Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weird Waterford software and Imagine Learning software connection. Who's getting state contracts?

1. I posted extensively a few years ago about when the failed UPSTART bill for free laptops for preschoolers, or "Welfare for Waterford" bill was dishonestly lumped into an omnibus bill of dubious constitutionality.

It passed, and then Waterford Institute received a whole bunch of money after a Request For Proposals was specifically tailored to obtain their sevices. I would love some very solidly documented data on the demographics, locations, and initial Reading Scores of the students receiving these laptops. Then I would like the follow-up scores, and a comparison of the free laptop kids with the other students at their respective schools. Howard Stephenson, the omnibus sponsor, is all about accountability. Is this data available?

2. I posted once last year about how a local software company got a statewide contract (a mysterious statewide contract--I have never been able to track down where, when, and why it was granted) to provide software to help students learn English after making $12,000 in campaign donations to prominent local Republican legislators and the governor.
Is there data available on how many schools used this software for how many students and how much they paid? What about comparable before and after scores? The program looks awesome, but do we know?

3. The Daily Herald printed a glowing profile of Imagine Learning today.
There were a few paragraphs profiling Susan Praetor, the Imagine Learning CEO, and she was a Vice President at Waterford Institute for 11 years. She specifically was the head of the team that developed the Waterford Software being used on the laptops for preschoolers. It's been years, but now she's the CEO who gets a state contract the year after Waterford and after donating $12,000 from her current company to influential politicians.

That is a really weird coincidence.

4. The Beverly Taylor Sorenson arts program was also part of that 2008 omnibus bill, but was one of the about-to-pass bills held hostage for the failed bills. The appropriated money got shaved by 1/3 during the recession, but this specifically designated program survived the hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts. The program seems great, both in terms of effective learning and in enriching school for kids when so much is being sacrificed for literacy and math test scores these days. Beverly Taylor Sorenson seems like a powerful advocate for the arts and an extremely generous philanthropist. I would love for my children to participate in her program integrating arts and other academic subjects. She was also the top political donor in the state in the 2010 election cycle.

The impressive program needs $4 million in new funding for next school year. What do you bet she gets it?

5. Initial conclusion: It doesn't appear bad programs are getting funded because of political contributions.

However, typically, education money from the state is sent to local districts to make spending decisions at the local level according to need. A lot of good programs exist to meet a lot of important needs, and not every company gets the contracts they desire.

It does appear that the key to getting your particular good program singled out for a contract and funded at the state level, before being sent on to districts, is to make significant financial contributions to local politicians and/or hire an influential lobbyist.

What do you think?


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Notes from the Utah Taxpayer's Association's pre-legislative conference

I attended the mostly informative and interesting Utah Taxpayer's Association's pre-legislative conference this morning in the Senate Building. We met in the nice Room 210 with 3 large screens for the various powerpoints we saw. It was less than half full. I counted during the private golf presentations, and there were about 82 people in the room, with a couple coming in and out from the hallway. That is counting 4 people from 2 companies looking to manage or buy government golf courses, 2 ALEC people here for a press conference afterwards, a number of legislators who were presenting bills, charter school people - Chris Bleak who presented, Carolyn Sharette, Steve, Sheldon Killpack who presented - and a bunch of guys in suits. People left after presenting and others entered. The crowd may have topped out at 90 people.

