Throughout my years of service in the Utah Legislature, I have consistently fought back against federal encroachment in our education system, on our lands and in our healthcare.
I have, and always will, oppose any federally created standard or curriculum being thrust upon our children in any manner, especially in the classroom. I would not stand for the federal government circumventing the authority constitutionally vested in our duly elected local and state school boards.
I have listened to frustrated parents and teachers express concerns over the implementation of Utah’s core and lack of adequate instructional materials to teach students effectively. I have experienced frustrations within my own family, and I acknowledge that problems exist.
I have very much appreciated the opportunity to speak with many of my constituents in order for me to better understand exactly what those problems are and what is the best route for solving them.
Utah has locally elected officials who represent us and to whom we can look to ensure that our interests are being protected. Elected officials act within the narrow purview granted by our state constitution.
The legislature appropriates funds for public education. We provide the resources and have the responsibility to see that those dollars are being spent wisely.
Utah Constitution Article X, Section 3 states: “The general control and supervision of the public education system shall be vested in a State Board of Education.”
The Utah State Board of Education is a firewall which protects our students from the overreach of the federal government. They, and they alone, set the standards to which our educators teach. They can choose to adopt the same standards of other states, or not.
The members of the State Board are solely responsible for determining those standards for Utah schoolchildren, and they are answerable to their constituents.
Our elected local school boards provide the next level of protection against federal intrusion into our children’s classrooms. They represent the individual school districts and are charged with selecting curriculum and instructional materials to meet the academic standards vetted and adopted by the State Board of Education.
No outside entity has imposed any curriculum upon our state, nor would it be constitutionally permitted. That does not mean, however, that our State School Board hasn’t chosen to adopt the standards put together by 47 United States Governors, in order to allow for more consistency from state to state.
We are free, as a state, to change any of the standards which our State Board determines aren’t working for Utah children. Local school boards can independently choose to adopt any curriculum they think would best enable students to meet whatever those new standards might be.
In the 2012 general legislative session, I voted for S.B. 287 which states, “The state may exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum standards to any other entity, including a federal agency or consortium, for any reason . . .”
If anyone tells you that with one vote from the legislature they can influence the academic standards of this state or its curriculum, without regard to the state constitution or the authority of other elected officials, then they either do not understand the process or are simply looking to win approval from understandably frustrated parents and teachers by giving easy, but false, solutions.
Indiana tried that approach. In reaction to the outcry from the public over concerns regarding federal overreach, the legislature banned Common Core. As in Utah, in Indiana the legislature has no power to change standards or curriculum. This attempt to pacify the public simply made statutory changes in language without any substance, as the power to change the actual standards and instructional material lies within the bodies granted that power. In the state of Utah, that is the State Board of Education and local school boards.
There are additional things that the legislature can do to protect students and parents and ensure that the power over education remains with our elected school board members. I have diligently fought for transparency in this process, even before many of these concerns were brought to my attention by my constituents.
The adaptive testing bill that I sponsored and that the legislature passed in 2012, provided for a 15 parent committee to review all questions within the tests, to weed out any that these parents felt weren’t appropriate for Utah students.
I have continued this careful approach in the most recent legislative session as the House sponsor of S.B. 257. Though the governor vetoed this bill, I will continue to fight for increased transparency. It would have expanded the duties of the parent review committee to include the review of complaints related to curriculum or instructional materials. The State Board of Education would then have been required to publish a report about those complaints on their website.
Currently, no federal funds are tied to Utah’s standards or curriculum. The Race to the Top dollars granted to states included the requirement of compliance with Common Core standards, as well as did away with limits on charter school enrollment, something most conservatives support.