Tuesday, March 13, 2012

PCE wants pro voucher State School Board candidates by Thursday for flawed elections, and UEA "monopolizes" the caucus??

Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) appealed to supporters today to file and run for the State School Board. They realize informed advocates of public education on the board often intelligently oppose PCE initiatives to weaken public education and want a majority of sympathetic votes.

The Parents for Choice in Education PAC operates on extremely large out-of-state donations from anti-public ed. organizations and individuals. They literally have no grassroots financial support in Utah. They reported over $209,000 dollars sitting in their PAC account on their August 2011 report, which is the most recent posted at the Lt. Governor's website. This money came from large donations in the election years of 2010 and 2008. (The state switched systems in 2008, and the reports showing the millions of out-of-state money received during the voucher fight in 2007 and the systematic support of pro-voucher candidates in 2004 and 2006 do not show up. I know there's some way to link to the old system. I would be grateful if anyone could post a link in the comments.)

The PCE PAC received $179,000 in 2010. $4000 was from the Conservative Caucus of Utah politicians; the other $175,000 came from two national anti-public education organzations: All Children Matter, founded by the DeVos and Walton families, and The American Federation for Children, a new group (with the same founding board as the National Alliance for school Choice) founded by the same people apparently to avoid the bad publicity from All Children Matter being fined $5.2 million for hidden illegal campaign contributions in Ohio. (It looks like PCE was one of the final recipients of All Children Matter funds before it became defunct) The AFC is apparently also closely affiliated with ALEC and its proscriptive model bills to weaken public education. In 2008, the PAC received just over $342,000. $175,000 came from All Children Matter; $164,000 came from Patrick Bryne, the Overstock.com CEO who contributed millions in 2007 to the voucher campaign and continues as one of the only 3 sponsors of Howard Stephenson's Red Meat Radio program; the other $3424 was donated by the Board Members of PCE.

PCE has poured tens of thousands into State School Board elections before, and appears to be ready to enter the fray this year again. They are looking for candidates in all districts having an election this year: 1, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 15. Here is part of PCE's plea:
Dear School Choice Supporter,

If we want to empower parents with quality school choice options, both public and private, we absolutely must recruit like-minded candidates for the State Board of Education. The innovation and reform necessary to improve our public school system will require a majority of supportive board members - something we currently do not have. This upcoming election provides us with a rare opportunity to change this!

We urge you to please consider becoming a candidate for fthe Utah State Board of Education. If, we ask you to help us recruit good candidates to run for the 9 spots up for election this year.

We need committed individuals to serve who understand how critical it is that we find solutions for an outdated public school system that will better meet the diverse learning needs of our students. 21st century innovation has the power to transform our one-size-fits-all system. The State Board of Education and the legislature have the most direct influence on our state's K-12 education. We can't expect change unless we are willing to get involved!
The whole process for State School Board elections is literally run by special interests, as a committee of industry lobbyists and then the governor get to select which candidates the public gets to vote on in this non-partisan election. This is detailed here, here (with more links to the 2008 vote), and here. (Gov. Herbert has expressed his desire for an open election, but the latest in many attempts to un-rig the elections, HB 331, appears to have had a weird provision for the primary date, increasing costs, and was killed by the House Education Committee without a hearing)

In 2008, there were shenanigans in my State School Board district 13, where the election winner resigned the day the election was certified because he suddenly "discovered" that he didn't live in the district, ensuring that the BYU Education professor who would have otherwise been eligible to contest the seat had no opportunity. The erstwhile winner, C. Mark Openshaw refused to answer opinion surveys and emails while campaigning, literally putting up no signs and making no campaign appearances. His family's blog said he didn't even want to win!

It appears Mr. Openshaw is running again from the state candidate website (Scroll to the bottom), and unopposed, though his paperwork is not linked like the others as of this moment. What kind of school board member was he the last 4 years? I have no idea. Maybe I would actually love his representation on the board, but I have no easy way of knowing. I saw his name mentioned one time in the paper with a lukewarm comment about the upcoming school grading system. The State School Board needs to get some sort of public vote display up on their website showing official votes of each individual on proposals. That would be positive all around and give voters better information on which to base their votes.

Two of the districts, 10 and 12, have no candidates filed today, two days before the deadline. The positive thing is that if only two candidates file for a district race, they get to completely avoid the flawed lobbyist selection board and governor narrowing. The scary thought is that some of these candidates might run unopposed. Who will sign up for an automatic State School Board seat on Thursday afternoon? We'll see how it shakes out.

PCE also encouraged supporters to run for delegates at the caucus with this comment:
The teacher's union works hard to monopolize the caucus system, ensuring their powerful stronghold and dominance over our taxpayer-funded, public school system. YOU can make sure this doesn't happen! Get involved in the legislative process and become a Delegate.
After years of barely fighting off destructive voucher proposals and other bad policy, I only wish public education supporters had more "dominance" PCE. I only wish. If more teachers would run and become delegates, maybe we could get support for more legislators in Utah Valley who value public education like the silent majority does. Our "taxpayer-funded, public school system" needs to continue to serve the public, not the whims of out-of-state multi-millionaires.