I think there were fewer than 10 "regular" members of the public in attendance counting myself, and the rest were lobbyist/insider types there for work and looking out for their respective interests. For example, the nice gentleman I sat next to ended up being a policy director for the UEA, but I Googled his name right at the end and didn't get a chance to really talk to him. Another indicator of who the meeting was really about was the list of "sponsors" on the back of the agenda who apparently paid for the handouts, the muffins and juice at the door, and probably a room fee. (Meetings of affluent lobbying groups apparently have sponsors.) They were: Billy Casper Golf, a management firm who presented for 15 min. about allowing them to run government golf courses while causing other bills to be pushed off of the agenda, Red Leaf Resources, an oil shale firm who wants favorable laws, 2 companies wanting to manage or buy our state parks: American Land and Leisure and Recreation Resource Management, Questar Gas, and Rio Tinto--both of whom have various tax, regulation, and clean air laws frequently before the legislature. But they of course did this out of the goodness of their hearts, wanting nothing in return; and our legislators would never be influenced by this, even if these companies are in fact paying clients of Senator Stephenson and the Utah Taxpayer's Association. (A law firm specializing in business litigation, and environmental and mining laws, Parsons, Behle, and Latimer, "sponsored" the 2012 Fast Tax pamphlet which is actually a very cool summary of government taxes, fees, and revenue generators in Utah. But they don't want any influence. It is just part of their charitable outreach for politicians with printing needs.)

What citizen could be cynical about conflicts of interest in our state legislature? Conflicts of interest are products of the liberal media, unless we are talking about Barney Frank or Newt Gingrich. But the real point is to never let the Utah Taxpayer's Association's euphemistic name and rhetoric mask the fact that the group is really just a lobbying firm with secret clients that makes a handsome living for its few employees, chief among them longtime State Senator Howard Stephenson. The organization and its aims are not about regular citizens; it exists purely to lobby for laws that financially benefit its secret clients. If Senator Stephenson stepped down from his influential position in the legislature tomorrow, the Association's revenues would immediately plummet.

The notes are long and fairly rushed as it was hard to keep up sometimes. Royce Van Tassell, 2nd-in-command at the Taxpayer's Association under Stephenson, was the emcee of the event. He frequently gave short introductions of the speakers and/or bills. I often wrote the presenter's name, and then wrote VT for Van Tassell, followed by his introductory comment. Hopefully, it's not too confusing. [Comments in brackets are my own thoughts about what I am summarizing.] I indicate questions with a ? followed by the question. Assume answers come from the presenter.

A traffic jam on I-15 made me 10 min. late and I only caught the last bit of Speaker Lockhart's remarks.

My notes:
Sitting by Jay Blain. Googled him right at the end and he is a UEA bigwig. I wish I had known and talked to him a little more.

Lockhart and Waddoups - Some issue will pop up. Maybe national popular vote says Waddoups.

9:19 Dougall – New revenue worst of times b/c of many requests.
1-time money: $128 million 49 gen 79 in education fund
Ongoing revenue: $280 million, 91 general, 188 in ed fund

Immediate needs:
Structural deficit 52 mill
Public ed growth 41 mill
Medicaid 68 , 44 one-time
Other Medicaid 28 M, 18 M 1-time
Legal 14 mill 1-time
Bldg myce 53 mill
1%WPU increase $23 mill
Employee bees 37 mill
Pay down debt 85 1-time

These exceed revenue coming in, both types
Reserve funds, Rainy Day gen 122 mill Ed. 110 Disaster 12
Debt level graph, Stay below line slightly below limit. Excessive debt limits flexibility. What if other downturn? 7 yr cycle? Started May 2008, 3 ½ yrs from next downturn?
Increased revenue volatility. Sales, income, corporate tax volatility increasing. Sales huge increase in swing since 1935. Even bigger in income tax. Showing Powerpoint graphs. Jay Blain points out big down swing in income coincides with Flat Tax implementation in 2007.

Lyle Hillyard on phone – US lost bond rating. Utah has never lost. 2 of 5 criteria are worrisome. 1. How much $ from Fed.? Hill Air Force Base, other firms, like the money, can’t control this area. Can control 2. How close to bond limit? We stayed at 40% historically. Now at 85% for I-15 extra length opportunity. Not stay here, but back down to 40-50% like used to be. Pressure for state bldgs to keep bond limit high. We’re pleased w/ Rainy Day Fund. Volatility might need higher than 6% gen 8% ed fund levels. Gov can make budget rec’s alone, not consensus of leg. Only see Gov final product. People see our deliberations. Go to committee, not leaders. Priority list, hearings, public process. People panic. See tough decisions. Mid Feb brings final rev estimates. Concerned w/ challenges. Uintah Basin rev up says Sen Van Tassell. Done at 9:33

