Tag Archives: education

Education facing the budget axe

It’s bad enough that Utah Legislators are attempting to destroy the public educational system in the state.  Along with bills that want to transfer control from the State Board over to the Legilators or the Governor (depending on which bill), the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee has proposed a total of  $257 million dollars to education programs for the upcoming fiscal year.

Ouch.  Double ouch.  Triple ouch.

What is making the situation worse is the shocker news about cutting programs at both ends of the spectrum – gifted and special needs.  As aresponse to a demand to prioritize cuts, the State Board inlcuded The Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind in the amount of $20 million.  Double take.  $20 million.

"We’re going to cut some of these things, so you need to tell us in what rank of importance do you see (these programs)" Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, said to State Superintendent Larry Shumway.

The State Board of Education approved a list of programs that could be cut if needed last week, and on the figurative chopping block was $20 million in funding for USDB. The board was emphatic that it doesn’t want to see education cut in any way and was only making the recommendation to assist the committee.

(Deseret News, February 8, 2011)

This axe would effectively kill early intervention services to students with sight and hearing impairments, along with services that are best delivered in the specialized setting of the separate schools.

Legislators have put state education officials in a precarious position.  Utah is already at the top of the list in class size and at the bottom in per pupil spending.  The system already operates on a bare bones budget.

What will be the sacrifice of these cuts?  What are the stakes for our future generations when education is sacrificed – for all students?  Mediocrity appears to be the mission.  Dare I say…..reminiscent of A Brave New World?  Maybe…….

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

The “beast”

 One of the funniest moments in my teaching is a memory of a middle school student who, along with her peers, proudly presented me a huge card at the end of the school year. Made out of construction paper, beautifully and tastefully decorated, the girls were anxious with anticipation as I read the outside of the card, “Ms. Taylor……” (with hearts all over the outside).

Drum roll please……

I opened the card, read the inside and choked up as I looked up into the grinning girls’ faces and thanked them. The message: “You’re the beast!”

(cross-posted to Exceptional Universe)

Making a difference: We are all “every ed”ucators

(Note:  I will be cross-posting pieces here from my educator blog, referenced below). 

Education, like many other fields, is full of its specialities. General Ed. Special Ed. Math Specialists. Autism Specialists. Behavior Specialists. Language Specialists….the list is long, the specialities wide.

But I like to think of every teacher, every administrator, every specialist as "every ed"ucators. Bottom line: We are here for kids….every kid.

I often think of the Starfish Story (reprinted on tab with same name) when a challenge comes my way in working with kids. Washing my hands of challenges to let someone else "deal" with them is not in my repertoire of teaching tools. You just never know what impact you will have on a student. It may not appear right away – it may even be long after they are gone from the school. One thing for sure, every kid deserves the chance, or maybe two or three or a dozen chances, to learn to swim.

(cross-posted to Exceptional Universe)

Mineral and Petroleum “Literacy” Act: “Balanced” curriculum?

Legislators are on the move this year to take control of Utah’s education system (SJR1 and SJR9).  It seems that there are already steps being taken to write curriculum in the form of legislation.

Rep. Jack Draxler, R-Logan, is pushing legislation that would require educators to "consider" adding lessons into the curriculum about energy development, with the "Mineral and Petroleum Literacy Act", HB25.  The bill has passed the house and has moved on to the Senate.

Recommended by the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee, and, in Drexler’s mind, in an effort to "balance" the curriculum, the bill

seeks to "educate" children about mining and petroleum drilling. The funds for the program would come out of surplus mining profits….most Utah kids don’t know that oil, gas and coal contribute to their education, and to the state’s economy. "Most of them," he[Drexler] said, "don’t know their iPods, their toothbrushes, their homes and their roads are all products of this kind of natural resource development."

(Jillian Rayfield, TPMMuckracker, November 19, 2010, who adds "The plan, it seems, is to show young Utahans how great oil is.")

It’s not enough that information about Utah is taught in elementary and middle school Utah Studies curriculum, including industries of the Beehive state. I t is speculated by some that legislators fear the knowledge that children are receiving in other curricular areas about energy and conservation.

The Salt Lake Tribune gives this bill a "thumbs down" to this piece of legislation:

Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Ogden, has convinced his colleagues in the House that Utah schoolchildren are learning too much about energy conservation and recycling and not enough about the benefits of drilling for gas and oil. We’re not sure why they see this as a scale that must be balanced. Somehow, they seem to fear, children will be persuaded that if conservation and recycling are good then energy development is bad. Draxler’s bill would allocate all-too-scarce dollars so that teachers can explain that Americans should continue to rely on and subsidize fossil fuels. If balance is needed, we’d like to also see an explanation of how burning carbon fuels and drilling for them are contributing to the air that’s so bad these same children can’t go outside at recess.

