Oak Norton

Goodbye school choice? Is your school at risk of federal oversight?

Utah’s SB 235, if not vetoed in the next two weeks, will be the end of real choice in public education in Utah.

Based on the 2014 Utah school grades, and SB 235, here are just a few charter schools who could soon be at risk of being literally taken over by the state and “fixed” by Federally-funded  “turnaround experts.” Note that each of these schools has a high SAGE opt-out rate (percent of students whose parents opted them out of taking the Common Core/SAGE test).

  • Canyon Grove Academy 20% opt-out (D grade)
  • C.S. Lewis Academy 50% opt-out (C grade)
  • DaVinci Academy 33% opt-out (D grade)
  • Gateway Preparatory Academy 25% (C grade)
  • Lincoln Academy 14% opt-out (C grade)
  • Mana Academy 50% opt-out (F grade)
  • Mountain Heights Academy 15% Opt-out (C Grade)
  • Pacific Heritage Academy 29% opt-out (D grade)
  • Paradigm High School 23% opt-out (D grade)
  • Rockwell Charter High School 19% opt-out (D grade)
  • Utah Connections Academy 9% opt-out (D grade)
  • Utah Virtual Academy 22% opt-out (D grade)

 

State officials will (correctly) point out that parent opt-outs are not included in the SAGE portion of the school grade. But that belies two important facts:

1)   Many of the opt-outs come from the most involved parents / highest performing students, so the “school grade” reflects the abilities of the lower-performing students, not all the students in the school. The punishments that SB 235 would inflict on a school thus violate the prohibition on such punishments in SB 122, and

2)   If parent opt-outs (and enrollment in a charter school in the first place) are in any way indicative of parents’ desire for an alternative to Common Core/SAGE, turning these charter schools over to “turnaround experts” denies parents their unalienable rights (confirmed by Utah Code 62A-4a-201) to direct the education of their own children.

What can a charter school (or charter parent) do to avoid being “reformed” by the Fed Ed experts? Forget your charter and teach to the SAGE test. Like every other school in the state. Or, contact Governor Herbert right now and ask him to veto SB 235.

Pearson monitors your child’s social media

This is alarming. In Utah we don’t use the federally funded PARCC system for state testing, but some schools and districts do use other tests from Pearson. I wonder how many of those students are being monitored…and their Facebook/Twitter comments stored…

 

pearson monitors social media

Common Core Science at the Door

The below message is from Vincent Newmeyer. If any of you are able to attend the meeting tomorrow, please do so.

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Common Core is Missing Parts. That is, Common Core is lacking the Science and Social Studies components. It is not that there was any intent for creators of national standards to skip such components, it is that these components have come later in their effort. The National Science component is and has been finished for some time now, and there has been powerful efforts to get it adopted in Utah.

The National Common Core component for Science is called “The Next Generation Science Standards” or NGSS. The State Office of Education has been in the process of advancing these standards for adoption for some time now, beginning with grades 6th, 7th, and 8th. The plan seems to have been to fly it in under the radar. When NGSS was sent to the legislative required “Standards Review Committee” the document was titled “Utah Science and Engineering Education Standards” or “UT SEEd Standards.” At the time these documents reached the review committee, it appears that even the Board of Education members in general, had no idea that these standards were really the NGSS national standards.

The legislative intent for the “Standards Review Committee” was to get input from the community on proposed State School Standards, particularly from Parents, hopefully to avoid some of the backlash that has arisen from situations like the adoption of national Common Core standards.

There has already been one early report on the working of this committee. For some background you may review:

Are you ready to have national science standards in UT? http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/are-you-ready-to-have-national-science-standards-in-ut/

Though there has be minor verbiage added to the NGSS in the effort to move their adoption in Utah, let me assure you that the proposed science standards are the Next Generation Science Standards and are marketed as the compliment to Common Core. The proposed standards match the NGSS in the following:

  • Performance Expectation are word-for-word copies of the NGSS
  • Boundary statements were very, very similar
  • Clarification were very, very similar
  • Uses essentially the same indexing scheme of NGSS for science topics
  • References Common Core Math, and Literacy concepts with the same index numbers and their related topics
  • Cross Cutting Concepts are essentially word-for-word

Reading from the NGSS website http://www.nextgenscience.org/frequently-asked-questions , formulators of these standards state:

Will the new standards be the Common Core State Standards for Science?

