Comments about ‘Utah lawmaker calls for end of compulsory education’

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Published: Tuesday, July 16 2013 10:45 a.m. MDT

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The following is a quote from the Congressional Enabling Act for Utah Statehood:

" Enabling Act ENABLING ACT, Approved, July 16, 1894.

AN ACT to enable the People of Utah to form a Constitution and State Government, and to be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States.
Enabling Act ENABLING ACT, Approved, July 16, 1894.

Sec. 3
Fourth. That provision shall be made for the establishment and maintenance of a system of public schools, which shall be open to all the children of said State and free from sectarian control."

To my knowledge, Utah is the only state that was required by Congressional By-law to provide public education for their children. This because of the large number of children due to polygamy. Utah has traditionally provided opportunity for a good education for their children, despite the lower financial investment. Studies have shown that a teacher has often made the difference in the life of a child -- despite the family situations.

Provo, UT

This is not important so much for the individual children that might or might not be affected, but for society as a whole. The U.S. has moved away from an industrial-based economy to an information-based. This economic model requires a well educated workforce. My parents generation could go get a job at Geneva Steel or in construction if they did not follow the path of education and it worked well for them.

That won't work today. Unless you are a contractor (requiring education) you will be competing with people willing to get paid minimally because it is still better than what they get back home. Geneva Steel hasn't been around for over a decade. One of the reasons that the economy of Utah has remained reasonably strong is because of a well-educated workforce. It is not to our benefit to jeopardize that, as a wholesale change would do. Yes, education should be a privilege and an opportunity and not an obligation, but sometimes ideals don't hold up in the real world.

On a personal level, those who suffer would be the innocents who don't know any better.

Herndon, VA

It's a fascinating idea and Senator Osmond is to be commended for putting forward this proposal. It is good to have this discussion.

Facts are facts and there's no question public schools have become personal and family counseling and welfare agencies. They are supposed to be educational institutions.

What an incredible idea to have families, even single parent or guardian-led families, take personal responsibility for the school decision. Public school offered to all, but not compulsory.

By forcing (and it is force) young people to be in school, you do not in the long run help that individual. Look at the high dropout rates as it is under the current rules!

So schools become willing (and in some cases, for our exhausted teachers and administrators, unwilling) enablers, attempting to help some who simply will not be helped.

Life itself is a great teacher and so is consequence. Let's consider these points with our educational system in general.

American Fork, UT

Utah Proud for this guy!

Syracuse, UT

Another brilliant comment from our wonderous legislators.

Salt Lake City, UT

I never asked my kids or grandkids if they wanted to go to school -- I told them they were expected to go to 16 years of school (1st thru 4 years of college). After that they could decide if they were through or if they wanted to go more. I have two with Masters and a third working on Bachelors.

With that said, the schools need to look at their programs. A teacher in my g-kids school once told us in confidence the schools don't teach anymore, they're in it for the test scores which motivate the funding. Kids only learn what's going to be tested.

We make it a point to supplement their education. We arrange a history vacation every year. We just came back from GoldRush country and history of establishment of port cities on the west coast, pioneer struggles over the Serra-Nevada's, etc. We've done D.C., Native American Cultures, Black Struggles (they were the only ones in school who knew what a Buffalo Soldier was). Education is lacking, and I don't know if schools are turning out kids who ARE educated anymore.

Cottonwood Heights, UT

WOW the discussion surrounding this has missed the mark ... why fund unnecessary programs, and the politicians are hiding behind having to debate programs they dont want while that may have political repercussions with some of their constituents. BOO HOO! A parent's right to parent ought never to be truncated by the State or the Board of Ed. And unless I have missed something, I can homeschool and it seems to me that the State has an interest to ensure that all of the children receive a basic education. So how does removing compulsory education further any of this?


Too many people are making the false assumption that if you take away the compulsory aspect, students will choose to not attend school. It may be of interest to note that in England in the first half of the 19th century, when the state involvement in education was basically zero, the student population rose from 675,000 to 2,500,000, with an annual increase in the number of pupils attending school that was double the annual growth of population. (1965, E.G. West, Education and the State). In our own country's infancy, without compulsion, we had a literacy rate we have never since seen. It would take time to shift our way of thinking, but it's a good direction to head. I applaud Mr. Osmond's courage to make such a proposal. History proves that compulsion has never achieved what freedom has. Are we or are we not the land of the free anymore?

Gordon Wilson

I can see both sides, but at the end of the day, I believe in choice for all people. Compulsory education is an attempt to force the schools to displace the failures of the family and that bothers me. I'd much rather see us do away with compulsory education and focus our efforts on strengthening families. Let's take the pressure off the schools to be surrogate families.

Heidi T.
Farmington, UT

"Let’s let them choose it, let’s not force them to do it." As an educator of 38 years, I can't think of more positive action by the State of Utah. Parents would show up, register their children, more fully recognize their part in educating their children because they will make the choice to take advantage of a free education. I think this is a wonderful idea and would turn parents thinking to, "I've made a decision on what is best for my child," rather than "school is a place for my child to go to each day and it is the school's fault if he/she doesn't try, distracts from the learning of classmates, and refuses to see the opportunity and importance of getting an education because that concept isn't taught in our home." Many parents never show up at their schools, talk to teachers, volunteer in classrooms. So much of the education dollar goes to tracking down kids with low attendance, drop outs, and parents who don't care if their children are home or at school.

