Creating a legislative vision for education: Do Utah lawmakers' bills advance overall goals?

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  • first2third Elmo, UT
    March 3, 2013 9:56 p.m.

    Great just what we need another "education task force." Made up of the legislator's cronies that fund republicans, ie parents for choice. These organizations pay to get those elected who then appoint these organizations people to "task forces". Thereby, getting their money back for the donations to reelect. Government is a SCAM!

  • EJM Herriman, UT
    March 3, 2013 8:08 p.m.

    @JimD: we are losing those Hispanic kids because they do not attend school, in larger numbers than any other group. Now I will tell you that the majority of my parents coming in about their kids are the Hispanic parents. They want their kids in school but the Hispanic kids would much rather roll with their boys and girls. With that said I have many many Hispanic kids wanting to do well who do attend. Until the Hispanic community at large takes a hold of this problem it will remain. Schools want to help them succeed but we are fighting a battle that right now we are losing.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    March 3, 2013 5:06 p.m.

    The single biggest problem in Utah education is...

    Too many young, inexperienced teachers!!! When you underfund education, districts make ends meet by burning through large numbers of young teachers at bottom-of-the-pay-scale salaries and benefits. Then they pack a few extra students into each classroom, and stop buying textbooks.

    C'mon Utah. When are we going to get serious about building world-class schools?

  • John C. C. Payson, UT
    March 3, 2013 4:32 p.m.

    dawgdeelux complained, "Every year education gets a little more of our budget."

    Not so. According to a report by the Utah Foundation, in 1992 we in Utah spent about $49.25 per $1,000 of our personal income on education. That ranked us #11 among the states. Were among the most heavily taxed per person in order to pay for education. Despite that we ranked dead last among other states in the amount per student that we provided. That is because Utah was rich in children. We called that the Utah Conundrum.

    Well, we're still rich in children and we still rank dead last in spending per student, but our personal effort is declining. By 2009 our contribution had dropped to $39.29 per $1,000 of personal income. The national effort has remained about the same, but we are now below average, now ranking 39th.

    I would say we are a state of deadbeat dads. Not for lack of effort. We keep telling the pollsters that we want to be taxed for to help our schools, but not enough of us become party delegates, and our politicians are too terrified of their party conventions to listen to us.

  • Kings Court Alpine, UT
    March 3, 2013 2:43 p.m.

    Howard Stephenson and PCE has been driving the education vision for the last ten years. That vision is to sabotage and destroy public education. If you look at the 100+ yearly, anti-public education bills, you can't miss the vision.

  • JimDabakis slc, UT
    March 3, 2013 2:05 p.m.

    Me exaggerating? For 32 years, we have been last in the nation in funding. Biggest classrooms in USA. 44 kids in Davis County math classes. 2000-2010 USA census, Utah dropped 6.7% in graduation rates. Free fall in 4th grade math and science scores. Utah kids not competing with Colorado and Nevada never mind China and Finland. $180 million a year lost to Utah education since 'revenue neutral' flat tax imposed. Not even funding growth for 2/4 last years. 44% of our Hispanic kids not graduating from HS. I am exaggerating--no sir,I am not loud enough! We have lost a whole generation of young people and we are losing more. There IS a fire in this crowded theater!

  • Steve Cottrell Centerville, UT
    March 3, 2013 12:54 p.m.

    I wonder if Senator Stephenson's latest pet project was funded by the legislature. For years our state has complained about unfunded mandates from the federal level and for just as many years they have provided unfunded mandates to our schools.

    Senator Stephenson has required so much testing in our schools, without funding, that our state's students have been tested more than students in almost any other state. And there was never enough funding provided to develop, administer, score, and report those tests.

    Why does the Utah Senate provide the leadership role in the Education committees to those who are apparently bent on destroying publi education?

  • Oh, please! Saint George, UT
    March 3, 2013 12:12 p.m.

    Asking serious question: in my area there are several outstanding charter schools. If they can do such a good job, why do we not adopt that model for all our schools? Charter students are getting a great education on the public dime. ALL students should have that opportunity

  • RWSmith6 Providence, UT
    March 3, 2013 11:22 a.m.