To reap the benefits of the science standards, states should adopt them in whole without alteration. States can use the NGSS, as they are using the CCSS [Common Core State Standards] in English language arts and mathematics, to align curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional preparation and development.

This has apparently been done as there is no substantial deviation in Utah’s SEEd standards draft from the NGSS. To further clarify this issue we can read from the NGSS Trademark and Copyright Guidelines

States … that have adopted or are in the process of adopting the NGSS in whole shall be exempt from this Attribution and Copyright Notice provision of this License.

http://www.nextgenscience.org/trademark-and-copyright-guidelines.

Those who have reviewed the standards when they were first proposed to the State Board of Education have noted that there is no attribution to the NGSS in spite of the essentially word-for-word duplication. So, either there is a legal infringement of copyright, or there is a tacit admission of an effort by individuals in the state office for wholesale adoption of the standards. The effort for wholesale adoption of the standards was denied, or in the least not confessed, even when Sarah Young (the previous state science specialist) and Ricky Scott (the current science specialist and one of the “writers of the proposed Utah science standards”), was questioned about the source of the standards in the standards subcommittee meeting held in the evening of the 5th of February, 2015. Sydnee Dickson, the Deputy State Superintendent, who was also present, did finally admit at one point that the proposed standards did borrow heavily (or words to that effect) from the NGSS. Yet again, we see no documented attribution to that effect….

The subcommittee did vote down the advancement of the standards that night, however it is almost certain that there will be additional efforts to cloak NGSS again in such a way that it will pass the State Board of Education. If such a proposal is again brought, even if there is some attribution to NGSS, we should demand a clearly defined list of what was adopted, what has been changed, and why.

To be ready to meet that challenge, a group has been holding sessions every Tuesday at the State Capitol, educating people on the issues with the standards and the developments in science that are challenging the politicized science like Darwinian Evolution and Global Warming, etc.

There is only one meeting left in the Capitol series. We encourage all who can to come. We also encourage citizens to contact their legislators, School Board Members, the Governor, and the State Attorney General and request their attendance.

DATE: 10th March 2015   •   Time: 12:00pm to 2:00pm   •   Location: “Capitol Board Room” On the East side of the Capitol Rotunda just below the Supreme Court Chambers

Thanks,

Vincent Newmeyer

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A second announcement from Vincent

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Science or Doctrine?

 

“The theory of evolution has also deeply influenced our way of thinking about ourselves. … One reason is, of course, that evolution is in contradiction to the literal interpretation of the Bible. Another difficulty is that it seems to diminish human significance. … [T]he new biology ask[s] us to accept the proposition that … we are not fundamentally different from other organisms in either our origins or our place in the natural world.” (Invitation to Biology fifth edition Curtis and Barnes p 11).

I found this statement of faith in the Utah Biology textbook that was used by my son and my oldest daughter in their high school AP biology class. In fact, the first 11 pages were a big setup between the “science of evolution” and traditional religious belief.

As it turns out, it is not uncommon to find this type of statement in Utah’s biology textbooks. True, the above is one of the more blatant statements, however, this type of dogma is in fact found even in the recently proposed update to our current science standards.

Most importantly, this and similar statements which are claimed to be made from “solid science” are actually not supported by the data.

Please join us for a discussion about these issues and learn the evidence to the contrary and why we should reject such dogma passed off as science in our Utah classrooms.

There is only one meeting left in the Capitol series. We encourage all who can to come. We also encourage citizens to contact their legislators, School Board Members, the Governor, and the State Attorney General and request their attendance.

DATE: 10th March 2015 • Time: 12:00pm to 2:00pm • Location: “Capitol Board Room” On the East side of the Capitol Rotunda just below the Supreme Court Chambers
More Information can be found at: ScienceFreedom.org

Thanks,

Vincent Newmeyer

Who should choose school board members? The governor or the people?