Privatization concerns, 3 items.
Sen. David Hinkins – Audit Gen fund $ reduced rec to State Parks. Reward park financial perf. Business plan updated annually, max revenues, minimize expenditures. Analyze capital investment. Use lower cost staffing, seasonal employees, overlap of support staff eliminate. Reduce law enforcement cost. Reduce #, limited status, sep entity for enforcement at dept level, reduce retirement. Audit recs consider closing high cost w/ low visits, transfer to local. Privatize some, which best? 4 golf courses, 42 state parks, some heritage parks, This is the Place—if cut $800,000 they will give park back to us. So better as is. Benefit to state. Benefit to taxpayers—expect recreation in Utah. Why live here. Not looking to close any, but streamline. American Land and Leisure run Strawberry Res. Concessionaires. Most people don’t know diff. Still good. Not actually turning parks to individuals to make profit, just concessionaires. Can do more efficiently in some cases. Test case at Otter Creek St Park right now w/ concessionaire. They say their bus partnership model working. Privatization premature. Audit made parks more accountable. Now show costs of each park. Responded to requests. Costs are down. Look at all alternatives.

Billy Casper Golf Pres: Douglas White and Mike Cutler, VP’s, Dan Parkinson citizen, and Billy Casper himself. About quality. Industry rounds played way down 10%. 4.6 mill lost golfers. How retain golfers? Price quality service in parks. OP model must stop taking tax subsidies. Myths of privatization: Rates increase state approves, Res lose access, conditions worse, loss of jobs (we seek good people), service suffers. We have lower costs, expertise, buying power of nat org, municipality not manage day-to-day. Muni funds all cap improvements. Profits retained by muni. 3010 yr contract + renewals. Increased rev examples across country. Billy Casper is fav son. He comes in to clinch the deal. “I’ve never been in front of such wonderful people dedicated to the service of your fellow man. Hope you can keep up with it. Great to be with you.”
Ques from man—If eliminate Daylight Savings Time, how affect rounds? We can be creative. Manage capacity, peak and low times. [No answer, just we’ll manage.]
? Which type of 3 options do you prefer with muni? I like lease. Give up control, but pay capital. But man agreement, you retain profits. Make most sense here. Of 70 muni course, nearly 50% are leases. Van Tassel cuts off ?’s. Other providers too. Here:

Mark Whetzel local golf course managed firm: I love Billy. Since 1990, golf demand up 5% while supply up 60%. We don’t pillage, take profits for 1 yr or 2, then leave. We like long term manage deals. Prefer 10 yrs. We have 3 in N Utah, 2 S Utah, 1 in Mesquite. We like to lease to own, take all risk.
?Utah has high% of golfers right?” So fertile ground right? Yes.

[40 42. 82 people counting 4 golf company dudes, Billy, Legislators, presenters. Represent Utah?? How many lobbyists in the room?]

Rep. Ryan Wilcox – DABC restructuring. “Misdirection” powerpoint. Chuckle to self. I was an intern, then in leg. I was not happy to find myself selling alcohol as leg. I am religion against drinking. Force all Utahns into bus. Justifications. But we’re not measuring right things. DUI’s down and justification. Compared to other states we’re not doing that well b/c our low #’s mask problems. Where drunk? Why? Where teens getting? Why? Who’s irresponsible? Need to measure more and base policy on right metrics. 12 leg audits in past 2 yrs of DABC. Bad corruption and management. Big rev stream not reason for agency or justification. Always looking to sell more. Not just prob w/ last few directors—culture spans 30 yrs. Plan: Not relinquish control, but not a wholesaler or retailer. Focus on what actually reduces teen drinking, DUI’s family consequences. Use new measurement standards. We want to take baby steps, trying to talk to all parties. [Golf guy orange sweater leaves.]