Friday, March 9, 2012

The education related items the legislature resolved to study before the 2013 session

SJR 13 is the Master Study bill for the interim. There were 155 items to study before a last minute bunch of at least 19 additions. They are all under line 431 with letters in the current draft of the bill to explain how it will look when I list some below.

There is not even a miniscule iota of a chance that all of these items will get looked at by the legislature and their staff during the entire next year, let alone in the 8 or 9 interim meetings the legislators will have.

I am going to list below the study items that have to do with education. Who decided which ones will they actually study? I'm betting Stephenson's priorities won't be skimped on, such as items 25, 30, 32, 34, and 431w.

The elections will be over, and it will be the year to push more strident anti-public ed. stuff in the off year. He's already stated his intention of pushing in 2013 Sen, Reid's destructive constitutional amendment to eliminate the State Board of Education, replacing them with the Governor and an appointed Secretary of Education. After the best year I can remember for public ed. (thanks to the House stopping some bad Senate bills), I predict 2013 will be rocky.

Education Related Study Items
23. Academic Achievement Gaps - to study high quality preschool impacts on academic achievement gaps for at risk students.
24. Alternatives to GED - to study whether to issue high school diplomas to adults and those who do not graduate with the class instead of awarding a GED, to study the relative value between a high school diploma and a GED in the employment marketplace, and to study how to eliminate the GED in Utah and give diplomas instead, to give these students a higher value.
25. Charter School Local Replacement Funding - to study whether school districts should contribute an amount equal to per pupil district property tax revenues for each resident student enrolled in a charter school.
26. Charter School Mission and Online Education - to study whether a charter school student should be denied permission to take an online course through the Statewide Online Education Program because the charter school's mission is inconsistent with the online course.
27. Concurrent Enrollment - to study the current program structure, cost, delivery, and coordination of public education and higher education.
28. Credit for Teacher Professional Development in Technology - to study options for giving credit on the pay scale for teacher professional development in technology unrelated to college credit.
29. Education Interim Committee Reports - to study whether one or more reports required to be submitted to the Education Interim Committee should be discontinued.
30. Enhanced School Calendar Incentives - to study how to encourage school districts and charter schools to utilize their buildings year round to extend calendars, and how to offer teachers a 50% pay raise with no additional costs to taxpayers, with added benefits like paid vacations, holidays, and class room aids.
31. Financial Literacy - to study ways to promote financial literacy.
32. K-3 Class Size Reduction - to study caps on K-3 class sizes and class size reduction line item accountability (S.B. 31).
33. Necessarily Existent Small Schools - to study the current distribution formula, review cost differentials between small and isolated schools and other schools, and determine the best funding mechanism.
34. Pay for Performance Impact on Student Achievement - to study the impact of teacher pay for performance on student achievement and performance gains.
35. Professional Development Classes - to study the impact of enabling professional development classes or tracks under "lanes compensation" schedules.
36. Public Education Funding - to study and carefully review the formulas currently in use and determine if they are meeting the needs of the current education environment.
37. Public School Funding Criteria - to study how money is distributed to public schools based on prior year enrollment, and whether public schools could receive funding based on current year enrollment instead.
38. Quality Teacher Incentive - to study an incentive program to retain quality teachers in the public schools.
39. School District and Charter School Postemployment Benefits - to study how school districts and charter schools are addressing any continuing liability to provide postemployment benefits to employees (H.B. 460).
40. School Funding - to study long term funding options for public education.
41. Sex Education Through Online Video Components - to study in collaboration with the State Board of Education the delivery of online sex education through video components in lieu of in-class instruction, with each component to be approved by the parents before the student has access to the materials.
42. Specialized Student Counseling - to study ways to provide specialized career college counseling, focusing on admissions and scholarships, for high school students (H.B. 65).
43. Student-based Budgeting - to study whether to require a school district to distribute certain revenues to schools in accordance with a weighted student formula and to require a principal to determine how to use revenues available to the school to meet student needs (H.B. 158).

115. Trust Lands Issues - to study and receive a report on school and institutional trust lands issues from the Children's Land Alliance.
116. Utah Land and School Trust Funds - to study the protection of Utah lands and school trust funds (1st Sub. H.B. 209 and amendment #2).

118. Allocations to Schools - to study school allocations measured by property tax (H.B. 507).
119. Computer Software Exemption - to study whether to provide a sales and use tax exemption for certain computer software.

137. School District and Charter School Postemployment Benefits - to study how school districts and charter schools are addressing any continuing liability to provide postemployment benefits to employees.

431o. Comprehensive overview of the WPU in public education

431w. School funding - study of the statewide equalization of school funding.