Preliminary Injunction Requested in Constitutional Challenge to Partisan School Board Elections

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, September 29, 2017
CONTACT: Chase Thomas | ABU Education Fund | chase@betterutah.org

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PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION REQUESTED IN CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGE TO PARTISAN SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS
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Salt Lake City, UT –  Yesterday, lawyers representing the ABU Education Fund and other plaintiffs, filed a motion for preliminary injunction asking the court to bar the state from enforcing S.B. 78, the 2016 law establishing partisan elections for the Utah State Board of Education.

“We are confident the courts will determine that S.B. 78 is not only unwise and harmful, but is unconstitutional,” said Josh Kanter, board chair of the ABU Education Fund. “Our lawyers continue to do outstanding work as they pursue this lawsuit. As we said when the complaint was filed: Politics have no place in our children’s schools. Our hope is that the court will also recognize this as it considers the language and history of the Utah Constitution during a hearing on this motion and as this lawsuit moves forward.”

On June 27 of this year, the ABU Education Fund and other plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Third District Court against Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, as the administrator over elections in Utah, challenging the constitutionality of S.B. 78, which changes the current nonpartisan school board elections to partisan elections beginning in 2018.

The plaintiffs’ brief supporting the motion for preliminary injunction argues that S.B. 78 is unconstitutional as a result of the Utah Constitution’s prohibition against partisan tests for employees in the education system. The complaint alleges that even though members of the State Board of Education are elected, they are still state employees because they are paid salaries, receive employee benefits, and are engaged in service, among other reasons.

These arguments based on constitutional meaning and practical implementation are further bolstered by the way in which the Legislature has historically approached Utah’s education system. As stated in the motion for preliminary injunction: “Not counting 2016, when SB 78 was enacted, 66 years of legislative practice have confirmed their judgment that the best interests of children, not party loyalty must come first, and parental influence, not fealty to political henchmen, should be the touchstone of sound educational policy.”

The ABU Education Fund was joined as plaintiffs by Utahns for Public Schools, the Utah PTA, a current member of the Utah State Board of Education, and several individuals contemplating running for the Board in the future.

The ABU Education Fund is currently in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the legal fees associated with the case. The public can make tax-deductible donations towards the case through CrowdJustice.

The ABU Education Fund will send a media advisory once a hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction is scheduled.

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About the ABU Education Fund:
The ABU Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing a strong, educational voice by creating resources that advance civic engagement and good governance. For more information, visit their website here.

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