Danbury, CT

What a doofus. Let's see if the people of his district have enough sense to vote him out for wasting your Legislature's time.

Salt Lake City, UT

Gordon, I agree with you. I think a lot of parents both work outside the home, and thus the parenting is left where it falls. I work in law enforcement, and we have calls out to the home because the kid isn't answering the phone, isn't home when they're supposed to be, is being unruly, isn't getting up to go to school, etc. Calls from mom saying she's at work and can't get kid to answer phone, wants to do a welfare check to be sure kid is home -- no friends. And on and on. I am asked continually what I am going to do to "fix" their kid. I remind them it isn't my position to "fix" what they should have been working on for years. I've talked to teachers who express the sentiment that they feel like a parent, some have a supply of clothing to let kids who are in dirty clothes change. They supply them with school supplies so the kid can learn. Maybe we should do something compulsory for parents to have to parent. A lot don't seem to care.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

There was a post that said they were against the concept but supported the sentiment. I am actually the opposite. While the concept might actually be good and positive in some ways for the educational system, especially in regards to the students who want to go to school, I think the sentiment comes from another Republican effort to continue down the path of destroying public education in Utah. It comes from the sentiment that perhaps this could allow for less funding. Let's say 20% of students chose not to attend school next year. This doesn't necessarily mean class sizes will be smaller. Instead, 20% of the teachers will be likely laid off and other sources will cease to exist or be cut. Again, perhaps the students present might benefit from being away from unmotivated students, but as asked in previous posts, where are these students going to go? The job market isn't exactly hiring too many people, let alone HS dropouts. And like it or not for many parents, schools have become daycare centers or the morning/early afternoon version of the Boy's/Girl's Club.

La Verkin, UT

Just because education is very important, doesn't mean it should be compulsory. We as a people, have handed over parenting to the schools and teachers, and frankly, that's irresponsible. It's an abrogation of your parenting responsibilities. How about this? If you want your kid to have an education, then you get involved, and ensure he has that education. Stop blaming educators and the school system for your failures as parents.

Alpine, UT

Mr. Osmond is right, and too many people are missing the point, not only about education, but about life itself. The responsibility of raising children lies on the parents, and government has continually tried to shift that responsibility onto itself. This not only creates a huge tax burden, but it empowers government over people, enslaving people to a bunch of unqualified politicians. Drop property tax that supports education. Then, allow parents a choice regarding how they want to spend their money on educating their kids.

Orem, UT

I don't know how it is in all of Utah, but I can tell you about Alpine SD. The children in elementary school are all tested (for reading) before school starts each year. They are then purposefully put into classes based on how they performed, but not in a logical way that most agree with. If, for example, there are three first grade classes you would expect the highest performing children in one class, the mid-level children in another and those needing the most attention in the third. Not in Alpine SD. They put one third of each of the groups into each classroom. The thought behind this is that the overachieving and achieving students will drive those needing more attention. Guess what? It doesn't work, yet no one is brave enough to stand up and change it. They don't want the kids to think they are in the "dumb class", so instead the children learn quickly to not ask questions or they will be the "dumb one" in the class. So the overachievers are held back and those needing more direction don't get enough of it. Who wins?

Taylorsville, UT

As a former teacher, I agree that many parents are totally disengaged from their children's learning. I thought that parents should be required to spend one hour per month per child in volunteer work at the school. Of course employers would need to allow the time off, but once a month doesn't seem like that big of a requirement for what the children are receiving. Many other issues would need to be straightened out, but this would be one tax-free way to get parents more involved.

Centennial, CO

Perhaps we should go the other way: make the 20% of kids stay in public school who either really want to go or are being raised by wolves (which is the group everyone seems most concerned about) --and make the parents of the other 80% find their own educational solution of some kind that doesn't involve a public school.


Mcallen, TX

Look at it folks:

* we likely spend more money on education, than all countries combined, through out history.
* many of our engineers, chemists, medical people, etc, come from other countries.
* a third of our college graduates are from other countries. Deseret News-2013
* more than half our people live in poverty.

What does this say of compulsory education?

What kind of wreck would our country be if government could no longer supply benefits? A debt equal to $186,000 for every second of three years, tells us it's possible.

Eureka, UT

Massachusetts instituted compulsory education in 1852. It wasn't a radical idea then because many towns and cities had similar laws in place there from the 1690's. Utah instituted it in 1890 when we became a state. The last state, Mississippi, instituted it in 1918. It was done in each of these places because states had a compelling interest in education because with education crime was lowered and economics and commerce was enhanced. Sen. Osmond's proposal is irresponsible in spite of his best intentions and rhetoric about the responsibilities of families. While I can agree the family should be a primary place for education, sharing that responsibility helps not only families but communities and even the state. Allowing families to opt out of education would hurt our state immensely. If his argument is about choice in education, then he's missed the mark again because Utah has the most open choice options for parents in education. Besides the public schools, there are charter schools, different public schools, private schools and home schooling options. Bottom line, children need to attend school in the interests of our families, communities and state.

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