Board of Education member watching the good, bad of Utah legislature

Tuesday, as she watched the final days of the legislative session wind down, Logan’s Tami Pyfer, a member of the State Board of Education, analyzed actions affecting education in Utah. “We’re really optimistic about the funding,” Pyfer said, “it did come in as close to what we could possibly hope for this year. That is part of the good news we have gotten from this legislative session.” Those involved in education in Utah have paid close attention to Senate Joint Resolution 9 which would take oversight of education away from the State Board of Education and give it to the Governor. “That has passed out of the Senate and has moved on to the House. Those who feel they don’t want the Governor to take control of education, but want it to remain with an independent school board, need to be e-mailing their representatives.” Pyfer said there is another bill out there. “Senate Bill 224 calls for partisan school board elections which competes with turning it over to the Governor. If that passes, it will also go to the House. Those running for the State School Board would have to run as Democrats or Republicans, they would have to go through the caucus process. “There are a lot of people strongly opposed to turning the state school board into a partisan board. This bill now seems to be gaining momentum.” Pyfer said if a new law directs the Governor take control of education it would also allow him to either disband the school board or to appoint school board members. “That would take away the right of citizens to vote for their representatives on the school board.” Several bills designed to fund technology remain in the mix. “The ones that make us nervous are where they are taking money from instruction, real live teacher instruction especially in the early grades, and turning that over to technology and buying programs. I think some legislators believe you can sit kindergarteners in front of a program and it will teach them to read. That’s just not the case.” Pyfer said what she calls the “Grading Schools Bill” has gathered a lot of attention. “The sponsor, Wayne Neiderhauser, has made a lot of changes based on feedback he got from the State Office of Education. Our State School Board takes no position on it but more than half the board is in opposition to grading schools. This information would not be used to improve schools because there is no money attached for helping poor performing schools. That one is still in the Senate.” Pyfer said appropriate technology is helpful but it does not provide the results legislators think it does.

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