Will new education law make a difference in the classroom?

Published: Tuesday, March 27 2012 8:00 p.m. MDT

"It's very easy to measure progress regardless of a student's obstacles," she said.

Osmond was elected to the state Senate in 2011 during a special election and ran on a platform of education reform. He made the outline for SB64 public in October and said he was overwhelmed by the "flood of negativity" he received.

He said he was accused of being a "typical Republican idiot," rushing to legislate a system he didn't understand. He took the criticism to heart and began a tour of Utah schools with Shumway, logging more than 40 hours of classroom observations and talking with hundreds of teachers and parents.

"I was pretty much the vent of everything they hate about the Legislature," he said. "It was respectful, but it was angry."

After educating himself on Utah education, Osmond posted an essay titled "Lessons Learned and Next Steps" on the State Board of Education website and presented a revised version of his bill outline to the Interim Education Committee at the Legislature.

"And wow, did it tick off my colleagues," he said.

Osmond was told he was empowering the unions, protecting bad teachers and undoing years of educational choice reform. Eventually the emotions calmed down and he was able to gather the education stakeholders around a table to work on SB64.

Gallagher-Fishbaugh said the various groups sometimes disagreed on the "how" but never the "what" of ensuring that Utah students have quality educators. She dismissed criticisms that Osmond kowtowed to the unions, saying that the sentiment is nothing but negative and superficial rhetoric. 

"People that spew that kind of stuff aren't offering solutions," she said.

Shumway said he and Osmond listened to people's concerns and he is disappointed that some believe compromise is a "dirty word" and if an agreement is reached then someone must have caved to pressure.

"I think that's a reflection of a refusal to think that we can find progress and consensus," Shumway said.

Osmond said that while the bill changed dramatically from its inception, it still accomplishes his key goals of empowering districts at the local level and holding educators accountable. He said compromise was necessary and he's glad he made the shift away from a full-scale performance-pay shift to the rating system.

"It would have been a revolt," he said. "It would have blown up the relationship between the Legislature and public education."

The terms of the new law will be rolled out over the course of the next few years with the full implementation scheduled to occur by the 2015-2016 academic year.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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