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State Journal: Screening the Board; Just say 'Bears'

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The public-education system in Utah, where per-pupil spending is the lowest in the nation and average class size the largest, has been under severe strain in recent years.

A good deal of the resulting public dissatisfaction with the situation has been focused on the nine-member, elective state board of education.

Members of the legislature have sought unsuccessfully to abolish or curb the board, and an outside consultant's report last year found that many state educators resented the board's "heavy handed" style.

A legislative task force recently proposed a complicated system for retaining the board as an elected body while also giving the governor and educators more say in who is on it.

Under the plan, the governor would appoint seven-member nominating commissions, composed of educators, parents, and others, in each state-board district. Those panels would propose a number of candidates to the governor, who in turn would select two nominees from each district.

The voters then would pick a board member from the two nominees.

The plan would ensure that board candidates no longer be "the only candidates in the state who have not gone through a screening process,'' according to a spokesman for the state education department.

The task force also decided not to prohibit the local commissions from having more than four members of the same political party.

"I question whether we should enter a partisan aspect into this," the state chief, Jay Taggart, was quoted as saying.

"I think that all we'd be doing is muddying up the waters a bit," he added.

Political analysts say Clayton Williams has made effective use of his image as an old-fashioned Texan--a tough, blunt-spoken son of the Lone Star--to take the lead in that state's gubernatorial race.

Despite a penchant for controversial comments, the Republican candidate has build a substantial margin in the polls over his Democratic rival, State Treasurer Ann W. Richards.

Appearing at a Dallas-area elementary school recently along with Vice President Dan Quayle, Mr. Williams also sought to use his life on the range to persuade students not to use drugs.

"I've had a lot of good years," the cowboy-hatted campaigner recalled.

"I've herded cows and built a pipeline and hunted grizzly bears. I can do a lot of other fun things," he said. "And it's all because I didn't do drugs."


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