Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described a 2019 Utah Supreme Court ruling on state school board elections. The Standard-Examiner regrets the error.
This is the first time that partisan school board elections are being held throughout the state of Utah, where seats from Weber to Washington County are up for grabs.
Strate is a history teacher at Bonneville High who lives in South Ogden.
Furniss teaches fifth grade at American Preparatory Academy-West Valley and lives in Sunset.
Both are vying for the District 4 seat left vacant after Jennifer Graviet, an English teacher at Sand Ridge Junior High in Roy who’s been serving since 2016, didn’t file for reelection.
The District 4 race pits two Republicans against each other. Not everyone’s a fan of the idea of partisan elections, including Strate, who serves on the South Ogden City Council.
“I like that in South Ogden city, I don’t have to put an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ on my name,” Strate told the Standard-Examiner.
Furniss didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
In a campaign video posted to her Facebook page in May, Furniss tells voters “this is your opportunity to ensure that traditional family values and conservative principles are represented on the board.”
Furniss also said she feels it’s crucial that schoolchildren are governed by a school board that shares “the same Republican, conservative values as you and I.”
Both candidates are big proponents of local control, one of the normal hot-button issues for state school boards.
“When I first started teaching, we had preparation days. ... Those have almost completely disappeared. I think it’s hurt student learning because teachers are professionals; they need to spend that time before the school year starts and they need to get paid to do it,” Strate said.
According to her campaign biography, Furniss believes there’s no one-size-fits-all plan for education and wants parents to have the ability to choose what’s best for their children. Furniss also wants to put less emphasis on “high stakes” end-of-year testing.
Overall, it’s too soon to tell what effects, if any, there will be as a result of a state school board candidate having to put an “R” or “D” next to their name.
But there has been some concern about the law itself, as well as whether partisan state school board elections will lead to partisan elections on the local school board level, feeding into political polarization.
The Utah Legislature passed SB 78 in 2016, sponsored by state senator Ann Millner, R-Ogden, which required state school board candidates to be elected through “partisan election.”
Opponents to the law sued to block it in 2017.
In the 2017 lawsuit, LeGrand Richards, a Provo resident who ran for the District 9 seat in 2018, raised a litany of concerns with partisan school board elections and partisan elections in general.
“What is more, Richards will be running from Utah County where partisan hostility to non-Republican candidates has been evident in every statewide, legislative, and countywide office going back at least 30 years,” the lawsuit stated.
Another one of the suit’s plaintiffs, Randy Miller of Syracuse, wanted to run for the District 4 seat this year, according to the suit, but was precluded from running as a partisan candidate due to the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from holding a partisan political office. Miller was a U.S. Forest Service employee, according to the suit
Utah’s Supreme Court ruled last year that partisan school board elections were constitutional, according to a report by KUER, leading to this year’s setup.