Lawmakers plan to examine the International Baccalaureate program, addressing some legislators' concerns about potential governance issues related to the program. But many school leaders and IB program coordinators say "it's nuts."
The examination, authorized by the Interim Education Committee Wednesday, was prompted by Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, who earlier this spring called the IB program "anti-American."
"I am still not sure what problem we are trying to solve," said Rep. Pat Jones, D-Holladay. "In my research on the program during last year I found that it's well-run, well-received and is yet to have had one person say it is not an effective program."
But Dayton said it's not a question of whether IB is a good program, rather that it could be resulting in the loss of state and local control, since it involves schools making "international contractual agreements" outside of the districts' and state's control.
She likened the program to the controversial No Child Left Behind, a federal program that state education officials signed onto without legislative oversight and has resulted in frustration.
"Do we want the schools to enter into agreements that supercede the state and Legislature?" Dayton said.
Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, said the whole discussion could have been avoided by just asking officials if it was even an issue.
"I am confused about this conversation ... it seems to be presupposing that there isn't proper oversight among school boards and educators," Romero said. "I haven't heard that or seen that ... this notion of governance is important, but I haven't seen that there is improper oversight it seems to me this discussion could have been had off-line with our general counsel and didn't need to fill up committee time."
Though no education officials or school board members were questioned during the discussion, some told the Deseret News that there have never been any problems with the IB program's governance.
Heather Bennett, Salt Lake Board of Education member, said implementing the IB program is a school-based decision. The state's oldest program, at Salt Lake's West High, is more than 20 years old.
When the schools get the buy-in of faculty and school community councils for an IB program, then they approach the school board for final approval, she said.
"I totally feel that we have support from the board to implement the IB program, we have a huge well of support from our constituents for it," Bennett said. "I am just convinced that those who have concerns about it have an extraordinarily low level of actual knowledge of the program."
Nonetheless, some lawmakers said that since the Legislature, for the first time this spring, has kicked in $100,000 to support the program it would be beneficial to find out if there are any issues regarding the program and if it is appropriate to continue the incentive funding.Others suggested checking with the Utah Attorney General's Office to see if there are any oversight issues regarding the program.