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

Pyfer said she appreciates Osmond's efforts to engage parents in their children's education, but she worries that some of the efforts he is proposing are excessive.

Parents are not typically asked to pay for summer school or remediation, she said, and to include language that requires students to either meet proficiency benchmarks or pay for tutoring places an added burden on children who, for whatever reason, are struggling in school.

"I think it’s better if we can find ways to engage parents in schools in positive ways and encourage these parent-teacher partnerships and not have to legislate what parents will do and what they will pay for if they don’t do it," she said. "It can just come across, I think, as punitive or heavy-handed if you’re not careful."

She also said that lifting the 180-day attendance requirement is unnecessary since the State Office of Education already grants waivers to districts based on local needs — such as Rich County School District, which operates a four-day school week.

"That’s not a major shift," she said. "It would be interesting to see how far away from a certain number of days or hours the senator believes we could go and still meet the demands for performance that the Legislature is putting upon us."

State School Board member David Thomas said the combination of a parent contract and Parents Bill of Rights is an innovative way to encourage engagement in education. He also said he wouldn't necessarily be opposed to a more formal process for parents to choose a public, private or home school option for their children.

But he shared Pyfer's concerns about charging parents for the cost of summer school and remediation, adding that many students who fail to meet academic proficiency attend Title I schools that serve low-income populations.

"I’m not sure that parents could afford the remediation costs," he said. "I’d be looking for, perhaps in his bill, some kind of fee waiver from those provisions."

Osmond said the remediation requirement would include an exemption for students with disabilities and individual education plans. He also said it would be up to local school districts to determine what portion of remediation costs a family would pay based on financial ability.

He added that part of what the bill seeks to change is the current attitude toward schooling. Public education costs taxpayers billions of dollars, he said, and every child in the state is given access free of charge.

But he said for those students and parents who fail to take advantage and utilize the opportunity of public education, there needs to be accountability and an obligation to share in the cost of remediation.

"We can’t afford to have (education) treated like an entitlement," he said. "It’s an opportunity. It’s something that we want to provide for every student. But if you take advantage of that, there is accountability, both for the parent and the student."

Osmond said he will continue to seek feedback and input on his bills from educators and constituents. He said there is a general consensus that there needs to be greater accountability and engagement in education, but the task now is to determine the best method to address those needs.

Thomas said that he is also interested in moving toward competency-based education and thinks there are many aspects of Osmond's proposal that could be worked on collaboratively with the State School Board.

"Senator Osmond has been very good about trying to bring groups together in a wide variety of spheres to come up with solutions to public education," Thomas said. "I think that’s laudable, and I, for one, appreciate his ability to do that."

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com

Twitter: bjaminwood

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