VT – Water even hotter topic than alcohol. How to pay and change long term usage and needs.
Sen. John Valentine: Water allocation based on prior beneficial use. But no system on how to pay for that water. True cost of projects, delivery, and resource itself is masked b/c paid for by prop taxes. When I started in House in 1988, I saw that costs were intended to be masked. Jurisdictions say can’t do water projects on rates b/c not predictable, but say predictable enough for operations. Disconnect. Drafting bill now – phase out over 5 yr period prop taxes to water projects. Will increase water rates, but not cost of water b/c of prop tax decrease. [Kills renters??] Rural Utah cannot fund just fro rates, esp. w/ fed gov lands. CUP has big influence. Many details to work out. We should pay for water’s true cost and use, not masked in prop taxes. Low on details.
? How affect proj to dam Bear River planned 30 yrs? Should pay w/ water rates so recog cost. We hide allocation and use as if not scarce. If proj will go, has 5 yr window, then must be financed by rates.
? Across board, all users? I want to. But may have to compromise.
? Why should leg tell communities how to price services? Leg has respon for nat resources of state. City owns water right, but state has vital interest in nat resource. Can’t say air above city is only respon of city.
? How will this extend to water districts which already levy taxes? Not transparency in their budgets? These are Water Conservancy and Special districts. Must have trans period to ensure no bond defaults. [People leave after water discussion]

Chris Bleak – Head of State Charter School Assoc. – Ed is critical to state. We need fantastic ed system. Charters have grown at rapid rate since 10-12 yrs. 81 charters currently, 45,000 now, 50,000 students next yr. Lumped as 5th or 4th biggest district. Students chosing b/c so good. Focusing on disadvantaged students. Carolyn Sharette has 2 schools in SL Valley. For new immigrants. PProvide comp. 7.6% of all students. Facilities are biggest charter problem. Critical to way teach. They pay much higher % rate than normal districts. Districts can use full faith and credit state’s AAA credit rating.3 3.5 4 % Charters paying 7, 7.5, 8% despite state schools. Original charter ideas of renovating existing bldgs is not feasible b/c school bldg codes too strict. $ back to east coast bond firms. 1. Working with State Treasurer, Richard Ellis, Valentine, industry folks, to allow “moral obligation” AA rating which would save $100,000 to $150,000 per year for carters. 2. Only to those w/ strong track record of finan success, fgood management. Need Investment Grade Rating—many in state have now. No charter in country has failed in 20 yrs w/ Investment Grade Rating. Even with 2 economic downturns. 3. Create funding, State Charter Reserve Acct. Pay premium from rates to create insurance if there were a problem to protect state. Currently required to have 1-yr reserve anyway, other protections. Save $150-200 k yr per $10 mill in debt. More than 100 k in transaction fees. More buyers b/c more attractive bonds.
? W/ reg schools, district is responsible entity. Charters, the Assoc. is respon entity? Group that gets charter is governing board. Have open meeting, reporting req.s Non-profit. They bond for their school. ? WPU funding follows all students? [Weird question.] This is a state funded public school. Income $ follow. Charters manage operations off WPU.
?What is context of “moral obligation” that gets ;lower rate? State responsible if default? Some Steve guy with Bleak– County provided rate for 9 charters but not respon. Moral oblige for all students. ? Why bank would give 3% less? Not contractually required for state to back loan. But I believe state would. So better rate b/c of State's "almost" promise.