Please sign this petition immediately and share this with your friends and neighbors.


Partisan Elections Petition

Utah citizens only

In support of partisan elections

We, the undersigned, support SB 104, Education Elections and Reporting Amendments, which uses partisan elections to vet candidates and allow locally elected delegates to narrow the voting field of candidates who appear on the ballot. Partisan elections are used with great success in all other major elections in Utah and it makes perfect sense to allow the same process to function in large scale elections for school board members. The Salt Lake Tribune editorial of 10-30-2014 stated that there is no reason to come up with a new method of electing school board members. They stated:

"Actually, they don't need to invent a thing. All they have to do use the same system we use to choose other state office holders. The process that is good enough to elect governors, attorneys general and members of the Legislature... People who want to be on the state school board should go through the same process as people who want to serve in the Legislature... It's good enough for legislators. It should be good enough for school board members."

The current system is broken. It guarantees that a single political party comprised of the UEA, USBA, and other educator organizations, dominate the election of the people on school boards.

Other facts

  • Locally elected delegates vet candidates most effectively
  • Increased transparency by highly effective caucus delegates
  • Lower cost to run for office
  • More people engaged in the issues important to education
  • Board members still represent all the people, just like you represent all your constituents
  • Partisan elections are constitutional
  • Party affiliation just lets you know where their core principles stand
  • State GOP Resolution strongly requested the legislature pass partisan elections
  • Utah County GOP Resolution strongly requested the legislature pass partisan elections
  • Not passing SB 104 would be hypocritical since it is the same system used to elect you

I further request that no bill be passed that involves empowering the governor to appoint board members. The 15 state school board members have control of half of the state's budget. Empowering them to be appointed by the governor instead of through the caucus system that has produced the "best managed state" in the union would be folly and give too much power to one individual.


For further information on why partisan elections are the best system for vetting candidates, please see these resources:

Partisan School Board Election Arguments

Partisan School Board Resolution Debate

Responding to charges against partisan school board elections

The arguments against partisan elections – SB 104 S2

HB 5, “Student Success Act” turns federal strings into chains

You thought No Child Left Behind was bad…  Just wait till the feds “fix” the problem they created in the first place. Here comes the 600 page HB 5, the Student Success Act. What a nightmare. The intro to the bill states:

“To support State and local accountability for public education, protect State and local authority, inform parents of the performance of their children’s schools, and for other purposes.”

After you read the information below, you’re going to need to immediately email and call your state representative and urge him/her to oppose this bill. Here are their contact pages (Utah reps only. Other states go here: https://www.congress.gov/contact-us).

Please do this Monday morning. They will most likely be voting on this in the next couple days.

Rob Bishop – http://robbishop.house.gov/contact/zipauth.htm 202-225-0453

Chris Stewart - http://stewart.house.gov/contact/email-me 202-225-9730

Jason Chaffetz – https://chaffetz.house.gov/contact-me/email-me 202-225-7751

Mia Love – https://love.house.gov/contact/email 202-225-3011

The below information is pulled from Christel Swasey’s blog, though several other sources are available online. (Anita Hoge’s first exposing of this, Anita Hoge’s large summary on NewsWithViews, Wendy Hart’s blog)

Here are highlights with pages, sections and direct quotes:

1.  FEDERAL TAKEOVER OF STATE AUTHORITIES AND RIGHTS

Subpart 4, Section 6561 (page 564 on the pdf) says:

STATES TO RETAIN RIGHTS AND AUTHORITIES THEY DO NOT EXPRESSLY WAIVE” –How will a state “expressly waive” its authorities and rights?  –Answer from the bill: simply by having a state legislature accept federal money.

A state that acts “inconsistently with any requirement that might be imposed by the Secretary as a condition of receiving that assistance” will waive its authority because the legislature of that state would have “expressly approved that [federal] program”.  If a state’s or a parent’s rights conflicted with a requirement, too bad: the federal bill claims authority to enforce obedience from states because the states take the money.

