"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

Monday, February 24, 2020

2020 Education Legislation that Must be Opposed: Feb. 25, 2020

Lots of really lousy education bills are on the docket for tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 25.  First, in the Senate Ed Committee at 8am, and then in the House Ed Committee at 4pm.  If you are able to attend and comment on any of them, that would be great!  Please pick at least one bill (if you can’t do all of them) and email the appropriate group, as listed below.

Quick info: How to read a bill.
If something is underlined, it will be added to the law, if the bill passes.  If something is crossed out, then that will be removed from the law, if the bill passes.  Everything else is existing law.

Quick Info: How to email committee members.
See the list of Senate and House Ed committee emails listed below.  It’s best to put in the subject line something like: Vote NO on HB114Sub2 ((that means House Bill 114 Substitute 2).
Then address your email to each individual Rep or Senator.  You can certainly copy and paste the body of the email.  Make it short, sweet and to the point.  If you want to add more information, you can finish the email, and then say, for more information on this…and basically add a PS, so they can go as long or as short as they’d like.  They need to get these emails ASAP, as the Senate will probably not read emails once the committee hearing starts at 8am.  If you are a constituent of one of the committee members, please let them know that.

*Senate Ed Committee: 8am Write the Senators and ask them to VOTE NO!
HB114Sub2: You can read it here.  https://le.utah.gov/~2020/bills/static/HB0114.html : Early Learning Training and Assessment
This bill allocates $17.55 Million to establish additional testing and support coaches and early learning plans for math and reading.  It’s important to know that our current Math and English standards (which, sadly, are still Common Core) were declared to be developmentally inappropriate for grades K-3 by 500 Early Childhood Experts in 2010.  I would argue if we fixed our current math and English standards, we wouldn’t need to waste $17.5 Million in trying to assess and coach our teachers to teach our kids stuff that isn’t helping them read and do math.

SB136: https://le.utah.gov/~2020/bills/static/SB0136.html Healthy Lifestyles Revisions
For those of you who are wary of CSE (Comprehensive S3xuality Education—typo intentional to avoid spam filters), this is the bill to change our school health requirements to be broadened.  Incidentally, if you go to the CDC website, you will find that Utah has one of the lowest rates of STIs of any of the states.  The states with higher rates, many of them, have implemented CSE programs.  But because we have such a low rate, the health department touts the fact that we have a huge increase.  Yes, but that’s a percentage increase from a very, very low number to a higher number, that is still low.  It’s important to understand that Public Education used to be about those things that we could all agree on (2+2=4).  Once you start down this road, there will be very little agreement, and that is problematic. 

Some concerns:
Changes communicable disease to infectious disease.  While there is obvious overlap, infectious disease is, by definition, a disease that is transmitted via bacteria, or virus, etc.  The focus of infectious disease is the “infecting agent”.  Communicable disease is a disease that is spread via human to human contact in some form.  The focus of communicable disease is the human transmission to others.  In light of this being a health course and not an immunology course, the current wording “communicable” is probably more relevant.  See lines 60-62 and lines 68-70.  Current law allows emphasizes the importance of abstinence before marriage and fidelity after marriage as methods of preventing communicable diseases.  The references to marriage are removed, and abstinence is listed as a method for preventing certain infectious diseases.  Also, current law prohibits advocacy or encouragement of contraceptive devices.  This would be removed if this bill passes.  Line 187 includes a requirement that the course include “healthy relationships”, but there is no definition of what a healthy relationship is.  207-209 requires the local district  or charter (LEA) to report to the State Board the percentage of children who are not opted out of the course.  This will allow the state to know how many kids are not taking the courses, and will, in the future, no doubt lead to greater pressure on parents to have their kids take the courses.

**House Ed Committee: 4pm Write the House Reps and ask them to Vote No!
There are 3 bills that are extremely problematic.  1 that is mostly a waste of time and money.  I will list them in the order they are on the agenda, but the most egregious one is listed 3rd (HB323).

SB0093Sub1: https://le.utah.gov/~2020/bills/static/SB0093.html Math and Science Opportunities for Students and Teachers
This bill will cost $4.8M.  The idea that the state decides to use this money up front for this purpose undermines local control.  That’s $4.8M that doesn’t go directly to the schools that choose not to participate in this program.  The real issue with students not learning math has nothing to do with not having the Opportunity provided in this bill (that’s mostly just money) and everything to do with the adoption of sub-par math standards (Common Core).  This bill is mostly just a waste of time and money that could be better spent elsewhere, especially at the local level in reducing class sizes.