    A good and, certainly, relevant article. Utah's major problems today include education. Utah's major problems for years have included education. Dabakis is right in pointing out that the majority party has long had opportunity to address it but has repeatedly failed to do so, preferring instead to kick the funding can down the road. Funding for growth in the state's student population and for very little else has been routine.
    More talk isn't really called for--regardless the composition of the group--since all the evidence is in that Utah should take immediate steps to fund K-12 through a combination of new streams of revenue and other means, like reduction of administrative levels, implementation of the computerized tracking of students best able to progress at their own pace, and so on. There are many combinations available, much evidence in about successful implementation of them elsewhere, little need for further talk. Take my word for it: I have been ringside to public education and talk, talk,talk in Utah for 47 years.
    The time for talk is over. The time for undercompensating, overloading, and underappreciating public school teachers is as well. Adequate funding, folks, remains the missing ingredient.

  • JimDabakis slc, UT
    March 3, 2013 11:18 a.m.

    Mr Sutton says not a Utah education not a catastrophe.Says I am exaggerating.34 years straight as 50th state in spending. Largest classrooms in USA. 43 kids in Davis County math class! 2000-2010 US Census numbers show 6.7% drop in Utah High School diploma's. 47% Hispanic kids no diploma. 4th grade math and science scores dropping like a fat guy off bungee cliff. Two out of last four years not even funding our growth. Flat tax change robbing Utah neighborhood schools $180 million a year! I am exaggerating? Businesses not coming,because our kids not prepared. Missionaries not ready. Utah GOP phobia about funding destroying a generation of Utah kids ability to compete with Colorado and Wyoming. Never mind China and Britain. CATASTROPHE---YES, sir.

    March 3, 2013 10:56 a.m.


    Actually every year bills are submitted, mulled over in committee, receive a lot of press, are opposed by the Eagle Forum and then left to die.

  • dawgdeelux saratoga springs, UT
    March 3, 2013 10:33 a.m.

    Every year we hear about the terrible condition of Utah education, every year more bills are submitted and more laws are passed. Every year education gets a little more of our budget. I for one am growing weary of, on one hand needing and getting more and on the other hand learning that we are getting no value for our efforts.
    My guess is that the UEA/NEA are such powerful lobbies that they can keep us on the edge of our seats, asking for more and delivering less.

  • Chuck E. Racer Lehi, UT
    March 3, 2013 9:42 a.m.

    If the legislature would just divide the big districts along the Wasatch Front that are way too big into community-sized districts, the people would take their concerns to their board members instead of to their legislators!

    Then the legislature wouldn't have to continually deal with citizen concerns about education. They could let the local citizens deal with their own problems and either solve them or learn from their mistakes for everyone's benefit.

    Do as Thomas Jefferson said to do:

    "The way to have good and safe government is not trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to everyone exactly the functions in which he is competent ... [more] ... It is by dividing and subdividing these Republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations until it ends in the administration of everymans farm by himself, by placing under everyone what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best."

    Neither the legislature, the governor, nor especially the President should have anything to do with education. Get government OUT of education!

  • EJM Herriman, UT
    March 3, 2013 9:20 a.m.

    As an educator I can tell you, based on attendance numbers, that students who attend greater than 80% of the time will pass at least 7 of 8 classes in a typical school year. Students who attend less than 80% of the time will pass only 50% of their classes, on average. Teachers want to help students succeed, whether they be in public, private, charter or online schools. But if that student does not "show up", even to do online classwork, nothing good happens. That is the elephant in the room legislators and administration refuse to acknowledge because it means calling on parents to follow through with their responsibilities and get Timmy and Susie to show up. Most parents do get their kids to school but those who don't and their students test scores are figured in with kids who do show up, averages drop and fingers are pointed at teachers who then get told "you are not doing your job". So let's address the attendance issue as a component of struggling schools.

  • John C. C. Payson, UT
    March 3, 2013 8:03 a.m.

    Our legislature loves to pile the initiatives, rules, restrictions, curriculum details, and tests, but insist that throwing money at education does not improve performance. They have even found so called "studies" that purport the same. Therefore, they reason, it doesn't hurt schools to trim funding here and there. You know, trim the fat. We pay less for our students than any state in the Union and they're still finding fat?

    Their disdain for teachers is thinly veiled. They insist, like Pharoah ruling over the Israelites, that they continue to make bricks but don't want to help by throwing any straw at them.

    Meanwhile the majority of Utahns in poll after poll, repeat that they are willing to pay higher taxes to increase school funding for our children.

  • John C. C. Payson, UT
    March 3, 2013 7:53 a.m.

    Carolyn Sharette's comment perfectly describes a conundrum in education, "...there is no reliable analysis of performance data that is objective and upon which we can establish what works best." Yet she claims, "We have ways of determining what is working in producing academic achievement in students."

    So what are those ways, if not objective data (meaning a lot of test scores)?

