After 3 months of careful research and conversation with education leaders and other experts across the state, I am now prepared to share my high-level proposed solutions to modify our current compulsory education law. The goal of these proposals is to:
Reaffirm our societal commitment to educate every child in our state
Preserve and reinforce the parental right to decide how their child will be educated
Increase both parent and student accountability when using the resource of Public Education
While I have discussed the following concepts in detail with education experts and leaders, it is not yet appropriate to indicate their support or resistance to the following proposed ideas until formal bill language is available to review for each bill. I will do that as bill language becomes available.
My proposed legislation will be comprised of three separate but connected concepts that will be presented to the legislature in three separate bills in 2014:
Parental Right to Educational Freedom
Parent Choice & Accountability within Public Education
Local Control of Classroom Time Requirements in Public Education
Bill 1 – Parental Right to Educational Freedom
New Legal Obligation to Choose an Educational Option for each Child
In this bill, I reinforce that the citizens of Utah believe that education is a societal necessity to ensure the preservation of our freedom and to enable future economic prosperity. As such, under this bill all parents/guardians will be required by law to formally choose an educational pathway for each child upon 6 years of age. At that time they must indicate by affidavit to their local district their choice of Home School, Private School, or Public School for their child.
Full Exemption from State Educational Requirements for Home School and Private School Students
To balance the parent’s legal obligation to make this educational choice for their child, those parents who choose Home School or Private School will now be formally exempt from any and all state educational requirements such as classroom time, curriculum standards, testing, or reporting. The formal affidavit of educational choice will be required only when a child enters first grade or when the child moves to a new school district. If a parent/guardian fails to submit an affidavit, current compulsory education law may be appropriately used by the local district to require the parent to make that one-time, affirmative educational choice.
Bill 2 – Parent/Student Choice & Accountability within Public Education
New Public Education Participation Parent Contract
In this bill, parents/guardians who choose the option of Public Education as the educational choice for their child will now have additional choices, obligations, and accountability when using this public resource paid for by taxpayers. First of all, parents will be required to sign a formal Public Education Participation Contract when they enter Public Education or when they move to a new district. The contract will require the following of each parent/guardian:
Accept/follow the local district attendance policies
Support their child in completion of homework assignments or projects
Attend all scheduled parent-teacher conferences
Respect teachers as professionals by supporting their classroom disciplinary measures
Agree to pay all or part of the cost of remediation or tutoring when remediation is necessary
New Parent Bill of Rights
To support parents in these new responsibilities, the state will enable parents with a Parent Bill of Rights outlining a set of reasonable expectations or accommodations that parents may seek from their local public school. Some examples of these rights of reasonable accommodations are:
The right to hold a child back a grade for maturity reasons
The right to influence the selection of a child’s teacher
The right to authorize excused absences for family needs without a medical doctor authorization
The right to flexible scheduling options for parent-teacher conferences
The right to enable their child to test out of subjects in order to graduate early
Real Parent/Student Accountability Measures in Public Education
Finally, under this bill, parents and students will be held accountable for academic performance and attendance:
Students who fail to meet academic proficiency will be required to attend summer school or use other remediation.
All or part of the cost of such remediation may now be charged to the parent (which costs and decisions will be calculated and managed by local district policy).
Parents who fail to fulfill their obligations under their Public Education Contract and students who fail to follow local attendance policies will be subject to current compulsory education law as the logical and appropriate accountability measure for their choice to use the resource of public education.
Bill 3 – Local Control of Classroom Time Requirements in Public Education
This bill will enable parents and local school districts to more effectively negotiate the appropriate amount of classroom time required to ensure academic success and to balance the need of providing teachers with sufficient preparation and professional development time.
Under this bill the Legislature will repeal current USOE requirements that a child must be in school for 180 days (or 990 hours). Instead, it would allow local school districts to set those classroom hour requirements based on local needs. This change would also include the protection that state funding for that school will not be changed based on the local district’s determination of required classroom time.
I hope that this outline will give parents, educators, administrators and all concerned citizens a clear view of the goals and concepts related to modifying our current Compulsory Education statute in Utah. Over the next few months I will be meeting with all concerned constituents to obtain their feedback to improve and refine these ideas prior to the general session in January.