"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

State Board Allows Greater Local Control for Middle School

The State Board voted in a 9-6 vote to allow greater flexibility in Middle School for local boards and parents. They still require English, Math, Science and History, but the electives are to be determined by the local board. They require PE, Fine Arts, CTE, Health and so forth to be offered, but not required, by law/board policy, for every child. This will allow us, as a local board, to set the requirements and any exceptions at the district level.

Below is my email thanking the State Board for this greater freedom. Many people are very concerned because the news headlines read that the State Board had eliminated PE and Health. They didn't eliminate it, they are opening up the requirements so the local boards can customize as they see fit. This is a huge win in the local control column. Please take a moment to thank the State Board for this action.

*****************************************************************************************************************
Dear State Board Members,

I just want to thank you for supporting increased local control last week in allowing us, as locally-elected school board members, to set the requirements for elective courses such as Band, PE, and CTE. Thank you for having the confidence in us, and the parents we represent, to be allowed the flexibility to legally make exceptions for students who don't fit the mold, who might have reasons for not needing PE, Health, CTE and so forth.

The biggest problem I see in education is we are trending toward more centralized control and more standardization. While we all acknowledge the individuality and uniqueness of every child, too often in a large system, such as ours, that individuality can be shut out and lost as we try to mandate all things to all people. And yet, the best answers are always those that allow more freedom for the individual to make the decisions that most directly impact himself or herself. In this case, that means the parents and those elected, most directly, to represent them.

For those of you who disagreed with the decision, I hope you will give us a chance, at the local level, to prove that we are worthy of the trust of our communities. I fear that our schools are becoming too aligned with testing and results and pushing for workforce skills and missing out on the wide variety of educational opportunities. So, be assured, that I will be on the front lines of making sure that we continue to offer a full complement of classes to meet our individual students' needs.

I hope going forward you will be inclined to look at the high school requirements, in a similar vein.

Additionally, it would be fantastic if you allowed districts to choose to adopt a non-integrated math option and to go with the traditional sequence of Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, pre-Calculus and then Calculus. An additional track that would allow for Algebra 1 to start in 8th grade like it used to before we adopted the Common Core standards for math in 2010 would be fantastic. It would allow the average student to take Calculus as a senior without having to cram 4 years' worth of high-level math into 3 years. (I have heard that the concern is SAGE testing, and I'd be happy to address why that shouldn't be a big issue at all.) Personally, I would combine Intermediate 1 and 2 and pick the most important topics from both (the majority of Int 2 is of greater importance than Int 1, despite that the CC standards in the Appendix stated that you could start Algebra 1 in 8th grade after completing their 7th grade sequence. They are incorrect.) Even better, just restore the pre-Algebra standards from 2007. Of course, in my world of worlds, the 2007 math standards would be adopted in place of what we currently have, but I digress onto my favorite topic. ;-)

Sorry for the length of my email. I am just so thrilled to finally see just a bit of control returned to our local boards and parents! This is something that people have wanted since I ran for the first time in 2010. When you knock on people's doors and talk to them, their concerns always center around what isn't working for their individual child. We need to allow greater flexibility just like this going forward.

Sincerely,

Wendy Hart
Mother of 3
Alpine School Board Member for Alpine, Cedar Hills and Highland

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Survey: School Grading

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

HB215--CSE: No One's Child is Safe While the Legislature is in Session

Disclaimer: the topic of this blog post is mature but it is necessary for parents to be properly informed about their children's education.  Comments will not be accepted for this post.

Mark Twain famously said, "No man's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session."  He should have added children to the mix.

The most pressing issue, in my opinion, is HB215.  This modifies state law to allow for greater latitude in teaching children sexuality education (also known as Comprehensive Sexuality Education or CSE) which, as it has been implemented in other states, goes far beyond biology and medical facts. HB215:

 1) decriminalizes providing IUD's and abortion services to minor children without parental consent and
2) REMOVES some common-sense prohibitions from school curriculum guidelines in K-12.

For example, current law includes the following that will be removed should this law pass.

