Monday, March 3, 2008

Clearing up "potential misconceptions" and one bald-faced lie about the education omnibus bill

Over the last week and a half, every member of the family has taken repeated turns being extremely sick. (I don't know if JM Bell and Jeremy were contagious through the internet or what....) So I haven't posted in nine or ten days and the session ends in two days. Luckily, President Valentine has wrapped up all of the remaining education bills into one omnibus bill that he claims has a little something for everyone.

I often disagree with the Senate Site, but they post a lot of good information and acknowledge criticism fairly well. Earlier tonight, my wife and I listened to the audio of the "Education Press Conference" featuring Senators Valentine, Stephenson, and Dayton. It's a little over 18 minutes long and the Senate Site states that the purpose was "to clear up potential misconceptions about education funding that seemed to be swimming around." Let me give you a quick summary:

We have put a lot of money in public education this year.
We are including a lot of the Republican "reform bills," including the American Board program because of its "track record" (see below), in one, gigantic omnibus bill.
We love merit pay and we are going to "experiment" with lots of merit pay proposals. Of course we're not interfering with Rep. Last's merit pay taskforce.
We're putting it all together into an omnibus bill. Of course this is not a plan to ram through unpopular, right-wing, Senate-Caucus-devised-and-Eagle-Forum-approved legislation sprinkled with token Democrat bills so we can accuse no votes of being "obstructionist." The fact that some of these proposals were already voted down individually just shows how diverse and "experimental" the education omnibus package of fun will be this year.
Senator Dayton briefly speaks for no apparent reason, answers no questions, thanks the governor, and tells us that she hopes Utah will become known as "the feeder state for NASA" through differential pay.
Omnibus is good. Omnibus is good. Omnibus is good.
Individually considering the bills isn't actually as good as throwing them all together. If you don't like it, make an amendment.
Omnibus is good. Omnibus is good. Omnibus is good.

My comments on "potential misconceptions":

At about 1:10 in, President Valentine estimates that funding is up 50% from last year. He's serious too. Take off the 0 and I believe a 5% increase would be closer to the mark. But I will grant him, it's a good increase overall. I understand why it's less than originally proposed.

BLATANT LIE COMING... At about 2:35 and again at about 3:50ish, Senator Valentine specifically praises the American Board program as having been "tried and tested" and having a "track record." Did he even read the original bill? It's like Senators Dayton and Peterson on the IB program all over again. Except a simple web search here would give you the openly acknowledged fact that the "Distinguished Teacher" award from American Board is a less-than-a-year-old "pilot" program. You can become "one of the first teachers in the nation to earn this prestigious certification" and they are so desperate that you do so that they will pay you $1000 dollars to earn their award. I honestly wonder how the legislature grabbed onto this random program from a profit-seeking headhunting company that claims they can turn you into a teacher with "a classroom of your own in less than a year!" all for $850 bucks. My earlier post on the subject reveals the organization is tied to national voucher advocacy groups and testing companies. I've been too lazy to hunt down the campaign contributions, but I can't figure out another way this random program gained traction to be funded with one million taxpayer dollars. Maybe they Googled " corporate teacher award" and threw a dart at the results? Why not put money towards teachers who earn the truly proven and well-known National Board certification? This is the organization whose name American Board is trying to copy and for which Rep. Moss has already written a bill, HB 84.

At about 7:10 into the audio, Senator Stephenson defends the proposals as "research based" right after he and President Valentine talk about how they're all experimental too.

It is hard to hear the reporters, but around 9:45 a reporter asks a long question about why so many bills that have already been voted down in committee or on the floor are included in the omnibus bill. Senator Stephenson assures him around 10:20 that many of these bills were going to be revoted on anyway because they had just been "misunderstood" during their initial defeats. Just like vouchers, right?

At 12:15ish, Senator Stephenson apparently reveals that they are taking out the original "critical shortage" criteria (lines 12, 17, 40-41, 45-49) for the extra $5000 bucks for math and science teachers. So instead of paying teachers extra to teach in Dugway or Juab, which I could support, all math and science teachers will make more money.

And to finish off, President Valentine assures us at about 18:05 that despite the fact that many of these proposals wouldn't pass by themselves, "we can look at the total and say that this is a good plan."

Does any of that sound suspicious to you too? I want to see the text of this omnibus bill immediately. I wonder if it will be available online at all before it is debated or passes...

1 comment:

Natalie said...

Great analysis - You've got it right on.