Read: “…nor shall any authority of a State have any obligation to obey… unless the legislature…. approved that program and in so doing, have waived the state’s rights and authorities to act inconsistently with any requirement that might be imposed by the Secretary...”  So states have no obligation to obey unless they approved federally promoted programs (which the states have done in multiple ways).

As Ann Marie Banfield wrote: “What is going on here? The Secretary of Education can’t enforce any requirements under the program that would violate states’ rights UNLESS the state legislature gives its consent to participate in the ESEA, which encompasses around $25 Billion in aid to states.  Essentially, participating in the program to receive funds requires states to waive their states’ rights and those of the parent over their child if they conflict with ANY requirements of the program.”

2.  FEDERAL TAKEOVER OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

On page 567, Section 6564, we read that “…Other than the terms and conditions expressly approved by State law under the terms of this subpart,  control over public education and parental rights to control the education of their children are vested exclusively within the autonomous zone of independent authority reserved to the states and individual Americans by the United States Constitution, other than the Federal Government’s undiminishable obligation to enforce minimum Federal standards of equal protection and due process.”

By tying inalienable parental rights to the receipt of funds and federal “obligations,” the bill just claimed authority to take parental rights away, under conditions it has just defined.

Even in the statement of purpose on page 11, the bill minimizes parents and maximizes itself, by “affording parents substantial and meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children”.

To reduce parents to a recipient of government-granted “opportunities to participate in” the education of a child is de-parenting.  It’s far, far different from Utah’s  legal code, which states in multiple places that: “A student’s parent or guardian is the primary person responsible for the education of the student, and the state is in a secondary and supportive role to the parent or guardian.”

3.  GOVERNMENT CONTROL IN PRIVATE AND RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS  –  NEUTRALIZATION OF RELIGION 

Read pages 78-82.  It mandates that private schools:  “ensure that teachers and families of the children participate, on an equitable basis, in services and activities…  SECULAR, NEUTRAL, NONIDEOLOGICAL.—  Such educational services or other benefits, including materials and equipment, shall be secular, neutral and nonideological.

What’s a private Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Baptist, or any other private religious school to do?  –Alter its beliefs to match mandates for altered materials, equipment and services?

This is the price we pay for “school choice”  and “backpack funding,” folks.  It’s not what they make it out to be.  Where federal money goes, federal chokeholds follow.

The federal government has no right to mandate that private schools must give services  that are secular and non-religious.  (See page 79: it includes in its definition of services: one on one counseling, mentoring, educational television, computer technology and more).

 

4.  GOVERNMENT APPOINTED MONITORS FOR PRIVATE SCHOOLS

An ombudsman, if you haven’t heard the term, is a paid position, a role in which a person investigates and mediates official complaints for a living.  This bill mandates that private schools will be assigned a state-appointed ombudsman to monitor private schools:  “The State educational agency involved shall designate an ombudsman to monitor and enforce the requirements.”

On page 82 the bill states that the LEA (school district) must consult with private school officials and must transmit results of their “agreement” to a state-appointed ombudsman.  On page 86 the federal bill allows a private school to complain to the government:  “private school official shall have the right to file a complaint with the State educational agency that the local educational agency did not engage in consultation that was meaningful and timely”.  These are private schools.  They  never, ever have had any legal mandate to report to, complain to, speak to, or even think about state or federal governments.  These are private schools; private means not public, not under government mandates.

 

5.  FEDERAL TAKEOVER OF PRIVATE SCHOOL FUNDING AND BENEFITS

On page 535, the bill slashes freedom by mandating equity for private and public schools.  “Benefits provided under this section for private school children, teachers, and other educational personnel shall be equitable in comparison to services and other benefits for public school children, teachers, and other educational personnel”.  The government has no right to command a private school to give more benefits, nor to withhold benefits, from private school teachers, staff or children.  The same page states: “Expenditures for educational services and other benefits to eligible private school children, teachers, and other service personnel shall be equal to the expenditures for participating public school children.”  The ombudsman’s job, according to page 80, is to “monitor and enforce” such “equity for private school children”.