1. Stressing the importance of abstinence before marriage and fidelity after marriage as methods for preventing certain communicable diseases. *
2. Instruction is not allowed to facilitate or encourage the violation of any state or federal criminal law.*
3. Local school district material is not currently allowed to go into "how to", including erotic behavior, etc.**

Our current state law allows for abstinence-based instruction, not abstinence-only.  It is also Opt-in, meaning parents have to agree to let their children participate.  Parents also are able to review the contents and in many cases are invited to attend.  To see the current FAQs from the State Board website, click here.  These FAQs indicate what is CURRENTLY being taught.  Everything proponents of CSE and this bill state, are already being taught and discussed.

The media is trying to portray our current instruction as being too prudish and not providing students with accurate information.  A poll asked Utahns if they preferred an ***abstinence-ONLY approach versus a comprehensive approach.  No definition of what these two terms meant was provided. Most people approved of the 'comprehensive' approach.  But it most decidedly didn't ask if instruction in erotic behavior should be included in K-12 school curricula.

For information on how CSE is being marketed here and used in other states, please download this PowerPoint.  If you look at lines 136-144, lines 191-197, lines 220-240 and lines 260-26 in HB215, you will see what state law is being changed that will now allow CSE curricula as outlined in the PowerPoint.  The worst part is that CSE downplays the risk factors that lead to unwanted pregnancies and STIs.  In the interest of providing a 'more comprehensive' sexual instruction to our children, we are doing them a grave disservice by downplaying the risks (both physical and emotional) that accompany sexual activity.

The job of the schools is not to promote a view of society absent reality.  Our job should be to present the facts that our children will need about this important topic.  Everything else, parents can choose to present at home.

Additional resources:
Talking Points on HB215: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzUjUSlTes-4XzNOTzVHZnZiQjg

War on Children video (10 min or 35 min documentary):  http://www.comprehensivesexualityeducation.org/

1 hour presentation by Dr. Miriam Grossman, M.D. on a CSE curricula being implemented in Ontario, Canada.  About 19 minutes in she compares the instruction on smoking and alcohol to CSE and then provides medical information that most people didn't learn in school either.  Note: This is what CSE should actually mean.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21YvYPD56-U


* [(b) (i) That instruction shall stress:]
137          [(A) the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity
138     after marriage as methods for preventing certain communicable diseases; and]
139          [(B) personal skills that encourage individual choice of abstinence and fidelity.]
140          [(ii) (A) At no time may instruction be provided, including responses to spontaneous
141     questions raised by students, regarding any means or methods that facilitate or encourage the
142     violation of any state or federal criminal law by a minor or an adult.]
143          [(B) Subsection (1)(b)(ii)(A) does not preclude an instructor from responding to a
144     spontaneous question as long as the response is consistent with the provisions of this section.]

** [emphasizing abstinence
192     before marriage and fidelity after marriage, and prohibiting instruction in:];
193          [(I) the intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation, or erotic behavior;]
194          [(II) the advocacy of homosexuality;]
195          [(III) the advocacy or encouragement of the use of contraceptive methods or devices;
196     or]
197          [(IV) the advocacy of sexual activity outside of marriage;]

***Utah law allows for an abstinence-based approach, not abstinence-only.  So, the poll was disingenuous to begin with.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Mission Statement and Murdock Canal: Jan 3, 10, 17 Meetings

The two top issues for Board meetings this month are the Mission Statement will be addressed at the Board Retreat on Tuesday, Jan. 17.  And a resolution supporting the Murdock Canal road construction from 4800 West (Highland/Cedar Hills by Harvey Blvd) to 100 East (Alpine Hwy in Highland) will be voted on.  Board Agenda for Jan. 10 is here.

Mission Statement
The mission statement is "Educating all students to ensure the future of our democracy."  Seven years ago (yes, time flies) there were concerns about the mission statement.  The first concern is that our country is a republic, not a democracy.  (For a good video on the difference, go here or see the embedded video above.)  Democracy is a concern because it implies that the common good, as determined by the majority, outweighs the rights of the individual.  Other concerns had to do with John Goodlad, whose Moral Dimensions of Teaching, formed the basis of the mission statement in Alpine School District.  In reading Dr. Goodlad's books (The Moral Dimensions of Teaching and Developing Democratic Character in the Young), I found quite a few ideas that didn't square with my understanding of individual, unalienable rights discussed in the Constitution.  I think it is safe to say that Dr. Goodlad is focused on creating a more socialistic society in America than currently exists, and he hopes to do so through education in the youth.  I'll admit this is a very controversial situation.  But that's the point.  Our previous board had discussed finding a mission statement that would be less controversial and would appeal the the vast majority of our taxpayers and patrons.  If you have suggestions for the mission statement, you are welcome to email the board members or make public comment at any of the Board meetings.  The next meeting is tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 10 @ 6pm.  (You will want want to come a few minutes early to sign up.)