SB0099: https://le.utah.gov/~2020/bills/static/SB0099.html School Leadership Development Amendments
This bill will create a mentor program for principals to the tune of $15.2 Million.  Similar to others, this takes $15.2 M off the table to be spent in any other way at the local level.  So, if you are sure principals being mentored is a higher priority than anything else your local district would spend that money on, then this is the bill for you.  But if you think maybe that’s a waste of money or that the local school district might prefer to use the money differently, then you should encourage your Reps to vote NO!  In Alpine School District, we already pay an annual fee to participate in the BYU Public School Partnership, along with 4 other districts.  As part of this partnership, we have a Principals/Leadership Academy that employees who are interested in becoming principals can take.  Also, ASD usually appoints principals from among applicants who have already spent a few years as assistant principals.  So, there is already a formal structure for mentoring.  Finally, in my years of knocking doors and talking to people, I have never received a single comment from the people that said we needed to spend more money on mentoring principals.

HB323: https://le.utah.gov/~2020/bills/static/HB0323.html School Mental Health Amendments (THIS IS THE REALLY  REALLY REALLY  BAD ONE!!!)
Because schools and teachers, especially are already overwhelmed, we are going to require the State Board to create a Mental Health screening tool that can be administered to every student in our public school setting.  We will either be creating a greater need to have mental health counselors in our schools to assist with this (instead of spending the money on actual reading, writing, and arithmetic) or we will delegate this to teachers.  It also opens up the possibility of parents being bullied into allowing their kids to be tested, and once tested, if a parent disagrees, then there is evidence that they went against the “state”.  Could Child Protective be called on parents who refuse?  It wouldn’t be out of the question.  Whenever we have societal problems, we tend to put all the focus on our public schools to “solve” the problem for us.  This is not the place to do mental health screenings.  Your pediatrician or a mental health counselor of the parent’s choosing would be the appropriate place for it.  Schools should focus on academics, art, etc.  They are to be supportive of parents.  They are not to replace parents. 

HB241: https://le.utah.gov/~2020/bills/static/HB0241.html Kindergarten Attendance Amendments
This make Kindergarten a required grade.  Currently, children are only required to attend school from ages 6-18.  This bill will require school from age 5.  Some problems (besides the obvious increased cost that will occur if more people put their kids in Kindergarten): Many students are not developmentally ready for Kindergarten at age 5.  Many parents choose to keep their kids home an extra year and then enroll them in Kindergarten at age 6.  You would be able to do this still, but you’d have to fill out a homeschooling affidavit, and then, see lines 131-134, the school board is required to give you information about the knowledge, skills, and competencies required before Grade 1. This is only required for homeschool Kindergarten.  Currently, there is no requirement other than if a parent requests this information for the other grades.  It is not a requirement for those who choose a private option.  Additionally, if children are not, yet, developmentally ready for school, it could create more students who are identified with learning disabilities or special needs.  Those students so identified would require more state (and federal) funding, as well as administration of IEPs (individual education plans), etc.  And as mentioned above, our current set of K-3 standards are developmentally inappropriate for K-3 children anyway. So, we’ll put more kids into a no-win situation.  All in all, there is no compelling reason to require Kindergarten attendance.

*Senators on the Senate Ed Committee:
Senator Henderson - dhenderson@le.utah.gov
Senator Davis - gdavis@le.utah.gov
Senator Fillmore - lfillmore@le.utah.gov
Senator Grover - keithgrover@le.utah.gov
Senator Hillyard - lhillyard@le.utah.gov
Senator Millner - amillner@le.utah.gov
Senator Reibe - kriebe@le.utah.gov
Senator Stevenson - jwstevenson@le.utah.gov

**Representatives on the House Ed Committee:

Rep. V. Lowry Snow (R), Chair 
Rep. Susan Pulsipher (R), Vice Chair 
Rep. Melissa G. Ballard (R) 
Rep. Dan N. Johnson (R) 
Rep. Bradley G. Last (R) 
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss (D) 
Rep. Jefferson Moss (R) 
Rep. Lee B. Perry (R) 
Rep. Val L. Peterson (R) 
Rep. Marie H. Poulson (D) 
Rep. Adam Robertson (R) 
Rep. Steve Waldrip (R) 
Rep. Christine F. Watkins (R)