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My view: Federal interference in education

By Norman H. Jackson

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, May 7 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

First, the right to educate our children was reserved to parents by the 10th amendment of our U.S. Constitution. But for 50 years the feds have imposed creeping controls upon schools, children and teachers. It's time to set them free from top-down government micromanagement at all levels.

Eric Risberg, Associated Press

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We the people of the state of Utah declare that we and our children are free and independent of the federal government and absolved of any allegiance when educating our children.

First, the right to educate our children was reserved to parents by the 10th amendment of our U.S. Constitution. But for 50 years the feds have imposed creeping controls upon schools, children and teachers. It's time to set them free from top-down government micromanagement at all levels.

Second, the Utah Legislature has declared: "It is the public policy of this state that parents retain the fundamental right and duty to exercise primary control over the care, supervision, upbringing and education of their children."

Why then are our state and school leaders also usurping our fundamental rights? Because "as government expands, its lawfulness contracts." While the regulatory state is metastasizing, Utah must always protect the rights of parents and their children. Every blueprint proposed for our education system must cross that foundational threshold. Proposals to tweak a core standard elsewhere — here, substitute a small state panel of parents or teachers, there, revise a test or assessment — fail to meet the threshold.

Consider the serious concerns of a mother recently published in the Park City Record. "If your children attended Park City High School on October 12, 2012, they were subject to a DNA test. Opt-out forms were sent home with the high school students to the parents prior to the test. However, the children were offered a raffle ticket to win an iPad if they participated and the majority of the opt-out forms did not make it into parental hands." Most parents found out that their child's DNA had been sampled after the fact, if at all. The information that went home stated that "the samples will be anonymous." But students were asked to put their names on the samples. The letter also warned of an imminent study where students will be asked to wear "proximity sensors." Again, opt-out forms were sent with iTunes gift cards as an incentive to allow the sensors. These are not isolated instances.

Why is this happening to Utah families? It is because the feds have created the "National Education Data Model" to facilitate state collection and sharing of behavioral, health, psychological and family data. And in 2012, Utah leaders adopted laws to permit schools to assess "student behavioral indicators."

Moreover, Utah now requires that Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) be used in all schools. Last December, our superintendent of schools contracted with behavioral and social science company American Institutes for Research (AIR) to develop the CAT tests with the plan to upload Utah's student data to the AIR database this year. To date, our leaders have not disclosed to parents the student data types being tracked in our "federally-funded" State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS). The federal model recommends collection of over 400 data points including family, health and religious affiliation.

There are a multitude of federal and state education mandates. We are engaged in a "war" for the minds and hearts of our children. Our president revealed his blueprint for them in his 2013 state of the union speech — a cradle to college federal system. It says, "The federal government must insist on aggressive plans and allocation of resources to level the playing field across states, districts and schools." If we permit him to win in Utah, we can say goodbye to local parental control of our children's education.

Judge Norman H. Jackson is retired from the Utah Court of Appeals. He holds a master's degree in economics from BYU and a juris doctor degree from the University of Utah.

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