Murdock Canal Road

For years, a proposed East-West road has been proposed near the Murdock Canal in Highland.  Highland City is planning on building this road.  However, due to certain legal requirements and the proximity to the Utah State Developmental Center, the State Legislature must give its approval for this new development.  The City Councils of Highland City and American Fork have passed formal resolutions in support of this construction.  Cedar Hills has voiced its support for this construction project as well.  On Tuesday, Jan. 10, @ 6pm, the Alpine School Board will consider a resolution in support of this project, as well.  I, personally, am in support of this project.  Those involved want to make sure that all parties are taken care of, while allowing an East-West corridor that facilitates quicker times to AF Hospital without using SR-92.

Non-Discrimination Policy and Property Purchases

Also, a discussion about possible changes to our non-discrimination policy will be addressed, and several property purchase resolutions. To read the policy proposal and the resolutions, download the "Meeting Documents" found here.)

Summit Energy Proposal
A proposal to obtain Natural Gas through Summit Energy instead of Questar for our secondary schools is also on the agenda.  The proposal shows a significant cost savings on an annual basis.  Summit Energy presented to the Board on Jan. 3, 2017.  You can listen to the audio here.  (Additional Media->Board Meeting start around 8min in: http://board.alpineschools.org/2016/12/21/january-3-2017-board-meeting/)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Election Season AGAIN: 2016

Dear Friends,


ASD ELECTIONS
Three Alpine School District Seats are up for election: East Orem, PG/Lindon, and Lehi.  Only one of the incumbents is running for re-election.  I cannot stress how much more important I view the local elections than the national or even state ones.  If we were to hold our national representatives to the amount of involvement that they should have (under the Constitution), we would not be impacted by who was in those offices very often.  It is the failure of us, as a people, to maintain control at the local level.  Please encourage all your friends and neighbors in those areas to get involved, support and knock doors for the candidate of their choice, and to reassert the local community's interest in the education of our children.  If we are willing to stand up and desire that level of control, we would be able to wrest it back.  It would take some doing, but we have to show we are willing.   Please look for candidates who don't say we are willing to 'work within the system' when the system is broken.  Look for those who would be willing to tell the State Board or the Legislature or the US Dept of Ed, "These are our kids, and  we will be responsible for them." 


BOND
The biggest issue in the district right now is the bond.  Go here: http://alpineschools.org/bond2016/ for information on the bond.  I voted to place it on the ballot.  I am not sure if I will be voting for it, personally.  I do hope that all of you will contact your legislators and ask them to support allowing impact fees to be collected to prepare for school growth in advance, until waiting until it's crazy and a middle school has three lunches because they can't accommodate all the kids inside the main building at once.  There are 4 videos, along with charts and graphs and a list of bond projects.  There are public meetings being held, and you can always email and ask any questions you might have.


CIVIL DISCOURSE
And finally, two years ago, when I ran for re-election, it was one of the most painful things I've endured.  It was a refining moment for me in so many ways.  I do not think I fully appreciated the difficulty that people operate under when serving.  When my predecessor left the district, she said in the meeting that a wise man once said, "When you are in the service of your fellow beings, you are only in the service of your God."  Not to offend those who don't believe in God, but you have to approach public office as service to your fellow beings.  And that service comes whether people agree with you or not.  By the same token, we get better government the more we are involved.  And that means every, single one of us needs to be informed and involved.  But it also means we won't agree and we will have conflict.  However, as long as we value the person with whom we disagree and do not assume their intentions are evil, we will be able to have greater discourse and find more solutions in the long run.  I am including my post from two years ago, during that 'fun' time of re-election.  I ask, again, that no matter what side you take on an issue or on a candidate, do not assume that someone who disagrees with you does so from a point of moral inferiority.  http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2014/10/you-dont-care-about-kids-civil-discourse.html


Thank you for your support!  Get involved and invite your neighbors to get involved as well.  If you don't know how to get involved, I'm happy to help direct you!