Sen. Howard Stephenson – Anti-voucher Student Opp Scholarship. Universal vouchers rejected. Unions sent out-of-state $ to say rich kids getting voucher, voters heard advertising and voted down. [Pro-voucher out-of-states sent MORE. Documented. He thinks people are brainwashed if disagree with him.] Somewhat legitimate argument that many best and brightest would leave. When I visit teachers, I ask what is biggest challenge? [When and where?] They almost always say 2-3 most diff students whether behavior - I was one of those - or low scores. I could really focus on other 24 in my room w/o the hard ones. This bill is focused soley on those 3-4 kids. If parents want to add $, they should eb able to. Not many priv schools that accept below grade level, but some. Cath schools want ELL and low performers, We can teach effectively. This will create market for new priv schools. Tax credit allowable if you donate to 501 scholarship orgs, you get 100% tax credit w/ “certain limits.” They will then grant schools w/ req’s for parents to pay part, skin in the game. Takes diff kids out of school system. Why not wait 10 yrs b/c voters rejected school choice? Arizona law was found legal by Supreme Court. OK to give public $ to vouchers, even religious schools. That’s why this bill this year. Myself and sev other legislators. Right time. Give lowest what they need b/c falling between cracks. The name has a ring to it, not a voucher. Already have Carson Smith special needs scholarship. This could be Carson Smith 2.0. Straw poll: Anti-voucher or Carson Smith 2.0. Like 1 person vs. 5 people. Most don’t raise hands. Stephenson laughs at own joke.
1 vote guy ? Union opp? Yes, already. ? School boards USOE support? No. How funded? Would take income tax credits that otherwise would have gone to public school student. System will actually have more money for studs that remain, positive fiscal note. [Billy leaving]

Sen. Margaret Dayton – Thanks to Royce and UTA. What to name Howard’s bill. Call it Student Opp Scholarship, SOS. 6-8 yrs ago opened bill to use ACT as eval for grad preparation. To compare to nation. Seemed like good idea b/c of state $ on state test. State Board sais ACT not allow that and couldn’t afford that. Former state sen. Dave Thomas, current State School Board member, now asked me to run bill to use ACT in place of UBSCT. Has multiple pos effects. 10th graders realize what need to work on or realize they are capable. Bill passed ed. interim committee. Stephenson amended bill to include another test, a military test for students who anticipate post-high school ASVAP? Ed, but not college, free to states. Still State Board rules. Concern is maybe military cuts will cut free tests. But state of Utah will provide readiness testing. Can save money through some sort of applying money toward test costs. [Didn’t understand.] Anticipated will pass quickly.

Sen. Wayne Harper – [Didn’t understand all of this.] Online retailer and phone comp must notify buyer of obligation to pay use tax. Nexus tax says if physical presence in Utah, must pay some taxes here. Like Cabela’s kiosks for online orders. Help people comply with law and make it easier for them to know. Mark Griffin – Internet industry guy – Hard for online companies b/c of diff state rates, agri taxes, school supply exemptions, etc. One state location cost us $350,000 and 2 months of programmer time to meet tax req’s. We oppose state piecemeal proposals b/c of implementation costs. Prob w/ those proposal. Putting another hurdle, info, on web transaction hurts “conversion” of want to sale. If do it on invoice, (other states want to do too) also has cost which may be more than tax collected. We get customer service calls. Cust serv calls from Utah cost us $5. [Really??] Internet not same as cash register. We need fed standard which we are working on. Nexus bill problems – This makes us collect tax to hire service guy in Utah. We stop employing Utah subcontractors to save $. State systems not good.

VT and Rep. Hughes introduce and praise Dr. Nick Trombetta. Hughes – Revolves around turf wars. We spend $3 bill yr. on ed. in Utah including all jurisdictions’ taxes. Adults fight over adult systems. This guy came to reform diff way. He was principal and Wrestling Coach in Midland, Penn, outside Pittsburgh. When steel mill disappeared, killed taxes and school. One school district. No other dist wanted cost of bussing and teaching. Students were shipped to Ohio. Trombetta would send wrestlers running down street to show public they exist. Sent from dist to dist. Midland kids would be sports, valedictorians, parents complain. Tom Ridge allowed charter schools. He is a Democrat. Dist sued over 70% costs paid to charter school. System worked. 40,000 students in 20 states getting online school from Trombetta. 11,000 in Penn on online curric. He came up against great opp b/c of turf, who controls. I want you to meet someone than for any other reason for those kids in that town. I want to see that model expanded in Utah.

