Tag Archives: public 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 Solution to Funding Education: School Bus Ads

Utah is last in the nation in per pupil spending and at the top of the list in class sizes.  Yet legislators in Utah continually find ways to under fund and cut spending for the education of our state’s children.

Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan, will be introducing a bill (again) to allow advertising on school buses.  His rationale:

….there’s little difference between placing an ad on the side of a school bus and the plethora of ads students already see at school.

“You go to a football game at any high school along the Wasatch Front and you see banners all along the football field,” Bird said in an interview. “This isn’t any different than that.”
(Bloomberg, December 29, 2011

Bird also hopes that school districts would use the money from the ad revenues for their transportation budgets so that “school buses wouldn’t have to be cut”.

Opponents of the bill realize this is not the way to fund education, for a variety of reasons.

Children are already deluged with ads on television, the Internet and even the clothing they wear. They are encouraged to buy products or persuade their parents to buy products nearly everywhere they go. Schools already sell advertising space on playing field scoreboards, on vending machines and sometimes on televised educational programs.

Enough is enough.

While we support more funding for schools, those funds should be collected in the usual ways. There are untapped revenue sources the Legislature should consider before succumbing to the easy-money lure of selling our kids’ attention to commercial interests.

(Salt Lake Tribune Editorial, January 6, 2011)

The idea of paying more taxes is always controversial, but for essential services, that include education, it’s a no-brainer. 

Rep. Bird’s bill would prohibit advertising like this on school buses.

We couldn’t possibly raise the tax on people with 15 children in the system while I continue to (happily I might add) pay my fair share despite my current lack of children. We couldn’t increase funds on extracting resources from our lands or divert funds away from paying off contractors…nope we have to whore out our children. Perhaps we should also require school uniforms and make sure that each school has a sponsor.

Hell, why not have individual classes sponsored as well? Math brought to you by Texas Instruments, Biology sponsored by Pfizer, Gym by McDonalds!

(Curtis Haring, Blue in Red Zion)

Legislators need to get real.  Teachers work very hard in this state to educate our children despite the lack of resources.  If you haven’t visited your child’s, or your neighbor’s children’s classrooms, do.  When you see the lights on in your neighborhood school after hours, you can bet that the cleaning people are not the only people working there.  Teachers spend the time needed – in and outside of school hours – to be sure their classrooms and curriculum are set up for your child to learn.

It’s time to stop skirting around the issue of under funding education and piecemealing funding ideas.   The Governor has put forth a recommendation in his budget to generating more money for schools.  Rational discussion and exploration is in order with sensible solutions put on the table.  The bill for ads on school buses is not rational or sensible. 

(Cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

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.”


(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:

Continue reading

Why Stop At 12th Grade? Just Do Away With Education All Together!

The proposal to to cut out the 12th grade to save $60 million in Utah’s Budget has generated much commentary in the blogosphere.

Over at the Jonathan Turley Blog, an interesting (tongue in cheek) concept has been presented as a result of Sen. Chris Buttars’ proposal :

It is not clear why legislators have decided to keep public education at all. If we simply eliminate education, we can send children directly into military training or to work for foreign companies from countries that are expanding their research and educational budgets at the same rate of our decline.

Mr. Turley offers this sentiment, referring to other destructive actions that the U.S. implements (that impacts state funding), all to “save money” while funds are continually being poured into the defense coffers – funds that could be diverted to state budgets:

….the proposal captures our self-destructive path. While nations like China are massively increasing research and educational budgets (here), we are selling off public lands and buildings, (here), while pouring money into Iraq and Afghanistan. What do we think is going to happen? Because few of our politicians have the courage to demand a withdrawal from these countries, we are raising our debt limits, destroying our public programs, and undercutting our ability to compete in the future marketplace.

Cutting out a grade in public education is a bad idea.  Doing so does nothing to support public education or address the issues that face public educators.  This bill is a waste of Legilsators time and taxpayer’s money.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Educating our youth on birth control – sensibly

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George is working on a bill that would, if passed, required schools to incorporate instruction about contraceptives in health education courses.

According to a Salt Lake Tribune Poll,  citizens are evenly divided on the issue.

Urquhart said the poll results don’t surprise him, but he hopes that once people understand the details of his bill, they’ll be more supportive.

“This is a very scary topic for a lot of people,” Urquhart said. “People I talk with initially have a strong reaction one way or another but if we can talk about the particulars of the bill, they almost universally approve of it.”

Right now many educators do not even broach the topic since the current law, while allowing the instruction of contraceptives, has many restrictions on how and what can be taught.

Urquhart said the change is needed.

“Few things that our youth do can have more of a profound impact on their lives than sex,” Urquhart said. “We’re seeing that in the numbers of teenage pregnancies and infection rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Education can improve behavior in all aspects of life, including sex.”

Under this measure, abstinence would remain in the curriculum and parents would still have the opt-out provision for their children.

There is opposition, of course.

Gayle Ruzicka, leader of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, said she would expect people of many faiths to have similar feelings.

“It is a religion that really pushes parental involvement,” Ruzicka said. “Those parents that realize it’s their responsibility, not the school’s responsibility are going to say, ‘Schools, stay out of the lives of my children when it comes to these very personal things.’”

Ruzicka said Wednesday she hadn’t yet read Urquhart’s bill but would oppose removing the prohibition against teachers advocating the use of contraceptives and would oppose requiring teachers to include contraceptives in their instruction.

“When you teach them about sex, that just encourages sexual activity,” Ruzicka said. She said the current law should remain in place.