Wendy
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"You Don't Care About Kids!": Civil Discourse


Most people you meet care about kids.  People involved in education pride themselves on their commitment and the nobility of working with and wanting to provide a good education for the next generation.  However, when the discussion turns to specifics of policy, spending, and issues in education, the opposing sides trot out the famous line (or some variation thereof), "You don't care about kids!"  I know.  It's a common theme. Not all that original.

Stop and think for a moment.  Of all your friends and neighbors--people you know well--what percentage of them would you say don't care about kids?  If you were to extrapolate on that number, what percentage of the inhabitants of Utah don't care about kids?  For me, I don't know a SINGLE person who doesn't care about kids. I really don't.  What that means is, based on my experience, I should not ever encounter a person who doesn't care about kids.  And, honestly, I don't think that I have, to date.  Oh sure, I have met all kinds of people with whom I disagreed on all sorts of education policies.  I have met people with whom I have had passionate discussions.  But through it all, I have never doubted that they cared about kids.  I have, honestly, doubted how their positions would lead to better outcomes for kids, or, practically, how a nice-sounding idea that wasn't grounded in reality could possibly work.  But, as far as their motivation and their intent, I have yet to come across anyone in any capacity that truly wanted to do harm to or was apathetic toward the children in their purview.

That's not to say there isn't evil in the world; there is.  But, I don't know those people, and, most likely, neither do you.

A few weeks ago, a friend posed the question about the difference between conflict and contention.  A person I do not know responded that the difference was contempt.  She went on to explain that when you see someone as worth less than yourself, you treat them with contempt.  Since we shouldn't be treating people as worthless, all are valuable, especially from a religious perspective, then we should never treat people with contempt.  Even those with whom we disagree. Even those who we think are about as wrong as they could possibly be.  Error is the human condition.  We all make mistakes.  And it is that human fallibility our Founders wanted to make sure was tempered with checks and balances and a lot of public discourse.  But to have true public discourse, people need to actually talk.  And that talk must allow for different perspectives and understanding.  Impugning of motives will shut down productive discourse faster than anything.  People can be wrong, but not have bad intent.  I learned a long time ago, that disagreeing or even being angry with someone doesn't mean you have to malign their character or treat them poorly.

So, my challenge to every single person reading this blog (but most especially to those who are supporting me this election season): do not give in to contempt.  Conflict, disagreement, vigorous debate--ABSOLUTELY!  Contempt, disrespect, and the impugning of motives--REJECT IT!  You may not understand why someone does what they do, but don't assume they are doing it for malicious reasons.  Thumper's dad was right, "If you can't say somethin' nice [about someone's character or motives], don't say nothin' at all."  You haven't walked in their shoes.  So really, you have no idea what is in their heart.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.   Most likely, they are human with a different set of experiences, and, I'm pretty sure, they do care about kids.
 
 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Learning is Earning...and our Bond Hearing

Tomorrow, Sept. 13, is a very busy day for education in our state and county: Competency-based Ed conference, Prosperity 2020, and Bond Hearing.

BOND HEARING
The Public Bond Hearing is @ 6pm @ the District Office in AF. Generic public comments are first, standard business stuff, and then the official Bond Hearing.  The bond will be on the ballot in November, for $387 Million, no tax increase, new buildings due to growth, rebuilding due to age.  I voted to put the bond on the ballot.  Our area will get 1% of the total amount of the bond.  Here's the agenda: http://board.alpineschools.org/2016/09/09/september-13-2016-board-meeting/  And here is information on the bond. http://alpineschools.org/bond2016/

On to the 'new visions' for education.  Lots of it has been in the works for a while, and some things are just rebrands of what has gone on before.  Full-disclosure, I'm not a fan of most everything that we are seeing proposed for 'ed reform': Competency-based ed, Workforce alignment, Digital Badges, GRIT, 21st Century Skills/Learning, etc.  I believe most everyone involved in these projects are well-intended and are proposing these visions and ideas with the goal to help our children.  But many who are involved in these reforms do focus primarily on workforce training, not education. 

