Utah’s superintendent of public schools is apologizing for a political endorsement that was posted earlier this week on the state office of education blog. An official with the lieutenant governor’s office says the endorsement is a criminal offense, but the office doesn’t plan to pursue charges.
The Utah State Office of Education sometimes republishes on Utah Public Education.org, State School Board Member Kim Burningham’s personal blog posts about education. But State School Superintendent Martel Menlove says this time, the office made a mistake. Menlove posted a statement on the website saying Burningham’s post, which has since been removed, contained personal opinions that are inappropriate for the site. Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox was asked to look into the issue. Cox’ Deputy Mark Thomas says the post does appear to violate Utah law, which forbids taxpayer funds to be used to endorse candidates.
“However, over the years, as we’ve learned and worked with this section of statute, it’s often-times better to make it a learning experience for folks, where they quickly realize that there was an issue and took down the posting,” Thomas says. “There didn’t seem to be a concerted effort to keep it up. It just really seemed like a mistake.”
In his blog post, Burningham encourages people to vote for political candidates who are strong supporters of public education. As an illustration, he voiced his own support for a legislative candidate and two local school-board candidates. Burningham defends the endorsement, saying he prefaces all of his posts by stating the point of view expressed does not necessarily represent any organization.
“I will always speak up to what I think I should be saying,” Burningham says. “Whether they publish it or not is of course a position that they must take and a decision that they must make.”
Superintendent Martell Menlove was not available for an interview on Wednesday. He said in the statement the office is reviewing its procedures for posting documents on the blog and assures this will not happen again.