This mindset has it that kids would never think about sex if they didn’t have sex education.  This is not admitting reality.  Kids think about sex and kids experiment, no matter what parents do to educate their children.  Pregnancies occur and many are those from families who think it will never happen to them.  The lack of sex education in schools likely has the opposite effect of  encouraging sexual activity.  There is no guarantee, either that most parents teach their children about sex.

Melissa Bird, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Council (PPAC), however, said the results of the poll are surprising. PPAC, which worked with Urquhart and the state PTA to create the bill, conducted its own poll through Dan Jones and Associates in September. In that poll, PPAC asked respondents if they agreed or disagreed that “comprehensive sex education will likely reduce the number of unintended teen pregnancies.” Sixty-seven percent of those polled in the PPAC survey agreed.

This is a sensible bill.  Kudos to Sen. Urquhart for realizing the necessity of this plan.

Considering public school transportation in the budget debate

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Utah Policy editors have published a piece on options for transportation of school children.

Currently, the Salt Lake City School District uses Utah Transit Authority for some of its school transportation needs. Many private schools also rely on UTA for student transportation.

Today, UTA bus routes obviously aren’t maximized for school needs. But within a couple of years, UTA’s backbone will be completed with new TRAX lines to Draper, South Jordan, West Valley, and the airport, and FrontRunner south to Provo.

Once those lines are completed, the next big program will be fill-in projects with streetcars, bus rapid transit, neighborhood bus service, bike trails, and walking trails. At that point, public transit service will be ubiquitous across the Wasatch Front, serving almost all neighborhoods. The overall transit system will then be robust enough to accommodate needs of older students.

This might be worth considering  if mass transportation wasn’t still  facing significant reductions in service due to budget woes.  But until there is a firm commitment to mass transportation without constantly being under the financial axe, such ideas will not be realized.

Dream on.

HB81: Protection for children in our schools

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

The House Education Committee yesterday voted to expand criminal background checks for employees in public education (HB81) to include volunteers.
Some of the language may be vague, though, according to a criminal defense lawyer, cited in a Salt Lake Tribune article.

Legislators dismissed the concerns of Rob Layton, of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who warned that vague language in the bill would make it difficult for citizens to volunteer in schools.
“You are excluding a large range of people,” he said, citing those who have been arrested, but not charged, and those who have been convicted of drug and alcohol-related misdemeanors, such as open container and marijuana possession laws. “It is just additional burdens on [volunteers].”

There are those who feel that no one with any blemish on their records should then be permitted to work in schools.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, said more stringent requirements are necessary to protect children. The bill comes after public safety officials last year unearthed nearly 7,000 arrests, criminal charges or convictions. But a single employee could account for a dozen or more of those, said agency spokesman Jeff Nigbur.

Schools like the Open Classroom, which mandates parent volunteerism as part of children being students in the school could be adversely impacted.

Under this law, then, even former Sen. Sheldon Killpack would likely be unable to volunteer in his neighborhood school.

There is no doubt that our children need to, and should be, protected. The concept of this bill is a good one. Everyone makes mistakes. There should be a balance between discerning who the real threat to children are and those who make mistakes that have no impact on working with children.

Outlining Priorities: Guv’s State of the State

Utah Legislature Watch)
Governor Herbert delivered his first State of the State Addre

tonight. His priorities including keeping taxes from being raised, holding public education harmless from budget cuts, transportation, and legislative ethics reform.

For the first time in three years, we are expecting an increase in revenue for the upcoming fiscal year. Housing is beginning to stabilize, the state’s labor market is resilient and our unemployment rate remains below the national average. I know this is of small consolation to those who are out of work, but we will continue to make sound policy decisions to move this state – and your families – back to solid economic ground and toward a more hopeful future. 

First and foremost, we must protect public and higher education. Utah has long been committed to funding our public schools, our colleges and universities, and our technical institutions. In fact, few states in the country spend as much of their overall budgets on education as we do. Our unique demographics – which is a way of saying we have larger families – mean we must continue to increase funding to maintain and enhance the solid education and training our students receive.

In spite of our difficult budget situation, I call upon you, our great legislators, to maintain our current level of commitment to education! Secondly, we must balance our budget responsibly, and in a way that does not stifle an economy that is finally beginning to show signs of recovery. We need to support our hard-working citizens and businesses, not stifle them with new tax burdens. We need to help them succeed, not hamper their success. And we need to think toward the future, not just of today. 


Read the entire text of Governor Herbert’s State of the State address here.

Let the Games Begin!

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Today’s opening of the Utah Legislature will bring  a variety of  issues in the spotlight, among them being:

The Budget- addressing the “shortfall” and how/if to use the “rainy day” fund and other measures to generate revenue –  and within the budget debate are the hot topics of public and higher education, state retirement system, transportation and taxes on food, as well as the overall raising of taxes issue.

Ethics Reform – including a controversial citizen’s initiative and a package of proposed ethics bills by legislators, inlcuding establishing an independent commission to hear complaints from citizens and putting limits on campaign contributions.

Fair Housing and Employment practice for gays and lesbians – a bill proposed that will afford the GLBT population protection from discrimination in employment and housing

Health Care Reform – an overhaul of Utah’s health care system through a package of bills that intend to divert the current sick care system to a more preventative health care system.

Sex Education – measures to determine how much information students should have access to when it comes to using contraception

Be sure to connect to the Utah Legislature’s website which has a multitude of resources including bill tracking, archived videos of the various sessions and a children’s page.  See also Utah Legislature Watch’s post on resources and the various news feeds along the sidebars of our site.

And awaayy we go!