Education is a much broader vision than simple workforce training.  Don't get me wrong, I want my kids to be gainfully employed, but I believe the well-educated individual will never be an anachronism in the workplace; they will be capable of seeing the consequences of actions due to a vast general knowledge and understanding.  The specific skills related to a job, with a few exceptions, can be learned 'on the job.'  And there's evidence that these supposed 'skill sets': collaboration, critical thinking, communication are directly related to the specific subject-matter at hand.  I may be good at thinking critically about a mathematical problem, but fail miserably when it comes to architecture, mostly because I lack the foundational knowledge allowing me to think accurately about a particular issue.  And collaboration works very well with experts from various fields; not so much with amateurs with similar backgrounds.  And sometimes, like in the case of Steve Wozniak inventing the Apple computer, collaboration is completely unneeded, unnecessary, and probably wouldn't have worked.  (Einstein: Theory of Relativity; Newton, Kepler, how much collaboration did they do?)

So, without further adieu....

JOINT LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE on COMPETENCY-BASED ED
At 8am, there will be a Joint Legislative Conference talking about Competency-based ed at UVU--essentially, kids with computers designed to streamline credentials for workforce.  The discussion is not and never has been: Should we do Competency-based (or mastery learning or whatever)?  The focus tomorrow is how to implement it and how to overcome the obstacles (including, I'm sure whe'll hear about those 'people who just don't like change.')  Some of the focus is very appealing: don't make kids who already understand something sit through a semester or a year to get credit for it.  The question comes down to WHO decides what the criteria are for determining competency?  Is it a national organization dedicated to global citizenship?  Is it the local community college or the local school district?  Is it American Institutes for Research, SAGE test designer and behavioral research organization extraordinaire?  A newly-established and funded comptency-based ed board?And therein lies the rub.  Who is in charge?  I can guarantee it won't be parents.  Granted, my kids are taking online learning courses--specifically for the mostly brain-dead courses the legislature requires in order to 'check a box' to say they've done it.  While I would love for them to be able to test out of a lot of this garbage, I think the real answer is for the legislature to not impose arbitrary courses on to the locals.  I know that requires a lot of faith in your local school board, teachers and administrators and, most importantly, parents and taxpayers.  But, WE are obligated to chart the course to determine what our kids need.  If Park City thinks their kids need something different, so be it.  Why should we care?  Unfortunately, we live in an age where 'the experts know best', and parents are seen as obstacles in providing a child with 'real' education.

Back to the conference, many of you remember Marc Tucker, famous for his School to Work ideas during the Clinton Administration and the Dear Hillary letter (cradle-to-grave workforce development system.)  Mr. Tucker was the keynote speaker at last year's joint legislative conference.  This is Part Deux (part two).  This is Mr. Tucker's vision, and all the focus on Workforce as the end goal of education was enhanced by Mr. Tucker and his National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE).  It's always fun to think of my children in terms of their 'economic potential', as 'human capital'.  And dare are I ask, what happens to those humans who can't be turned into capital? 
THE LEDGER: 'FUN' ROADMAP FOR THE FUTURE
Here is a link to a video that ACT and others have put together to show what competency-based ed is projected to grow into.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zssd6eBVfwc
www.youtube.com
Play the game, make the future. 9am March 8 - 9pm March 9 CST www.LearningIsEarning2026.org



And commentary from my favorite, liberal education blogger, Peter Greene (language warning).   http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-ledger-lab-rat-america.html

For those who don't want to read through Mr. Greene's blog, here are some excerpts:


Learning is earning.

Your Ledger account tracks everything you've ever learned in units called edublocks.
An edublock represents, supposedly, one hour of learning in any subject-- which brings us to our first mystery, which is exactly how one breaks down learning into hours.

...

Your profile displays all the blocks you've earned. Employers can use this information to offer you a job or a gig that matches your skills.

The Ledger will track the money you make from those gigs and use it to evaluate the edublock sources; ultimately every edublock source will carry a rating that shows which sources led to people earning the most money. Because in the world of the Ledger, money is the ultimate yardstick by which all value is measured. You can even market yourself as a commodity, bartering for free edublocks by offering a share of your future earnings in return. The video does not say anything about what happens if you do not provide a sufficient return on the investment, and I'd rather not imagine how that particular "collection" goes. [My note: See?  I'm not the only one who wonders.]
...

