Kim Burningham: Legal action needed to avoid partisan State School Board elections

Tragically, Utah will–if something isn’t changed—select the State School Board through an unconstitutionally partisan election starting in 2018. Some may be surprised by this statement.  This year, the election is proceeding in an orderly non-partisan fashion to select members of the State School Board, but in a weird compromise fashioned by the State Legislature in the waning hours of the 2016 session, this is the last time the election will be non-partisan. The Legislature could remedy the ill-advised move, but I believe this is highly improbable.   The most certain and appropriate…

It’s time: The public deserves open caucuses in the Utah State Legislature

In 1981, I was in my 2nd year as a member of the Utah House of Representatives.  Although the experience had many positive aspects, one feature greatly troubled me: holding the Legislative political caucuses in closed session.  My frustration boiled, and in March near the end of the legislative session I addressed the Capitol rotunda full of educators about my frustration. My objection to closed caucuses focused on five faults which– ·       Avoids public scrutiny by allowing decision-making in a setting where the public cannot be present ·       Disenfranchises voters…

Kim Burningham: Be cautious about current talk of a special session

Capitol at night

Rumors are swirling.  Some sources are reporting a special session of the Legislature will be held next week.  Currently, the Governor has not called such a session.  I write in opposition to calling a special session and urge the Governor to refrain. At one point, the rumor mill suggested that a special session would be called to deal with SB 54, the compromise allowing political candidates to use an alternative system for getting on the ballot.  The current talk focuses on a different issue, the process for selecting State School…

Kim Burningham: Living peacefully in a world where people disagree

Recently, I was asked to identify my political affiliation.   The question caused me to pause.  I have always been a Republican; for 15 years I represented my area in the Utah House of Representatives as a Republican.  Still, I paused. Finally, I answered:  “I am still a member of the Republican Party, but I would be less than honest if I did not say I was hanging on by a thread.”  The reason for my vacillation has a great deal to do with the rigid dogmatism I find among some…

That “tired statistic” harms education

To begin, let me make it clear: I was not present when Superintendent Brad Smith presented his speech to the Utah Taxpayers Association Conference on May 28. I do not know the context nor the entirety of the speech. I have spoken to those who were present and found the speech far less offensive than some. My purpose for writing is to respond to two phrases reported by the press and in numerous commentaries. I think both phrases deserve careful examination. Comment #1: Tired statistics may well be true Reports…

The People Want Non-Partisan School Boards

(Note: In this post, Burningham speaks in his own behalf. The point of view expressed in this blog does not necessarily represent any organization of which he is or has been a part.)   To my way of thinking, the issue is all about power! Those who desire partisan elections of school boards (state and/or local) want politicians to have the power.   Those seeking a governor appointed state board want the Governor to have the power. Those who want school board elections to remain non-partisan elections believe the power is…

It’s Time to Cease the “Tail Wagging” by the Anti-Common Core Crowd

(Note: In this post, Kim Burningham speaks in his own behalf. The point of view expressed in this blog does not necessarily represent any organization of which he is or has been a part.) A uniquely American phrase—the tail wagging the dog—can be traced to the late 1800s. In 2015, I note a modern application in Utah.   Some strident fringe groups have been shouting so loud about their fears of the common core that the whole education system has been shaken. This is unfortunate, and it time for such distortion…

Turning the Tide for Financial Support for Education

For years Utah has spent less per pupil than any other state in the country and our class sizes are larger. The picture is more dismal when one sees how public education expenditures have fallen as a percent of our personal income in the last two decades. In the new year signs of hope for turning the tide are appearing. Several highly visible individuals and groups are announcing their support for increased educational funding. A Salt Lake Tribune editorial, published December 27, 2014 verbalizes the hope: “LET 2015 BE THE…

Finding Middle Ground

(Note: In this post, Kim Burningham speaks in his own behalf. The point of view expressed in this post does not necessarily represent any organization of which he is a part. The concepts of this post were delivered by Burningham in his final comments at the end of 16 years as a member of the State Board of Education.) We live in a world of division. Locally, nationally, and internationally, people advocate so strongly for various extreme positions they are unable to see the merits of consensus-building with other opposing arguments. I…

The State School Board Should Be Chosen in Direct, Nonpartisan Elections

Last week was a monumental for the issue of the State School Board selection process. First, Judge Clark Waddoups of the Federal District Court ruled on September 6 that the existing system was unconstitutional!   On Thursday, September 11, he said the remedy was to include two of the lawsuit plaintiffs on the ballot. As a follow up, I have three questions: What is my response to the Waddoups ruling? What impact will the remedy have on this year’s election? How will the process change in the future?