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John Florez: Utah education is a leaky pipeline

Published: Saturday, Feb. 8 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

Jordan Allred, Deseret News

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John W. Gardner said it well, “The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”

Can you imagine a leaky pipeline where pollution is poured in at the top, leaks out along the way, and trickles out at the end? Well that’s what seems to be happening with Utah’s public education; lawmakers pour in unrelated policies that end up clogging and polluting the system, and tax money is lost along the way. We need excellent policies and practical solutions if we want to prepare our children for an ever-changing world.

Many applauded last year’s leadership that created the Education Task Force (SB69) to establish “long-term education policies to improve the state's economic prosperity.” It seems some lawmakers ignored the intent of the report and continue to clog the pipeline with bills — now more than 60 and still counting — that do not advance the intent of the task force. But it should not be surprising, since one of the legislative leaders is proposing a $300 million bill to pay for technology without considering it as part of the long-term plan.

And another threw in a bill that created another needless bureaucratic policy body. And yet another will be introducing another report card to determine how schools are doing and where they need to improve. Legislators have shown a lack of vision, principles, leadership and discipline in overseeing education.

Mind you, this is primarily a one-party Legislature that espouses conservative principles, less government, fiscal responsibility, local control and personal responsibility. So what do we get? A flood of bills that continue to clog the education pipeline that now requires a Roto-Rooter plumber to clean it out. They have no self-discipline, or opposition, in polluting education with their bulldozing use of power. The campaign spending laws they have created allow them to do as they please where some no longer seem to listen to the average citizen, or care about the waste, cost and second-class education they have created.

Some seem to use public education as a victim to exploit for their political gain. They fight to deregulate businesses so they can be more productive, yet burden education with their nonstop flood of laws. Can you imagine, for each law they pass about education, the collateral damage it causes — more regulations, more writers and compliance staff. As John W. Gardner wrote, “The last dying breath of a bureaucracy is to write another policy in the policy manual.”

It is a tragedy that some of our state leaders have shown a lack of integrity, interest and capacity to articulate a vision on education and the discipline to carry it out. In the meantime, our children and adults are denied the world-class education they need to compete in today’s global economy. Lawmakers need to carry out the duties of the office they swore to uphold, and citizens need to elect leaders who will carry them out.

What’s at stake is the future of our children and our nation’s ability to compete in the world marketplace. It appears the current slate of lawmakers is creating neither plumbers nor philosophers. As a consequence, neither our pipes nor our philosophies are holding water.

Utah native John Florez served on the U.S. Senate Labor Committee, as Utah industrial commissioner and filled White House appointments, including deputy assistant secretary of labor and on the Commission on Hispanic Education. Email: jdflorez@comcast

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