Does ACT have a plan for getting not one, but several governments to sign off and join up on the Ledger, so that the program can have access to everything, every last bit of data? Because this whole plan would seem to require that a corporation and governments join together to provide a more user-friendly computer-based surveillance state.
 
...

Who is going to create all the tasks that will measure and certify certain skills? It doesn't actually matter that much, because the bottom line is that all jobs and skill sets will be broken down to the simplest possible set of tasks, a simplification that guarantees that all nuance, complexity, and higher-order thinking will be kicked right out of the system.

Exactly what task will certify that you have acquired one hour's worth of critical thinking?

...

This is not education. This is training. This is operant conditioning for the servant class that also provides the upper class with tools that let them trickle even fewer benefits down to the working class.

In fact, I would say that this is just training rats to run a maze, but it's even worse than that, because ultimately even if we were to accept the premise that simply giving some job-ish training for the underclass is good enough, and even if I were to accept the racist, classist [b***sh**] that somehow ignores the immoral and unethical foundations of such a system, the fact remains that this would be a lousy training system. To reduce any job of any level of complexity to this kind of checklist-of-tasks training provides the worst possible type of training.

...

Do I think folks like ACT Foundation or Pearson (who also like a version of this model) can actually pull this off? It doesn't matter-- what matters is that this is their North Star, and even though you never get to the North Star, it still shapes the course you set. Worse, while I hope we never arrive in the world of the Ledger, these folks can do a huge amount of damage trying to navigate in that direction.

So, our legislators are being asked to start legislating competency-based ed stuff, so we can get on the Learning is Earning track without a public discussion as to why we're doing this and who will determine what is competency?  (And BTW, did you call your legislator to ask for this change?  I'm guessing you didn't.  Another 'brilliant idea' that comes down from some Think Tank somewhere that will be foisted on the public without any sort of pilot project, public demand, or scientific evaluation.  And then in 5 years, they'll say it wasn't properly implemented and come up with something else that's similar but somehow better that was presented with a nice PowerPoint at some conference somewhere.) 

PROSPERITY 2020
At 4pm at the District Office, Prosperity 2020 will be giving us a 15 minute presentation.  I'm not sure what they will be presenting, but they have a similar focus on the economic outcomes of education. 

Here is a quote from the Utah.gov website about Prosperity 2020.
"Great businesses are built with human capital—well-trained and educated workers."

Again, I think those involved are motivated by a desire to have well-educated kids, and they are seeing some deficits, I assume.  They want to 'bridge that gap.'  But I would argue, it's doing things the wrong way.  If there is a market for certain skills, the market, using supply and demand, will pay more for those skills.  People will jump through whatever hoops are necessary to gain those skills, in order to get a job that pays really well for those skills.  Public education should not be seen as a publicly-funded job-training program.  And your kids and mine should NOT be seen as human capital that can be used to promote the economic bottom-line of a corporation or the State of Utah. Central planning to match job skills with workers and 'training' (education) sounds so 1980's USSR to me.  So, I will try to keep an open mind (it will be hard) for the presentation.  But at the end of the day, my question will still come back to: Who decides?  In public education, it's supposed to be the parents and the taxpayers, not Marc Tucker or the Chamber of Commerce. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Feds and Bonds: Summer Happenings

There are two items of importance for your consideration and action: ESSA public comments (the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind has a set of regulations open for public comment.  Hint: They are the textbook definition of overreach and federal control) and the proposed Bond for 2016.

The ESSA public comment period has a deadline of Monday, Aug. 1, 2016.  The bond will be voted on by the Board Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016.

