Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Boxcar filled on Feb. 23rd, Senator Mark Madsen channels Patrick Byrne, sponsors 65% rule

To quote Joe Pyrah, "Boxcars are bills that are empty even though the lawmaker knows damn well what's going into it." His list missed SB 241, with the innocuous title, Instructional Expenses Requirements.

The text magically appeared yesterday, and to those who follow Mark Madsen's education voting and bill sponsoring record, it is no surprise that the bill contains a made-up standard from a corporate flunky. And in this case, it is a pet idea of our beloved sort-of-related-to-Utah flunky, Patrick Byrne. (Though apparently the idea was actually sold to Byrne by some guy named Tim Mooney.)

The 65% (non-)solution proposes that 65% of school expenditures be spent on "classroom expenses" to alleviate supposed administrative inefficiencies. The rub is what expenses are included in classroom money and which are excluded. Sports and coaches' salaries are arbitrarily OK under the 65% rules, but libraries, counselors, and ohter important people at the school are seen as "non-classroom costs." See NY Times and eSchool News.

We already know that Mark Madsen readily quotes false numbers from out-of-state business organizations when it suits him, and Utah districts' administrative costs are in the top 1% nationally. This 65% solution-looking-for-a-problem is just an ultra-conservative sneaky way of handcuffing school districts' ability to provide transportation, counseling, and other services through mandates to meet an admittedly arbitrary number that does not magically fix anything. Mooney and Byrne just made up definitions of what constitutes a classroom cost and picked a number just above the average in order to punish school districts.

Let's not let Patrick Byrne drive our educational policy anymore. Reject Senator Madsen's SB 241.

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