Purpose Statement

Ad mo ne o - Latin, verb. To admonish, advise, urge.

Here you'll find a review of what's happening in Utah government - state, counties, school boards, & cities, with a focus on education - as well as what Utah's U.S. Congressmen and Senators are doing. You'll get my take on it, find links to other sources of information, and find suggestions and contact info so you can DO something. Being involved in local government is key to maintaining freedom. Find something you can do and, no matter how small, DO IT! As British philosopher Edmund Burke said, "No man made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mostly-Good Bill - SB 131 - Needs an Important Change

A mostly-good bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee last Friday, with a small line that could create big problems. If passed, the bill could push some schools to start focusing on "absenteeism." This is concerning, and the bill should be amended to fix this problem. (For a brief discussion of the problems with a focus on "absenteeism" rather than "truancy," read my blog post written last year in response to a legislative attempt to codify this focus in Utah.)

SB 131 is a bill that makes some clarifying changes to the Student Leadership Grant, a great program established last year that encourages schools to help their students set goals and develop other leadership skills. This year's bill creates a definition for what is meant in the law by "academic achievement." There's much to like about this program and this bill, but tying the grant to improved attendance numbers as an academic measure is an approach that is rife with problems.

If a school is under pressure to improve its attendance numbers in order to maintain a grant that is having a decidedly positive effect on its students, that pressure will necessarily be passed on to the families at the school, even when students' absences don't have any effect on a student's academic achievement. Such pressure can strain relationships between school staff and parents, which is never beneficial for students.

If individual schools feel improved attendance would be an important element in improving the environment at their school, they should be free to focus on it. But the penalty of state law threatening the revocation of grant money should not be used to apply a mandate to schools participating in this great program.

Line 82 in SB 131 should be changed to "truancy," or deleted, to make this mostly-good bill a very good bill.

Update: The sponsor of SB 131, Aaron Osmond, has said he will introduce an amendment to this bill to change the word "attendance" to "truancy," which will resolve the problem. Please contact your state senator and ask them to support the amendment to change Line 82 from "attendance" to "truancy," and the amended bill.

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