SALT LAKE CITY — In terms of education, what are the responsibilities of parents, local school boards and elected lawmakers?
That was the question discussed by members of the Education Task Force Tuesday, as lawmakers examined and recommended changes to a strategic plan developed after several months of meetings with parents and educators.
The framework, currently in draft form, is presented as a bull's-eye circulating around a student with levels for parents, local schools, school districts, school boards and Legislature extending in that order from the center. On each level is a series of bullet points listing the responsibilities of that person or entity.
"I think this is a great foundation, a great framework, if we can get these bullets correct," said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser.
Under the "parents" heading, responsibilities include community council service, commitment to child and education engagement, and awareness and engagement for at-risk children.
Responsibilities of local schools include highly trained and empowered principals, teacher evaluations, school-specific professional development, family engagement, effective services for students with special needs and execution of standards and benchmarks.
School districts are expected to commit to accountability and community engagement, make curriculum decisions consistent with state standards and ensure quality education regardless of geographic or socioeconomic realities.
The school board is expected to commit to diverse education opportunities, such as online education and charter schools, set standards and benchmarks, advance students based on demonstration of mastery and maintain accurate data collection and statewide accountability systems.
Responsibilities for the Legislature include equitably distributing state resources for education, ensuring accountable and responsive school board elections, incentivizing excellence through pilot programs and initiatives and providing resources for effective professional development.
On the subject of parental responsibility, Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, suggested that in the future the task force discuss ways to hold parents accountable for their children's education.
"As I talk to teachers who are my constituents, they feel that there is really no accountability for parents," he said. "They feel that there is not the support they once had, especially veteran teachers."
But Rep. Carol Moss, D-Salt Lake City, said that it is difficult to mandate parental involvement at the state level.
"You can’t realy legislate parents to be good parents," she said.
Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Holladay, suggested that framework include a clarification on parental responsibility. She said many parents habitually avoid becoming involved at the local school out of a fear that they will get in the way or be perceived as stepping on the toes of their children's teachers.
"If we could put something in there about maximizing communication between the parents and the school, that seems to be one of the issues," she said. "It doesn’t seem to be working as well as it could or should."
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