Not to mention education about the longevity of the natural resources being extracted and the impact to the ecosystems as a result of the degradation of the land.

The funding allocation is vague as well.  While it is stated that monies would be generated from the surplus funds of the Oil and Gas Conservation Account, which is a fund that has a state mandated cap, it doesn’t say how much would be given from that and how much beyond the cap would need to come from Utah taxpayers.

This is a biased and unbalanced piece of legislation that has not brought all interests to the table for discussion.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Micro-managing school budgets vs. the real issues

The two fundamental problems in our educational system in Utah are (1) not enough per pupil spending (Utah is last in the nation) and (2) top heavy spending in the school districts (administration, etc.) for what benefits students are actually receiving.  #1 is by far the greatest issue.  Yet some legislators are choosing what I consider to be minor issues on which to focus in the budget of Utah’s already suffering school system.

Yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune posted the piece Utah to reevaluate who pays for school supplies .

 

Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, is sponsoring a resolution that would amend the constitution so schools could ask students to voluntarily provide their own school supplies.

Powell is quoted as saying the teachers “are afraid to ask students” to bring any materials to class, resulting in teachers paying out of their own pockets.

I do not know of any teacher who is “afraid” to ask the parents of students if they can bring materials in to class.  I think this statement is a generalization based on deductive reasoning that has no statistical basis.

 

His proposal is one that’s drawn vocal opposition from some state school board members who fear the proposal is one that would allow the state to shirk its financial responsibility when Utah already spends less per student than any state in the country.

 

“The idea of financing our education system by parents and children bringing in their own supplies _ that’s a diversion from what is really supposed to be happening _ that is the school system in this state is supposed to be financed by the Legislature,” said board member Leslie Brooks Castle, who represents Salt Lake City.

 

“It’s really a relinquishment. It really is a way to discriminate against people who don’t have as much.”

 

Utah is 14th in median household income.  This means that there are 36 states with lower median household incomes spending more per pupil in public education.   Wyoming is 19th in median household income and yet spends double what Utah does in per pupil spending.  Idaho is 37th in median household income and 49th in per pupil spending.  Mississippi is last in the U.S. in median household income and is 6 ranks above Utah in per pupil spending.  Why is it that Utah is last in per pupil spending?  There is definitely something wrong with this picture.  Micromanaging the education budget with things like who spends what for supplies is a mockery in light of  the real budgetary issues facing Utah’s educational system.

(statistics garnered from Wikipedia the Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics).

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Not again…..school vouchers

Remember 2007?

Here we go again – the School Voucher debate

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

ASVAB Bill passes in MD

Pat Elder sent this out today:

 

The Maryland Senate narrowly approved a measure today that will prohibit the automatic release of ASVAB test results to military recruiters by public schools.  The vote was 24-23. 

Opponents charged the bill was unpatriotic and anti-military, particularly in a "time of war."   Currently, thousands of Maryland high school students are tested by the Pentagon during school hours without parental knowledge or consent. The Maryland House of Delegates passed the same measure 102-37.  Governor O’Malley is expected to sign the bill into law.  Maryland could become the first state to challenge military testing in the public schools. Last year, the California Assembly passed a similar measure but it was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.

To listen to today’s proceedings click here, select the Wednesday, March 24th session and go to 33:48.  The debate is 14 minutes long.  http://mlis.state.md.us/asp/listen.asp

War and Peace: Militarizing Our Youth

Today is another Blog Action Day over at Green Change.  The theme for today is War and Peace.  This is a timely connection to the 7th anniversary of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Coalition Forces and the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.   I have chosen to focus my war and peace report on military recruiting in schools.  The militarization of our youth is big business and it starts in our public schools. 

To begin, here is a 2007 video made by Working Assets and Mainstreet Moms called Leave My Child Alone.

I first learned about the clause in the No Child Left Behind Act  (incarnation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) about giving student information to recruiters when my son was still in high school.  I wrote this piece on Chlorophyll  back in 2006:

No Child Left Unrecruited

Many folks may not be aware that there is a tiny clause buried in the "No Child Left Behind" Act (NCLB) that requires schools to give military recruiters access to high school student records upon request…..or face losing funding. Here is the section in the NCLB:

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Still We Rise

The last day of the Utah Legislature for 2010 saw a rally by students called “Still We Rise”, a group of activists, students and community members which unveiled  a “Student Bill of Rights.”

https://i1.wp.com/uol.sltrib.com/tribphoto/photos/2010/xgractivistrallylh47_0311.jpg

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Rally Statement:

“We the Communities take back the power to declare our inalienable rights that have been promised but not practiced. We rise to protect our civil liberties and to show our legislators they will be held accountable for their actions today and tomorrow. We march to the heartbeats of our ancestors and we rise together united by our struggles.”