ESSA Regulations
In December, 2015, Congress passed the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), nicknamed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  At the time, I said I was opposed to it, due to the 1 step forward, 2 steps backward attempt at 'removing' federal control in education.  I still believe ESSA to be a net negative (Yes, as bad or worse than NCLB).  However, those members of Congress who voted for it, generally, see the regulations that the US Dept of Ed have put out on ESSA to be an egregious overreach of the law, itself.  (Find the Regulations here: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/index.html?src=essa-resources)

The biggest area of concern (and there are many) is the recommendation that schools with high opt-out rates of  Common Core testing be penalized.  See this article: http://longisland.news12.com/news/us-education-secretary-john-b-king-penalize-schools-with-high-rates-of-common-core-opt-outs-1.12031057  In June, I attended a training session on ESSA presented by the National School Boards Association (aptly titled: A New Federalism).  The presenter, an attorney, recommended that we work with our legislators to remove the ability of parents to opt their kids out of state testing.  The consequence, she said, would be to jeopardize our federal funding under ESSA.  So, the one avenue parents have to protest and to protect their students is under attack by the 'new' supposedly kinder, gentler, less-federal-encroachment law.  Additionally, I asked how they would be able to do this when some states, like Utah, for example, have opting out codified in state law, the state law predates ESSA, and under the 10th Amendment, the states would have jurisdiction in this area that the feds clearly do not.  Her response, paraphrasing, "Since the monies in ESSA are 'voluntary', you will not be able to get someone to challenge it on 10th Amendment grounds."  In short, by taking the federal monies from ESSA, we are subverting state (and natural) law--voluntarily. 

Also, the ESSA includes the 'Family Fixing Policy' as it is described by education blogger Peter Greene.  I wrote about this at the end of last year: http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2015/12/jan-4-2016-deadline-to-support-family.html  Nothing we want taking place in our state.  The concern is that if the Feds have the ability to (which it appears they do) to force states to do what they want, then the State Board will have no options (other than rejecting federal funding) in creating their 'Family Engagement Plan'.  It will have to come very close to what the US Dept of Ed has proposed. 

Incidentally, the NSBA presenter mentioned that the regulations overseeing how Special Education students are dealt with under ESSA were, to put it bluntly, a nightmare.  She said they were not out for public comment yet, but they were on the US Dept of Ed website.  I haven't found them yet, but if you do, please let me know. 

Take Action on ESSA:
1. An organization, US PIE (US Parents Involved in Education) has as its goal the elimination of the US Department of Ed.  They have drafted a letter to send to Congress.  You may add your name by emailing afew@uspie.org and asking to be added to the letter.  Include your name and title and state.
2. Comment on the US Dept of Ed regulations BY AUGUST 1 (MONDAY)!  https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=ED-2016-OESE-0032-0001
3. Contact your members of Congress and make sure they know the Dept of Ed is over-stepping it's bounds.
4. If you like twitter, use the hashtag #ReignInTheKing and #StopFedEd

ASD 2016 Bond
The Board will vote on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016 on whether or not to place a bond on the ballot for your consideration in November.  This bond is proposed to be $386 Million and cover projects over the next 4 years.  There will be no projected tax increase for the average $250,000 home, due to the interest rates, project schedule, and retirement of existing bonds.  For more information on the bond, go here.  (The 2011 bond was $210 Million.)

Originally, there were many items included in the bond, like technology infrastructure and key-card-security access, but they seemed to take a back-seat to the growth and maintenance of schools.  As such, those items were removed and the proposed projects can be found here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzUjUSlTes-4TjhBQXUtQlFjdjA  I would appreciate your comments as soon as possible on these items, as there is not much chance for public feedback at this point.  You are welcome to come and comment on the 16th, but by then, it is mostly a done deal. 

Personally, while I like Clear Creek, I think we should focus our resources on more school buildings instead of Clear Creek. I believe the parents who have kids in overcrowded schools would prefer more day-to-day school buildings than the benefit of Clear Creek. Additionally, I think we could probably get funding from other sources (corporate and personal donations), to determine the exact benefit our parents find from programs like Clear Creek.  (I, personally, enjoyed Clear Creek with my daughter, but I think when it comes to prioritizing our bond projects, more schools outweighs the benefits of Clear Creek.  You may disagree, but that's why I'm asking for input.) 

My take:
I will, most likely, vote to put the bond on the ballot.  There are serious growth concerns in Lehi and the West that I can't see being able to fund in the short-term without bonding.  Our district has a great track record of keeping its promises on bonds, getting the best interest rates, and keeping tax rates low.  So, if you must use a bonding model, I think Alpine School District and our Business Services Department do a great job!

