I have eight children. Six of them are currently school aged, two more will be soon. As a mother I have volunteered in both public and private schools. My children have attended public, charter and private schools over the years. As a family we have tackled the challenges of children with learning disabilities and children who were exceptionally high achievers. My parents and my family are well known in the LDS homeschool and private school arenas here in Utah and across the country. From a very young age I have been involved in curriculum writing, school administration and managing the myriad of choices and issues surrounding education. These experiences, I think, uniquely qualify me as a state legislator to bring my talents and passion to the challenges and opportunities in state-wide education.
School Choice is the Defining Issue of Education in Our Day
In 2007 “school choice” became a highly politicized topic in Utah. Voters here rejected a move by the legislature and then governor Huntsman to create the first statewide, comprehensive voucher system in the country. But, today, the issue of “school choice” is far from over. In fact, as time passes more and more educators, administrators, legislators and policy experts are moving towards the broader acceptance of increased school choice. Because, money for education is always going to be in increasingly high demand, and concerns from parents and Utahns in general – for well educated children – is always going to be a top priority. Thus, new solutions, new opportunities and many hard choices lay ahead pertaining to education in our great state.
Consider, for example, the old debate in Utah that we spend less per pupil than our national neighbors. The flawed logic in equating money with direct results in education performance has been broadly debunked by people on all sides of the equation. In Utah, the “paradox” seems to be that while we have some very serious problems in education that need immediate attention, several experts and leading institutions point out that we are also doing very well in categories like SAT/ACT scores and cost based performance. How are both of these things possible. Well, in Utah, we’ve also made a lot of progress in the area of “school choice” over the year. We’ve had a successful, albeit limited voucher program, since 2005 and in recent years we’ve opened up several new online education choices for Utah students. These advances coupled with intra-district and inter-district open enrollment have created momentum in the right direction.
The Utah Legislature
Nevertheless, much remains to be done. This last session, the legislature essentially “punted” on the issues of school choice. HB 15, HB 115, HB 363, SB 64, SB 81, SB 152 all left undressed several key issues pertaining to choice in education. Increasing protections for freedom is constantly the role of proper government and in education this translates directly into MORE school choice. Increasingly, state’s across the country are turning to “school choice” to bring new opportunities for solving old problems. Utah cannot afford to fall any further behind in the movement towards increased school choice. This, if I am elected, will be my number one priority.
The Plan I support:
- Increasing/broadening the existing, successful Utah school voucher program.
- Adding a tuition tax credit for Utahns who send their children to non-government schools and/or who donate funds to public education.
- Looking at new alternatives to promote increased competition, choice, and accountability in Utah’s education system – including funding portability based upon enrollment.
- New legal incentives to reward effective and dedicated teachers and administrators while overhauling several antiquated provisions of the law in this arena.
For Additional Reading:
- Utah Teachers Embrace School Choice, by DeLaina Tonks, Deseret News. Jan. 19, 2012
- School Choice is Back, Editorial, Deseret News. July 26, 2011
- Jewel’s Answers to the 2012 UEA (Utah Education Association) Candidate Questionnaire