SAGE parent reviewer shares concerns

Alean Hunt is a member of the SAGE parent review committee. She is quoted by the USOE as one of the members of this committee that completely supported SAGE. In fact, the USOE uses this statement from her as evidence that none of the parent review committee saw any problems with the SAGE test. She is quoted in this USOE flier as saying, “I didn’t see any real social problems with the test or things that would be controversial. [We] all feel comfortable with the test.”

Of course we know that is inaccurate and that several of the parent review committee members have publicly expressed concerns (link 1, link 2) but that hasn’t stopped the USOE from plowing ahead and using this statement and implying that SAGE is a better mousetrap.

Well, Alean has had a change of heart about the test. This letter from her expresses her concerns.


To whom it may concern:

For the last two years I have served on the SAGE parent review panel.  I have been an outspoken, but concerned proponent of this assessment.  I do support higher standards for our students.  What I cannot and will not support are the following:

1:  High Stakes, End of Level testing being given to students in Feb, like is happening this year. The teachers and scores will be graded on this score, but the year isn’t over.

There are still three months left!

When I called the USOE last Thursday and asked what scores this years end of level writing test would be compared to, this was their response, “We don’t know. We might give the test in February again, or March or maybe October. We haven’t decided yet, it is still up for discussion..”

Okay, so you may or may not compare this years 1/2 taught end of level high stakes test to last years end of level test or to next years end of level test that could be given at 3 very different times on the instructional calendar??? Yes, thanks for clearing that up!

2:  IEP Accommodations are guaranteed by law! The USOE removes some of them during the testing of the SAGE for these students with special needs. And really why shouldn’t they? Just dealing with a disorder that qualifies you for an IEP such as autism, ADHD/ADD, anxiety, dyslexia, Aspergers, and processing disorders just to name a few are not difficult enough to navigate  every single day! Why on earth would people in charge of doing what is best for the student actually want to do just that and ensure their rights as protected by law?!

IEP’s are followed as written by the experts of those children! The psychologist, the principal, the Special Ed teacher, the Speech teacher, the other team leaders such as occupational therapists and of course, the parents.

Everyone who has ever been involved with an IEP knows we meet frequently to evaluate these accommodations and compare and contrast student performance with them and tweak as necessary to give them the best chance at success they have, what USOE is doing to this process is in direct conflict with this.

3:  I have had several opportunities to have face to face meetings with Glenna Gallow and others from USOE regarding the above mentioned items as well as the following two which are also related to special needs students. Every encounter I have had has left me with a sour taste in my mouth and the distinct feeling that these students do not matter.

First, SAGE scores will immediately appear on the screen at the end of the test with the exception of writing.  Eventually writing will be this way too.

I take issue with this because of privacy, students will look at the computer screens of others. Students will pressure others to tell them their score. Students will feel pressured to tell their score even if they don’t want to. What if a student does poorly, but he did his absolute best work? He sees his poor score and knows he has to do this again for 3 more assessments? How hard will he try?

I have absolutely no problem with administrators & teachers getting the scores immediately and releasing the scores to parents, but I do not see the benefit to the score appearing on the computer screen, visible to students.

When this problem was brought up numerous times to USOE I was told I was the only one who considered it a problem.  When my administrator/principal also expressed her frustration with it,(especially with regards to kids with special needs)she was told by a USOE staff member, “Those students are just going to have to get used to it.”

Second:  SAGE is a computer adaptive test.  This means that if a student answers a question correctly then the next question gets more difficult and vice versa also applies.  However, if the student is taking 4th grade math because of a learning disability, but is in the 5th grade that child will be tested on 5th grade math. The test will not adapt below grade level.  So this high stakes test that will impact school grading, future funding, & potentially merit pay for teachers is testing students on content they have not been taught because they are below grade level.

There is a federal statute that states we have to test kids at grade level, but it was before we had CAT testing and had the ability to actually test these special education students at their actual level.  I believe this could be fixed under our waiver but again, I cannot seem to get anyone at USOE to care to take action towards reforming this very broken system..