However, in the Highland, Alpine, and Cedar Hills area, bonding is probably not a logical choice.  We have a few minor items that are included in every bond, but we are essentially paying for building and maintenance in the other areas across the district.  (For Alpine/Highland/Cedar Hills: 2011 bond: 1% of the bond.  2016 proposed bond: 1% of the bond.)  I've been told that not wanting to pay for others' buildings is selfish.  But, my response is simply this.  Property taxation should not expand beyond those who are receiving the benefit of the property tax; otherwise, any meaningful checks and balances on property taxation are lost.  So, like in this instance, there are enough people in the rest of the district that want/need what is being proposed on the bond they can force those in the other areas to pay for those needs.  (And I remind you I don't think those buildings are a bad thing.  They are truly needed.  It just goes back to self-sufficiency, and the need for checks and balances on government processes.) This is one of the difficulties in bonding over a large area, like our district.

The other possible downside is in the high-growth or older areas that require more building, the bond dollars have to be spread around in order to have broad support.  If you are in Lehi, it would probably take much less time to get all those buildings done because you wouldn't have to pay for Orem or AF or Eagle Mountain..., and the question is whether or not the cost to Lehi would be significantly more than spreading it over the entire district.  Since Lehi is a high growth area, arguably, the increased property values in that area might equal the increased need in buildings.  These are questions I don't have the answers to.  But they are questions we should be asking. 

So, as an example, take Highland City.  It seems every year the City Council raises taxes to fix the roads, and every year, the residents pass a referendum to prevent it.  It's the check and balance that is needed.  If residents prefer to drive on lousy roads in order to keep their property taxes low, then that is their right.  If, however, Highland residents could expand their tax base out to Alpine and Cedar Hills and make them pay for Highland's road construction, there might be less resistance from Highland residents.  But would that be right?  Property tax exists to allow residents of a particular community to tax themselves for a particular benefit.  They pay the price, but they also receive the benefit.  If you are paying more than you are receiving in benefit or vice versa, then the checks and balances are misaligned.  And you will find people voting to take money from others to pay for their needs, instead of bearing the burden themselves.  If we want to help other areas of the district, in the long term, I believe working with the legislature to do the following would be better governance than bonding across the district every 4-5 years.  (Note: these items might not eliminate bonding, but they are better models for government and the bonded amounts would be smaller and more targeted, I believe.)

1. Change the law to allow impact fees to be used for school buildings.  (Impact fees are charged to developers for things like sewer lines and water.  15 or so years ago, the legislature, when the Senate President was a realtor, banned the use of impact fees for schools.  This means we don't have a way of getting more funding to build school buildings in growth areas other than property taxation and bonding.  We don't get to plan in advance and assess monies for schools to be built as cities grow.  And the growing areas are dependent upon the rest of the district for funding/bonding, as well.  The argument against impact fees is that it increases the cost of new developments.  However, to me, that's like saying we can't charge impact fees for water because it would increase the cost.  If you are building, we are obligated to provide you with water.  If you are building, we are obligated to provide schools. Without impact fees, we are reacting to growth instead of being able to plan in advance and prepare.)

2. Remove (or reduce) 'special programs' like technology grants and so forth that limit what funding can be used for at the local level.  Special programs and state grants turn the legislature into a super school board--dictating what projects are of most value in their eyes.  If we had the chance to get money for technology or for school buildings, each district might choose differently, but that is why you have a locally-elected school board--to decide how the money should best be used.

3. Reduce or eliminate the amount of income tax money funding higher ed.  Once upon a time 100% of our income taxes went to K-12 education.  The legislature changed this to allow a portion to also go to higher ed.  Over time, the percentage going to higher ed has successively increased, and reduced K-12 by the same amount.  We are obligated under our State Constitution to provide a free, public education for all our students K-12.  We are not obligated to subsidize higher ed.  If we want to subsidize higher ed, the money should come from outside the income tax amounts and should probably be reduced.  If we can't provide places for our K-12 children to learn, but we are subsidizing higher ed, we have our priorities backward. 

Please share this information with your neighbors.  Ask them to comment on the ESSA regulations, as well as on the bond, and any proposals to deal with growth and maintenance issues going forward.  Our district can represent you, but only if you are willing to weigh in on the things that matter to you!