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State School Board requests veto of curriculum review bill

Published: Friday, March 21 2014 3:34 p.m. MDT

Gov. Gary Herbert speaks in the House of Representatives at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, Friday, March 14, 2014.

Ravell Call, Deseret News Archives

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SALT LAKE CITY — Opposition to a bill requiring a state-level parent review of local curriculum complaints grew Friday to include Utah's top education officials.

The State Board of Education voted to request a gubernatorial veto of SB257, which narrowly passed the House during the closing minutes of the 2014 Legislature.

The bill expands the duties of a panel of parent volunteers commissioned to review questions for a new statewide testing system to also field complaints related to curriculum and classroom instructional materials.

SB257 has come under fire from educators and parents — including some on the review panel — for pulling discussion on curriculum issues away from local educators and mandating tasks to the review panel without their input.

The bill has also been criticized for the method in which it was approved by lawmakers, with scheduling constraints prompting a hearing by the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee in lieu of the Education Committee and a disorderly House vote that included the vocal goading of representatives.

"If I was governor, and I’m not, I would veto this bill," State School Board member Leslie Castle said, "and I would want the support of the State Board of Education so I could do that."

The board's decision comes days after the Utah Parent Teacher Association sent a letter to Gov. Gary Herbert urging him to veto the bill. Veto requests have also been made to the governor's office from individual parents and educators.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Martell Menlove said he had not personally discussed the bill with members of the review committee, but he had heard reports that individual members had formally opposed SB257.

"It’s my understanding that at least some of the 15-member parent panel have already met with the governor and requested the governor veto this bill," Menlove said.

Board member Heather Groom said she "searched high and low" to find a constituent in support of SB257, but every person she spoke to was opposed. She said parents and school administrators alike worry about what effect the bill would have on local curriculum control.

"I couldn’t find one person that actually supported this, and that’s what probably made me the most nervous," Groom said. "While I want to support our good Legislature, I also have concerns with this."

Following its vote to request a veto, the board also voted in favor of holding board discussions on making the curriculum review process more accessible and transparent.

The board also discussed concerns related to HB342 and SB122, which respectively create a review committee for statewide school standards and enumerate a parent's educational rights, but members declined to request a veto of those bills.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com, Twitter: bjaminwood

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