4: SAGE was supposed to have enough writing in it that it was figuratively going to replace the

DWA, not LITERALLY!

Alean Hunt

The arguments against partisan elections – SB 104 S2

SB 104 is the education elections and reporting amendments bill, also known as the “partisan elections” bill. Today the senate voted 21-7-1 on it’s second reading to pass it. I believe it’ll still have a third reading and another vote but those votes shouldn’t change significantly. It has been amended so that local districts only do partisan elections if the student population in the district exceeds 20,000.

In short, this is the only way to have school board elections be fair and transparent to the voting public. Otherwise we have the 1-party education establishment campaigning for their choice of candidate and telling everyone how it’s unfair that they have competition to who they deem the best candidate.

Today, the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) sent out an email to all school board members, superintendents, business officials and education leaders around the state giving them their talking points to oppose this bill. Here is their email with my comments in-between segments.

This bill will either create the need to make a Constitutional change or will create a lawsuit as Article X, Section 8 of the Utah Constitution indicates that “No religious or partisan test or qualification shall be required as a condition of employment, admission, or attendance in the state’s education systems.”  This is read to include both state and local school board members.  It appears clear that Utah’s founding leaders intended NOT to have partisan politics influence their public education system.

The public in Utah is not likely to make a Constitutional change related to partisan politics in public education oversight and governance.

This item is ridiculous. This is merely saying we can’t put a litmus test on a particular office such as “only Mormons or members of the Democratic Party can hold that position.” It’s why the Framers put similar language into the U.S. Constitution, which reads: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”  Partisan elections ARE LEGAL and used in a majority of political races in Utah in order to closely vet candidates for office.

Local school board candidates are well known by their constituents, both in rural and in urban Utah.  Local school board candidates often walk door to door to talk with each constituent.  They do not need further vetting by a narrow group of party delegates.

Well known? A school board member runs every 4 years by putting up yard signs and walking the streets asking people to vote for him/her. Sometimes they pass out a flier with their talking points. Attendance at school board meetings is pathetic. Nobody is watching candidates and an extremely small number know anything about the candidates, even just their name! Vetting by a representative sample of every neighborhood in an area is both logical and logistical. When a neighborhood gets together at a caucus meeting and elects people to speak with candidates, they are picking people JUST LIKE THEMSELVES to go ask questions that get beyond the sound bites candidates deliver on fliers and their websites. This is grass roots involvement at its best.

Can you imagine a parent who wants non-partisan elections for school board members, actually spending even 15 minutes with each of 6 school board candidates to try and contact and vet each of them and make an intelligent vote in a primary race to reduce the field? It isn’t going to happen among the masses.

The bill creates a vacuum for many patrons of the district who may not be affiliated with a party.  School board members will largely be held accountable to their delegates that elected them, leaving parents and taxpayers from other views to feel as if on the fringes.  This is less representation, not more.  School board members should be accountable to all members of the taxpaying public and all parents.

Depending on where one lives, there may be a majority of people from one political party. Other areas will flip that or be more balanced. Every party should run candidates that stand for their principles and the members of those parties should vet the candidates to see who has the best ideas so they put their very best candidate forward.

Party delegates are not viewed by the majority of Utahns as representative of their views on many matters, as has been shown most recently by the Count My Vote initiative.

The Buy My Vote initiative is hardly representative of an informed populace.

Delegates may or may not know much about their public schools.  Volunteers and other school community leaders are often in public schools and are much more helpful in vetting candidates for local school board races.  This undoubtedly holds true for state board candidates as well.

Dear USBA, delegates are our neighbors. They have families. They have children in school. They volunteer in schools. They are not from Mars or Venus. When someone is elected as a delegate, it’s a neighbor who we trust to make good decisions after weighing ALL the facts obtained from candidates and their opponents. This holds true for both local and state delegates.

Direct, nonpartisan school board races for local and state races, is already constitutional and restores the voice of the people to this electoral process.

