Utah man fights for right to run for school board


By Mary C. Tillotson | Watchdog.org

A Utah man who wanted to run for state school board was eliminated from the ballot and has responded with a lawsuit against the state’s governor, arguing his First Amendment rights are being violated.

RIGHT TO RUN: Breck England believes his First Amendment rights were violated when he was denied candidacy for state school board.

In Utah, a governor-appointed committee narrows the candidates to three per seat after questioning them on their views; afterward, the governor decides which two of the three will make the ballot. Utah voters choose between those two candidates.

“If you have a government agency that’s in the business of being a gatekeeper or regulator where speech matters are concerned, and if that agency has unbridled, standardless-type discretion in exercising its power, then the fear is that the agency will abuse that discretion through viewpoint discrimination,” said Alan Smith, attorney for Breck England, who was denied a spot on the ballot.

Smith said England’s views on public education may have prompted the committee to eliminate him.

Bryan Hassell, guest on Choice Media’s Reform School and author of The Picky Parent’s Guide, called Utah’s system “the worst of both worlds.”

Hassell said he favors systems where the governor, not the voters, selects the state school board. This way, the governor and board can provide a unified approach to education and spend less time with infighting.

“If you’re going to go democratic, why this hybrid?” he asked of Utah’s system. “That seems like the worst of both worlds: all the pathologies of democracy, plus all the pathologies of dictatorship from the center. I would say, go one way or the other.”

Hassell and Choice Media also discussed a Moody’s report indicating financial benefits to eliminating teacher tenure, a school board blaming charter schools for a 5 percent tax increase, school districts in southern California cutting down on school suspensions and charter school expansions in New York City.

Contact Mary C. Tillotson at mtillotson@watchdog.org