The 2010 legislative session has become increasingly frustrating for community members. A number of bills were considered and implemented this session intended to mute the present opportunities and programs that benefit Utah’s marginalized communities. Community members from all over SLC have followed this session and have organized to express their opposition to the bills considered in 2010.

Event organized by student community groups including: The Magpie Collective, Mestizo Institute of Culture and Art (“MICA”), SLC Brown Berets, Movimient Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (“MEChA”), Family School Partnership (“FSP”), Utah Coalition of La Raza (“UCLR”).

Highlighted bills that were considered by organizers to be detrimental to marginalized communities included:

HJR 24-A proposition to end Affirmative Action.

HB 428- A proposition to repeal in-state tuition for resident and hard working undocumented students.

HB 227-A proposition to require prospective business owners to present documentation that verifies they have the “right” to be in the United States.

SB 251-A proposition that mandates the use of e-verify for every employer.

HB 90-A proposition to benefit public and higher education through a slight tax increase on high wage earners did not leave committee as legislators sacrificed quality education to ensure attractive tax rates for prospective corporations to settle in Utah.

HJR 21-A proposition to withdraw Utah from the Western Climate Initiative.

SB 54-A proposition that would require schools to incorporate instruction about contraception in heath education courses which would benefit communities did not pass through committee

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Education: Everyone’s “bag”

Education is always a hot topic in the Legislature and this year is no exception.  Issues such as how to keep our students safe, how to best educate them with the funding provided, what and what not to teach them, class size…..the list is overwhelming.  The education of our children is and should be high on the list of  priorities.  Here is a look at what’s shaking in Utah’s Education Legislation:

HB72 Utah School Seismic Hazard Inventory addresses the big safety issue – earthquake-proofing school buildings because it’s just a matter of time before the “Big One” hits.  To that end, experts say a “to-do” list is imperative.

An informal survey four years ago found that 58 percent of about 800 school buildings were constructed before the modern seismic standards started being used in the mid-1970’s. With about 560,000 students in public and charter school buildings, assessing earthquake-worthiness and tackling a statewide to-do list is urgent, earthquake experts say.

“It’s critical,” said Roger Evans, chairman of the Utah Seismic Safety Commission, “because you can see what happened in Haiti and Chile can happen on the Wasatch Front someday when we have the Big One. It’s a real issue for all our school kids.”

The possibility that an earthquake could kill Utah schoolchildren has always been on the radar for commission members, but it became grimly real when members studied video of schools crumbling in the Sichuan Province earthquake of 2008.

(Salt Lake Tribune)

The bill did not pass the House last week because some lawmakers are hesitant to spend the extra money, even though it has been pointed out that funds were used recently to upgrade the State Capitol Building to seismic standards.

Salt Lake Tribune Columnist Paul Rolley highlights the provision in HB355 Legal Guardianship Amendments which addresses a school’s rights to challenge a guardianship of students:

During a year when public schools face tens of millions of dollars in shortfalls, the Utah House of Representatives passed a bill that helps ensure out-of-state youth hockey players get a free education here at an estimated cost to Utah taxpayers of $500,000 to $1 million.

HB355, which would make it more difficult for a school district to challenge a legal guardianship in court, was sponsored by Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, whose son is a member of the Chadders Hockey Club, a main backer of the bill.

With the benign title of “Guardianship Amendments,” it moved stealthily through the House and now is in the Senate.

Read the rest of his post here.

Utah Moms Care, a blog dedicated to civil discourse on issues that affect Utah families, has a post on the Education Budget here, where they have this to say about HB166 Reductions to Education Mandates:

HB 166 Reduction to Education Mandates by Rep. Dougall is a mixed bag. The bill gives local school boards and charter schools more options to consider by making some education mandates optional for the next two years. For example, school districts will be exempt from administering the 10th grade basic skills competency test for the next 2 years. This is also the bill that pushes the busing boundaries out to 3 miles for a secondary school. That does not mean that if you live within the 3 mile radius that all bus service will be stopped, it only dictates that state money cannot be spent on routes within a 3 mile range – school districts will have to cover the cost of areas closer to the school.

The Utah Association of Public Charter Schools has posted a list of bills its members are supporting:

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