Nick Trombetta – I am the son of Italian immigrants who came after WWII. My dad worked at steel mill. He taught me that good ed. is great equalizer, the American ticket to the American promise. Where you live matters in what quality of ed. you receive. We lost $ for ed programs in my town. Neighbors wouldn’t help. We had to buy services from another state. 25 person grant attracted national attention. Many wanted. In 4th yr, Rick Santorum enrolled his kids and enrollment grew to 4,000. We dedicate lives to help kids get ed. whether online or brick and mortar. In New Mexico yesterday, reservation kids online best students in area. I am a proponent of school choice and should receive bipartisan support. When inject free market, parents’ choice, good things happen to public schools too. In Penn 10 yrs ago, under Dem Gov Rendell, charters increased a lot. Opponents said 3 things would happen: 1. Will hurt pub ed and test scores down. 2. Teachers will lose jobs. 3. Dry up cash, take money away. But 3 things happened during Rendell– 1. Test scores went up statewide. 2. More teachers in Penn with less students. (Must look at that.) 3. Record surpluses. [B/C of charters or economy??]

VT – Should we be paying districts for students who left?
Sheldon Killpack – Work w/ Academica West, Charter school management – In Utah, income tax goes to operations of pub schools. Prop tax goes toward facilities. When charters created, WPU was easy. Send to charters. How make up for prop tax issue when students leave? Easiest solution rather than battle of districts taking money to follow child. What otherwise would have followed child, leg made in lieu money. This money comes off top, fund in lieu taxes, unfair to districts w/o lots of charters. Leg decided to take at least 25% of prop taxes for students. Worked. State still over $70 mill for charters. 13 yr phase in Rep. Menlove’s bill. New students’ will get prop taxes from districts into charter pot. Districts will get off top income tax money back. Local prop. $ will follow child. There is flexibility w/ funds from WPU, not from districts, Give districts flex to use prop tax money. Why don’t districts want more? Why not plan diff, fewer bldgs, more for operations. Allows parity of opportunity for districts and charters. HB 313. Money follows child.

Rep. Jim Neilson – Severance tax biggest thing of leg. Const amendment. When we sever nat resources from ground, one-time sev tax. Was put into permanent trust fund. Takes ¾ vote and Gov sig. to spend money. Only for more serious emergencies. More diff to use than Rainy Day funds. Only done once slightly after Olympics—not paid back. Some 2008 const amendment allowed leg to divert $ BEFORE going to trust fund by only majority fund. One-time monies. If we spend sev tax fund today, not there for urgent need tomorrow. New Const. Amendment to fix.

Sen. Wayne Niederhauser – Procurement code. [No idea what this is.] No major changes since 1979 American Bar Assoc. code changes. Will adopt much of modern lang. in 2000 Bar standards. Lots of clean-up. [Didn’t listen well here.] Bad code makes bad media stories. Teeth for intentional violation of procurement code.

Sen. Stuart Adams – Energy incentives.

Sen. Ben McAdams – VT says get districts out of business of helping local developers. Muni’s can charge up to 1% extra state sales tax. 50% to location of sale and 50% to location of population. $100 spent at Gateway. Local option 1%. $1 collected. .50 to SLC and .50 to statewide fund distributed based on population. SLC gets 8% of that other .50. Rough formula, not scientific, realizing population has costs. Fairly reflective of where needs fall. Mostly fair. SLC #2 in nation in daytime pop increase. 180,000 to 350,000 each day. Costs w/ that. 600 S. use 90% by non-res, police, fire, etc. Ran formula that SLC spends $280 on non-residents. [Seems fishy to me] Bro would have to spend $56,000 to make that in retail tax. Retail doesn’t do all. Tax incentives and population coming sometimes cancel out increased retail. Cities chase too much sometimes. Working w/ Rep. Nielson and Hughes, Sen. Stephenson. Add a component along w/ point of purchase and population. Add job wage $ to calculation, so not reject good jobs with costing facilities. Figure out dist. of wages and distribute some sales tax on that. Cities worried, don’t want civil war between cities. Only accept if new revenue on table. There is a federal movement to require online retailers to collect online sales tax. IF that happens, we should change dist. formula. We would see 5-10% increase. Law triggers IF fed. Law passes.

