Lawmakers Pick Vendors to Implement Education Reform

Lawmakers Pick Vendors to Implement Education Reform

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Bypassing the state Board of Education, a panel of legislators picked five vendors -- including a fellow legislator -- to receive state money to help implement the new competency-based education system.

Their recommendation for splitting the $150,000 authorized by Senate Bill 154 will go to the Education Committee next week for final approval.

No state Office of Education officials attended Thursday's meeting at which the legislators spent about eight hours listening to proposals from 13 presenters.

The vendors pitched such as ideas as improving non-English-speaking students skills, incorporating technology in learning programs and removing state mandates and letting school districts decide.

"It sounds like there were a lot of great ideas if the whole group wants to collaborate with one another, there's nothing that says you can't do that," said Sen. Howard Stephenson, president of the Utah Taxpayers Association. "It's exciting to think of the possibilities that might happen when you bring these proposals back, fleshed out."

Two of the eight legislators have education-related backgrounds. The others include a financial planner, a tax advocate, a homemaker and a property manager.

They recommended ProCert Communications get $42,000, Innovations and EduMetrics a combined $60,000 and Donald Wright and Rep. David Cox a combined $45,000.

Victor Bunderson of EduMetrics told legislators that more vendors would have submitted proposals but were afraid of backlash.

"When you bypass the Department of Education, some perceive that as a threat to schools, the education system that serves the students," Bunderson said. "None of us who are bidding want to damage schools."

The education omnibus bill, instigated by the Employers Education Coalition, originally estimated to cost an additional $92 million a year is projected by educators to cost $203 million annually.

Legislators passed the bill without funding and have yet to agree on a how and where to get the money to implement it.

The winning proposals were a mixed bag that ranged from specific program strategies to a competency-based education system already used in the state's technology programs.

Kevin Welner and Alex Molnar reiterated in their proposal many of the same things the state Office of Education has preached for years: smaller classes, smaller schools, early childhood intervention, parental involvement and professional development for teachers.

"There's no magic way to spend less money and get better results," Kevin Welner, a professor at Colorado State University told the group by phone. His proposal was not chosen.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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