NEWS FLASH: PARTISAN RACE ARE CONSTITUTIONAL. They actually get used quite often in Utah and it’s a big part of what made this the “best run state” in the nation. Non-partisan races never have, and never will “restore the voice of the people.” They are the races that special interests dominate because there is nobody to vet the candidates so their money goes to the “beauty contest” where whoever has the most advertising and “it’s for the children” sound bites wins with the help of the single-party education establishment. Through their channels, they get the word out through the school system as to who to vote for. Non-partisan races only work in small areas. Certainly not in areas where a candidate might not even live in your city.

For those who have further questions or concerns about partisan races, I invite you to read these pages:

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/partisan-school-board-election-arguments/

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/responding-to-charges-against-partisan-school-board-elections/

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/partisan-school-board-resolution-debate/

Action Item: Email your senator and representative and ask them to vote FOR SB 104, education elections and reporting amendments. Get their email addresses from:

http://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp

Cutting the federal ties: Step 1

Reposting Wendell Ashby’s post from Facebook.

ACTION ITEM UPDATE: Contact the Executive Appropriations Committee, your Legislators, Superintendents, and School Board members today to support a one-time non-educational allocation, $30 million, to allow for the cutting of Federal ties in Utah’s education.

Members of the State School Board are asking the Legislature for one-time set aside funds, $30 million. This allows the Board to say to the Federal Department of Education, Utah does not need an ESEA Flexibility Waiver and has the money to control our Title 1, tutoring, etc. funds. This restores Utah autonomy for our standards (Do we want Common Core?), teacher and school evaluations, data privacy for students, etc… Please ask the Legislature to support this measure today. Contact the Executive Appropriations Committee, listed below, your Superintendent, and State and School Board representatives, asking them to support these one-time funds, and cut the Federal ties. The Appropriations Committee meets Tuesday the 17th & Wednesday the 18th, to determine priority of expenditures.

Here is why:
In order to get out of some of the onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind, Utah accepted an ESEA Flexibility Waiver. The Waiver required (and the previous Race To The Top grant application incentivized) adoption of Common Core State Standards and Assessments, State Longitudinal Data System, & Teacher and School Accountability measures.

These requirements significantly limit Utah’s autonomy over education, but provide flexibility in program specific funding. A new application for a three-year ESEA Flexibility Waiver is due in March to the US Department of Education. If Utah renews the waiver we are tied to the above provisions for the next three years!

If we do not renew the waiver we would have more autonomy over our standards, data collection practices, school and teacher evaluations. The concern has been without the Waiver we would face a required sudden reallocation of funds. (We would not lose Federal funding, just some directive over how portions are to be used.) Therefore members of the State School Board are asking the State Legislature to provide funds in the amount of $30 million, one-time non-educational funds, in order to be prepared and offset these requirements.

This Tuesday and Wednesday the State Executive Appropriations Committee will meet in the Legislature to determine the expenditures for this year. These $30 million non-educational funds must be added to the appropriations. These funds give assurance of Utah’s budgetary preparation to members of the State Board of Education to not renew the waiver.

Please contact today the Executive Appropriations Committee members listed below. Let’s cut some Federal ties, and get one hand out from behind our back!

lhillyard@le.utah.gov ; dsanpei@le.utah.gov; jwstevenson@le.utah.gov; bdee@le.utah.gov; jsadams@le.utah.gov; jdabakis@le.utah.gov; gdavis@le.utah.gov; lescamilla@le.utah.gov; pknudson@le.utah.gov; kmayne@le.utah.gov; wniederhauser@le.utah.gov; rokerlund@le.utah.gov; parent@le.utah.gov; jbriscoe@le.utah.gov; rchouck@le.utah.gov; jdunnigan@le.utah.gov; fgibson@le.utah.gov; greghughes@le.utah.gov; briansking@le.utah.gov; bradwilson@le.utah.gov;