VT Sen Madsen is neighbor of mine. SB 27 film bill got wrapped up this morning.
Madsen – I’ve been working for 3 yrs on film issue. Text at 5:30 this morning that is resolved. I’ve been trying to help largest independent movie studio in world, Raleigh Studios, lots of cities, for 3 yrs. Wanted to come to Utah. Came to state about draconian local land use authority, could use only 1/6 of space. Tried to help over years. People are sovereigns. Delegate little auth to state, which then delegates further to local level. Some say leave “local tyrants.” Leg not accountable for that. I disagree. State has responsibility to ensure no gov in state turns into tyrants. How many movies could have been made in 3 yrs? How many jobs in that time? [Only money matters] If only gov understood, value of time. Gov not understand. [Lots of irony here about leg tyranny??]

Rep. Patrick Painter – HB 41 Simplify Taxes on Personal Property. Will help small business owners. Reduce audits.
? Prevent muni’s from raising other taxes to offset losses from bill? May very slightly affect prop taxes on all businesses and home owners. Makes it easier to do business.

David Crapo – SB 27 Taxpayers Right to Refund Some court ruled that individual had no right to ask for erroneously collected taxes if a vendor charged wrongly, gave to state. State not responsible if state didn’t make mistake. This amends code. State can give back even if vendor makes mistake. Puts burden on state to justify keeping $. Retroactive to help past claims.

VT Casey Anderson is w/ Speaker Lockhart, so not talking. Jonathan Williams and Megan Archer will do Utah Taxpayer’s Assoc. news conference in 15 min at cap bldg.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Stephenson and Utah Taxpayer Association's pre-legislative conference agenda: A voucher by any other name...

Long time, no blog. I'm Twittering now and again for shorter examples of the hammer coming down on Utah Public Education from powerful legislators. @UtahTeacher

Saw the Utah Taxpayers Association's agenda for their pre-legislative conference today. Lots of coded voucher varieties and increase of state control over education. Reduce local district funding and control to give the legislature more power with less opposition.

Some items from the pdf agenda:
10:00 Ed. Savings Accounts = Super "Backpack funding" = vouchers that students could just keep the money if they graduated early, also they virtually eliminate districts as entities and totally gut district programs, busing, Special Ed., ELL, magnet programs, closes schools in poor areas
Further info...
Further spin...
(Talking points = It's for the children vs. greedy teachers/districts, reward high achievers, family controls education, strategically ignore effects of destroying district programs = money directly to kids will solve all problems and provide all needed)

10:05 Anti-voucher Student Opportunity Scholarship = Tuition Tax Credits = vouchers from front end of funding rather than back
10:20 HB 15 Statewide Adaptive Testing = test multiple times per year with low statistical "validity" (tied to performance pay/value-added measures) -- there is good to these as instruments, but rhetoric behind implementation and reality of multiple administrations and use as an objective data comparison = problems
10:25 Charter School Bonding - Charters get permission to use public bonds? Screw districts?
10:30 SB 10 College & Career Readiness Assessments = New UBSCT = ACT?, eventual financial penalties for schools
10:35 Eliminating Funding for Phantom Students (presented by Sheldon Killpack??)-- Their dishonest way of saying local district bonding authority will be eliminated and sales tax increased to provide more $ for charter schools. Local control is only sacred when opposing Obama.
11:05 SB 27 Taxpayers Right to Refund -- No idea, but most likely more income tax taken from schools, right?