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Should parents pay extra for under-performing students?

Sen. Osmond introduces 3 bills to end compulsory education

Published: Monday, Dec. 2 2013 6:30 p.m. MST

The bills would not do away with the requirement that Utah children receive an education, but instead would allow flexibility in the time students spend in class in exchange for a more formal indication of support by parents.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, sent a shot across the bow of Utah schools in July by calling for an end to compulsory education laws.

His proposal was short on specifics at the time, but in an article posted Sunday on UtahPolicy.com, Osmond outlined his plans to address compulsory education in Utah, including three separate bills he intends to sponsor during the 2014 legislative session.

The bills would not do away with the requirement that Utah children receive an education, but instead would allow flexibility in the time students spend in class in exchange for a more formal indication of support by parents.

The bills would also require extra schooling for underperforming students, potentially at the expense of their parents.

Osmond said he supports compulsory education in the context that every child in the state receives an education. But he said schools should focus less on attendance and more on academic excellence and accountability.

"My whole focus here is about bringing clarity to that," he said. "We do need to ensure that every child receives an education in the state, but we need to approach it in a different way.

Under the first bill, Utah parents would be required to formally indicate by affidavit whether they intend to enroll their child in public, private or home schooling. Parents who choose to home-school would be exempt from state educational requirements, such as classroom time, testing and curriculum standards.

Under the second bill, parents who enroll their children in public schools would be required to sign a participation contract, agreeing to accept district attendance policies, help their child with homework, attend parent-teacher conferences and support classroom disciplinary measures.

A Parents Bill of Rights would be created, affirming a parent's power to have their child repeat a grade or test out of subjects for credit. But students who fail to achieve academic proficiency would be required to participate in remediation, the cost of which would be charged in full or in part to their parents.

Under the third bill, the statewide requirement that students attend school for 180 days each year would be repealed in place of locally developed classroom requirements at the district level.

"Right now, in the public education system, there is not a feeling that parents are accountable, that there is an obligation for them as well as for the student and the teacher," Osmond said. "And that’s what we’re trying to address."

Osmond's initial proposal to end compulsory education made national headlines and was met with skepticism locally. A nonscientific UtahPolcy.com/KSL Political Insiders Survey found that 71 percent of Republican insiders and a unanimous 100 percent of Democrat insiders were opposed to changing school attendance laws.

Readers of UtahPolicy.com were also opposed to the idea by a margin of 68 percent to 32 percent.

But Osmond's latest proposal would not end compulsory education since students would still be required to attend either public, private or home school. It would, however, lift the 180-day attendance requirement, often referred to as "seat time," and move the state closer to a system of competency-based, rather than calendar-based advancement.

Tami Pyfer, a member of the State School Board, said much of Osmond's proposal already exists in current statute. She said parents are already expected to indicate to their local district if they intend to home-school their child and those who do are exempt from state educational requirements.

"They don’t have to report how much time they spend in instruction, they don’t have to meet any curriculum standards, they don’t participate in testing or any reporting," she said. "That’s already in place. I think some of this (bill proposal) is unnecessary or maybe a little redundant."

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