***Note: this bill has been substituted, this analysis may no longer be valid***
Senator Aaron Osmond (Republican – South Jordan) has frequently been the source of discussion this year in our flagged bill series. But that shouldn’t be a surprise, after the Senator’s announcement last year that he intended to eliminate mandatory education laws before walking that back this year to saying he intends to fundamentally reform education in the state of Utah.
Utah Political Capitol has already analyzed Osmond’s plans to remove standards and requirements for home and privately schooled children, with SB 122 – Parental Rights and Accountability in Public Education, Osmond is proposing another one of his reform initiatives: an “parental bill of rights” for education.
Osmond has stated in multiple interviews that he feels parents should be the primarily decision maker when it comes to a child’s education, with the state being a supporting actor—a concept the bill specifically outlines, expanding and codifying the rights parents have informally had in our current education system. For example, SB 122 specifies that parents should have greater control over teacher selection, be allowed to hold their children back if they feel their children are not ready to advance to the next grade, or graduate early by testing out of classes if the student is able to prove that they have a firm understanding of the material. Furthermore, school districts and teachers would have to be more flexible if a parent wishes to attend parent teacher conferences at different times or evenings. The bill would also allow parents to attend and audit classes, within reason, and make it easier for parents to pull students from class if family vacations or emergencies pop up.
But the bill does not completely take control away from school, in fact quite the opposite. The bill compels parents to be more involved in their child’s education, especially if that child is starting to slip. SB 122 would mandate that if a student is performing below grade level, that child’s parents must attend parent-teacher conferences, or meet with the the teacher at a scheduled time to discuss how to improve the child’s skills. Also, SB 122 requires that parents support and respect teachers when classroom discipline is necessary (presumably both in an academic and behavioral sense).
This bill would change the balance of power somewhat when it comes to education decisions, and that will no doubt cause heartburn during the legislative session. It is unclear if this shift in power will ultimately help or hurt students in the long run—though we must presume that while most parents have their child’s best interests in mind when making educational decisions, those same parents are not necessarily experts when it comes to childhood education. The failsafe that parents of an underperforming student must attend regular meetings and respect disciplinary decisions is an important one and recuses this potential policy decision from setting up students for failure.
To contact Senator Osmond, click here or call 801-253-6853.
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Need for Legislation:
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Sound Legislation 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Clunker