    They include the professional judgment of educators.

    Our test scores focus narrowly on reading, math, and science. Many current initiatives only seem to value "STEM" (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Don't we care about the rest of the curriculum? Consider these items from the Salt Lake City School District:
    -A safe and caring learning community
    -Character education
    -Effective use of educational technology and library media
    -Fine arts
    -Physical education
    -Social studies
    -Critical thinking
    -Civic competence
    -World languages
    -Participation and communication in the global community
    -Cultural understanding

    We must sooner or later trust teachers and their administrators. They're not in it for the money.

  • Springvillepoet Springville, UT
    March 3, 2013 7:27 a.m.

    Too often we have people state what is best for education by placing goals for down the road. While these goals are often good and meant to inspire us, they usually do nothing for what needs to be done today. Ask any teacher about the pendulum swings education makes from one "silver bullet" to the next. They will tell you the most common occurrence is starting a program only to switch to the next big thing before any program has had the chance to really be successful.

    Instead, we need to be concentrating on critical and creative thinking as expressed through reading, writing, and math skills. We also need to acknowledge we have fundamentally changed as a society, which unfortunately does not value education the way we did even thirty or forty years ago. Until we do those things and stop fumbling over ourselves to try and meet the unrealistic expectations parents have for the education system (to guarantee the un-paralleled success of their student without maintaining high expectations for both academics and behavior) we will continue to flounder.

    We need to reinforce the basics and allow for a person's post high school education to be organic.

  • peter Alpine, UT
    March 3, 2013 6:45 a.m.

    Worf, I couldn't agree more with your view. Government mishandling of anything they put their hands on is one of the biggest hindrances to the success and welfare of the people. The Feds and State need to step aside and allow schools to be run locally, privately, and morally. The Feds have taken morals out of the schools, in the name of "political correctness," forcing States to comply with their ridiculous guidelines, creating a bunch of dumb-down, underachieving individuals. T. Roosevelt said to educate a child in mind and not morals is to create a menace to society. Unfortunately, a lot of these menaces find their way into politics.

  • My2Cents Taylorsville, UT
    March 3, 2013 3:49 a.m.

    Utah's education system a catastrophe is an understatement. It a time bomb about to explode and the fuse is lit. Not only is our state eduction system dumbing down its students and children, they are using snake oil pitchmen selling socialism.

    A critical element of the catastrophe of education is its excessive involvement with business to create curriculum that are narrow and focused and ignoring many aspects of education required to broaden the knowledge base. The schools train children for specific jobs and by the time they get out of high school the OJT (on the job training) and job is out dated.

    To have futuristic education you need to go beyond what business hopes to have our schools provide for them. We need thinkers, not followers on a narrow path. Put more effort in math and science beyond the testing attributes established by state and federal government. Education that cannot be tested and exceeds mandates is education to inspire a future.

    Most of all, fraud and corruption breed failure. No accountability, secret spending of allocated funds, and discrimination of teachers and school funding have taken its toll on every child right of education.

  • Carolyn Sharette Sandy, UT
    March 2, 2013 10:24 p.m.

    Until we ascertain, with some confidence, what creates academic achievement, we need not talk about increased funding or new programs or new legislation. Kudos to Sen. Niederhauser for demanding we have a target before we start shooting.

    We have ways of determining what is working in producing academic achievement in students. By reviewing the data of high performing schools, and analyzing their methods and policies, we could identify which models are most successful and then help less successful schools to adopt those models.

    This is how quality is achieved most industries. Education is an exception. In education, there is no reliable analysis of performance data that is objective and upon which we can establish what works best. Were we to have that analysis, we could then demand that those practices which are most successful are implemented at public schools and we would see improvement in student achievement.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    March 2, 2013 5:20 p.m.

    Let teachers have the visions, and stay out of it.

    Don't need back seat drivers.

  • AlanSutton Salt Lake City, UT
    March 2, 2013 5:15 p.m.

    Time and again, in newspaper quotes and television interviews, Mr. Dabakis overstates his position and inflates his words. This article show more of the same exaggeration: education in Utah is "catastrophic," he says.

    Perhaps it's how he was taught to communicate, or perhaps he just doesn't know how to express himself. But it's hard to take someone seriously, especially a politician, when he exaggerates as much as Mr. Dabakis does.

  • Fred44 Salt Lake City, Utah
    March 2, 2013 2:54 p.m.

    Taking to educators about education, what an interesting concept. I am sure that Senator Stephenson will be opposed to such crazy radical thinking.