The Utah Education Bureaucracy Could Use a Dose of Transparency

parents_UT_examLast week, the Utah Legislature was recognized for its efforts at transparency by an award from a national group. While “how a bill becomes a law” is still an obtuse process to most Utahns, it has to make Jason Williams proud to see the Legislature make efforts to inform citizens.

Meanwhile, elsewhere…

Perhaps a similar effort could be made by Utah’s education establishment to inform Utahns on how Utah’s education complex works.

Utahns appear to be in the dark about what exactly Common Core is and where it came from. Even Utah Policy, which reported the general deficiency of knowledge, showed an alarming lack of understanding about exactly how Common Core fits into the picture. While they noted, correctly, that Common Core was developed by the National Governors Association, Utah Policy incorrectly asserted that:

  • Common Core is a student-testing program. Actually, it’s not. As Karen Peterson noted in a post yesterday, Common Core a set of standards, not a test or a program. Utah, specifically the Board of Education, is responsible for testing.
  • Common Core can be junked by the Legislature. Actually, no, it can’t, says Peterson, and she’s right. The Legislature has next to nothing to do with it. Only the Board of Education can “junk” it.

So,  Utah Policy, while reporting on the lack of clarity Utahns have about Common Core, did a stellar job of demonstrating that they don’t quite get Common Core, either.

And really, can they be blamed? Education in Utah is, ironically, hard to follow. It’s a large bureaucracy, has multiple interest groups jockeying for control, and the messages and information coming out of those groups is dissonant and often, if not usually, at odds with each other, if not in a state of warfare. So if voters are lacking sufficient information on education to explain one hot button issue–Common Core, in this case–perhaps we should not be surprised.

Not that an uninformed electorate has ever gotten in the way of legislators and executives making public policy (cough, Affordable Care Act, cough), but it is telling. Telling, especially, about how poorly people who call themselves educators have done educating the public about how public education works. And yet, it matters. It matters a lot.

Most of us have children, have had children, will have children, or have been children in the public education system–or pay property taxes to fund that education–and whether that education works is a point that is near and dear. I think we can all agree that our state would be better off with smart and educated citizens.


And yet, we seem to struggle to understand the arcane workings of the Utah education apparatus.  Most of the tax dollars in Utah go to education, and yet, we don’t understand how the money is used and spent or what the basic terms used mean. Maybe it’s time we added a dose of transparency to education in Utah.


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