Find your other elected officials here: http://vote.utah.gov/vote/menu/index

Sen. Lyle W. Hillyard (R), Senate Chair
Rep. Dean Sanpei (R), House Chair
Sen. Jerry W. Stevenson (R), Senate Vice Chair
Rep. Brad L. Dee (R), House Vice Chair
Sen. J. Stuart Adams (R)
Sen. Jim Dabakis (D)
Sen. Gene Davis (D)
Sen. Luz Escamilla (D)
Sen. Peter C. Knudson (R)
Sen. Karen Mayne (D)
Sen. Wayne L. Niederhauser (R)
Sen. Ralph Okerlund (R)
Rep. Patrice M. Arent (D)
Rep. Joel K. Briscoe (D)
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck (D)
Rep. James A. Dunnigan (R)
Rep. Francis D. Gibson (R)
Rep. Gregory H. Hughes (R)
Rep. Brian S. King (D)
Rep. Brad R. Wilson (R)
Greta G. Rodebush, Administrative Assistant
Steven M. Allred, Deputy Director
Jonathan Ball, Director

SB 204 – Parent Rights Update – Stronger Opt Out Rights

Senator Aaron Osmond has listened to a lot of parents this past year and the sometimes horrible situations schools have put their children in forcing them to take tests they were opted out of, lying to children and telling them it was the law and they had to take it, etc… With the recent USOE memo trying to tell parents what they could or couldn’t opt their children out of, this bill is a major relief to parents. Here’s the changes being made. You can find the full text here:

http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/SB0204.html

Words that have a line through them are being removed and if it’s underlined it’s being added.

  (f) providing that scores on the tests and assessments required under Subsection (2)(a)
89     and Subsection (3) [shall] may not be considered in determining:
90          (i) a student’s academic grade for the appropriate course [and]; or
91          (ii) whether a student [shall] may advance to the next grade level.

53A-15-1401. Definitions.
132          As used in this part:
133          (1) “Individualized Education Plan” or “IEP” means a written statement, for a student
134     with a disability, that is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with the Individuals
135     with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1400 et seq.

160          (2) An LEA shall reasonably accommodate a parent’s or guardian’s written request to
161     retain a student in kindergarten through grade 8 on grade level based on the student’s academic
162     ability or the student’s social, emotional, or physical maturity.
163          (3) An LEA shall reasonably accommodate a parent’s or guardian’s initial selection of a
164     teacher or request for a change of teacher.
165          (4) An LEA shall reasonably accommodate the request of a student’s parent or guardian
166     to visit and observe any class the student attends.
167          [(5) (a) An LEA shall reasonably accommodate a written request of a student’s parent
168     or guardian to excuse the student from attendance for a family event or visit to a health care
169     provider, without obtaining a note from the provider.]
170          [(b) An excused absence provided under Subsection (5)(a) does not diminish
171     expectations for the student’s academic performance.]
172          (5) Notwithstanding Chapter 11, Part 1, Compulsory Education Requirements, an LEA
173     shall record an excused absence for a scheduled family event or a scheduled proactive visit to a
174     health care provider if:
175          (a) the parent or guardian submits a written statement at least one school day before the
176     scheduled absence; and
177          (b) the student agrees to make up course work for school days missed for the scheduled
178     absence in accordance with LEA policy.

192          (9) (a) Upon [the] receipt of a written [request] statement of a student’s parent or
193     guardian, an LEA shall excuse the student from taking [a test that is administered statewide or
194     the National Assessment of Educational Progress.]:
195          (i) any summative, interim, or formative test that is not locally developed; or
196          (ii) any test that is federally mandated or mandated by the state under this title.
197          (b) An LEA may not:
198          (i) require a meeting as a condition of excusing a student from taking a test described
199     in Subsection (9)(a); or
200          (ii) specify the form of a written statement under Subsection (9)(a).
201          (c) A written statement to an LEA to excuse a student from taking a test under
202     Subsection (9)(a) remains in effect across multiple school years until:
203          (i) further notice from the student’s parent or guardian; or
204          (ii) the student is no longer enrolled at the LEA.
205          (d) An LEA may not reward a student for taking a test described in Subsection (9)(a).

217          (11) An LEA shall reasonably accommodate a parent’s or guardian’s request to include
218     in an Individualized Education Plan elements that the parent or guardian believes are in the best
219     interest of the child.

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