'We have no accountability measures' for parents, says lawmaker of education

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker says compulsory education in Utah wrongly places too much emphasis on attendance and not on outcomes, and he now plans to introduce three bills in the upcoming legislative session to shift the focus.

"We have no accountability — no meaningful accountability measures — on parents and students when it comes to the educational outcome," said Sen. Aaron Osmond, R- South Jordan on Tuesday.

The state senator's plan, first outlined in a post on the Utah Policy website, would require parents to attend parent-teacher conferences and agree to support children in completion of homework assignments, while exempting children being educated at home or in private schools from state requirements like classroom time and testing.

Osmond said to this point, too much has been expected and required of teachers.

"For us to turn all of that responsibility over to the teachers is not right," Osmond said.

Another measure allows parents and school districts to determine the most effective amount of class time to ensure strong academic performance.

"Under compulsory education the assumption is public education is the best option and a certain number of hours and curriculum are the best curriculum and best hour options to teach a child in," Osmond said. "We need to move away from that and focus on the endgame, which is the results.

Utah Education Association president, Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, said she believed Osmond was well-intentioned with the legislation, but it was too early to say whether the group would support or not support the measures.

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"The one concern that I do have is micromanaging public education and we have to be careful that we don't do that," she said.

Granite School District spokesman, Ben Horsley, said the district was not prepared to react to the proposal, but offered a positive response to the idea of parental accountability.

"Greater parental accountability can only improve schools," Horsley said.

Parents for Choice in Education executive director Judi Clark questioned what the real intent of the legislation is.

"Is government going to start mandating accountability in the home?" Clark said.

Clark said the bills appear to "build-in more ‘big brother'" "under the guise of non-compulsory education."

"It looks like a gross over-reach of government," she said.

A South Jordan mother who home schools three children and has two others who attend a charter school and a public high school suggested the law didn't go far enough to get parents involved.

"There's little parental involvement because we feel like we've been pushed out and we don't have much of a voice," Rhonda Hair said. "He's trying to solve it through saying that the schools and the government know better, when really what we need to be doing is whatever we can to bring the foundation of our society back to the families instead."

Osmond said he planned to reach out to all stakeholders for their thoughts on the various proposals. He said legislative staff members were in the process of looking at the language for the legislation.


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