Republicans. Nothing in the job description of school-board members has to do with partisan politics."

But sponsoring Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, said talking about partisanship is a red herring. He said under current law, the state board is bureaucratic and could be fixed by partisan elections by helping voters know who their representatives are.

"Let's achieve a representative body that recognizes accountability to voters. In the end, this is who the board represents," Greene said, pointing out that board members represent parents, not children, and "parents decide what's best."

Greene explained he thought the bill would help balance the education system, making veiled references — apparently aimed at the Utah Education Association — to "an organized voice that has unfettered control of the education system."

Those who spoke against the bill pointed out that most educators in the state are conservative, so Republicans shouldn't worry. Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Milcreek, said the public is disenchanted with politics and, ultimately, the idea of partisan politics entering the classroom through state board elections was the death knell of Green's bill.

Sheri Mattle of the Utah PTA said the organization is relieved the bill failed because the PTA is not partisan and neither is education. She said it would have been a slippery slope and local boards would be affected.

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