The Legislature Played Voters Like Fiddles on Question 1

Congratulations, Utah: at 8 PM on Election Night, we successfully killed any chance of meaningful increases to public education funding for at least the next decade. Yes, when the citizens of Utah were asked “are you willing to pay $4 more a month to help fund schools?” we said by a 2 to 1 margin in a loud and resounding voice “NO!” By voting no, we have now given the legislature the political cover they have been craving for years in order to avoid biting the bullet and actually committing the…

Give them what they want

Okay, let me sound like the conservative heretic I am often accused of being: Conservatives should let the Our Schools Now initiative run its course. Don’t oppose it. To publicly and vociferously oppose the Our Schools Now initiative, Utah conservatives will look stupid, sound stupid and most certainly act stupid. The reason is simple: Utah conservatives, by and large, don’t understand the playing field in Utah education. They emphasize what doesn’t matter at the expense of what really does. We ignore the most important lesson of the 2007 voucher fight:…

Our Schools Now is a bum deal

Can anyone recall a legislative session where there wasn’t someone demanding more education spending? It’s about as predictable as the punchline from a Pat Bagley cartoon. I’m not automatically opposed to any spending increases, but I do expect to have an idea of what the money is going to be spent on and hold someone accountable for it. In this regard, the proponents of Our Schools Now are often failing miserably to make the case. Let’s get this out of the way right now: yes, I know that Utah has…

Learn about the 2016 Utah Constitution amendments

Another election, another round of statewide constitutional amendment questions! There’re three Constitutional Amendments in Utah for 2016 on your ballot. Here’s a quick TL;DR of each of them so you can figure out how you want to vote. Constitutional Amendment A This is a very minor adjustment to the oath of office to clarify that “this State” means Utah. It should be fairly obvious in context (I mean, what other state constitution are you going to be talking about during an oath of office in Utah?), but it never hurts to…

When is a tax increase not a tax increase? When Jim Dabakis gets involved.

I know I probably pick on Jim Dabakis more than I should, though I don’t think it has yet approached Unicorn-Doug Wright levels. But dang does he make it easy. You can almost count on him making claims that are entirely untrue to score some political points on, well, just about anything. His latest op-ed on education funding isn’t any different. For starters, he gets a basic fact wrong. “High school graduation rates have plunged”, he claims, yet stories from 2012, 2013, and 2014 all cite improving graduation rates in Utah…

The Herbert Budget Anticipates a Tax Hike

[Correction: page 22 of Governor Herbert’s budget proposal contains a tax hike on e-cigarette’s by changing how they are considered under Utah law. According to page 22 of the Governor’s proposal, the change is worth an anticipated $10 million.H/t Robert Gehrke] A Big Boost to Education To much fanfare, Governor Gary Herbert released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 on Thursday. The budget proposes the largest increase to education funding in 25 years, and that’s laudable. Delaying Medicaid Expansion Costs and Betting on the Future In addition to boosting education funding (which…

College Performance Funding

With the legislative session fast approaching, I wanted to update where I currently stand regarding the Senate side of higher education appropriations. More accurately, I should say that I will report where I have been moved to by the many, many discussions I have enjoyed regarding reform, graduation pathways, and performance funding. Thanks to all who have worked to guide me and this process. I have learned a great deal. And—please note—I continue to learn a great deal. This process has been extremely iterative, and it will continue to be…

Chicken Little and the ongoing NCLB Waiver Debate

Tomorrow, on Friday August 8, the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) will vote on whether to extend the waiver to the requirements of No Child Left Behind. As I’ve noted previously, the cost of not passing the waiver would be an insubstantial portion of the state education budget, just $26.5 million in education funding from the federal government, or less than 1%. And yet, you’d think that the very future of education funding in Utah–all of it–was on the line.

Support for Utah’s ESEA Waiver

On August 8, 2014, the Utah State Board of Education will decide whether to seek an ESEA waiver or not. This decision has drawn extraordinary attention from the entire state. As a district superintendent, I have had the opportunity to hear detailed arguments in support of the waiver as well as arguments that oppose the waiver. For me, this decision comes down to a matter of applying Title I resources to serve our most at risk students. I completely understand the positives of not signing the waiver. The pros and…

What is the Cost of Not Extending the NCLB Waiver?

On July 17, the Utah State Board of Education met to discuss whether to extend the  No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver, or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Waiver. It allows Utah to avoid certain aspects of NCLB while still receiving federal dollars for education. I recommend reading Karen Peterson’s treatment of the topic (here) for a more full overview, though I am not yet decided that I agree with her conclusions. The Board will vote on August 8 whether to extend the waiver. If the waiver is ditched–that is, if…