Sunday, February 25, 2007

Is There No Tact?

After an extremely difficult fight regarding vouchers during the 2006 campaign and the 2007 legislative session, I found it extremely ironic that Speaker Curtis scheduled a Time Certain vote for HB148 on Education Vouchers for private schools for the time immediately preceeding the recognition of public school teachers who had received their National Board Certification. Speaker, wouldn't there have been a better time to schedule that other than a time immediately following the vote on a bill that many in public education are so opposed to? It was a slap in the face of these public educators to honor them immediately after the vote on the vouchers bill, which many feel will be a detriment to public education.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why Was the Voucher Bill Modified via HB 174?

In discussing a recent vote on HB174, which modifies the voucher bill from this session(the ink is hardly dry on the Governor's signature on that bill), Representative Urquart raises the question of why 5 Democrats voted against this bill, which contained additional items that the Democrats had used as arguments to vote against the orginal voucher bill. Why would they now vote against the things they had previously argued for? It's a valid question and probably deserves an answer, although I suppose that there are several reasons why a legislator might vote for or against a bill.

However, the question could also be asked of those that pushed the voucher bill through--why weren't the items in HB174 in the original voucher bill? They passed overwhelmingly now as part of HB174. The story of the camel who tries to get into the tent of his master by first trying to get his nose in the tent comes to mind. Once accomplishing that,the camel gradually gets further and further into the tent until there is no more room for his master, the camel is completely in the tent and the master is out in the cold. Senator Bramble admitted as much at a recent Republican Central Committee meeting. This is the first shot and now, having gotten their nose in the tent, the Legislature will attempt to add more and more to the voucher program every year.

Senator Stephenson Grills PTA

In Paul Rolly's column on February 14, 2007, he described a grilling that Senator Howard Stephenson administered to the Utah PTA representative (Debi Tabor) that was speaking on SB57. In that grilling, he accused the PTA of not polling all of the members to see their position on this bill (the implication being that they don't really adequately represent the PTA members in the state of Utah). Senator Stephenson said that despite being a PTA member for over 20 years, he had never been approached about his positions. Then Senator Bramble decided to go on record and pour more salt on the wound.

See the 36:30 mark for the Feburary 9, 2007 Senate Education Committee hearing.

Shame on both of you!!

Notes to Senator Stephenson:
  1. You are my state senator. You have never polled me on my thoughts about any bill that you are voting on. I doubt that you have talked to more than a very small fraction of people in your district regarding any issue, let alone the issue represented by SB57. You, therefore, according, to your own criteria, do not represent me or your constituents.
  2. I would be willing to bet that most people in your district don't even know who you are. A recent survey that I saw from your district, where people listed their state senator and representative, had very few right answers. Many were left blank, and many had incorrect answers. Some thought Senator Hatch and even Scott Matheson were their state senator. Very few people knew that you were their senator.
  3. The PTA has a very specific process by which positions on bills are determined. The process is not perfect, and like any volunteer organization it depends on people being involved. Senator, if you have been a PTA member for 20 years, why do you not know anything about this process? Why do you wait for PTA people to come to you and ask your position? Why did you not seek out the opportunity to make your views known and find out how you could be involved in the legislative process? If you haven't tried, you have no reason to complain.
  4. Every year, the PTA has a legislative convention where positions are debated and voted upon. EVERY PTA can send representatives to this convention and provide input to the PTA positions. You could have gone as a member of your PTA and provided input and actually voted at this convention. You apparently did not.
  5. Last note---people that live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
  6. Next to last note---you'll do much better if you talk with people and not down to them.
  7. Very last note---these same thoughts apply to Senator Bramble.

Wildflowers at Albion Basin

Up above Alta ski resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon is a beautiful area called Albion Basin. In the early spring, the bowl-shaped basin is covered with native wildflowers in a show that can only be called breath-taking. Timing is important because if you go too early the flowers won't all be out and too late in the spring means they are all done. It can be cold up there in the spring, so wear some layers to stay warm. Wear good hiking shoes, because there's alot of hiking and in the spring it can be wet. Above the basin there is a hike to a hidden lake and although the hike is strenuous, it is worth it because the lake is so interesting. Bring some sandwiches in a backpack and make a day of it. If you love flowers, you will be very impressed with the variety.

Rep. Sandstrom, sacrificial lamb

Stephen Sandstrom, freshman GOP representative from District 58 in Orem, ran as an education-friendly candidate. He was heavily pressured by his GOP colleagues to vote for the Parents for Choice in Education Act, and after voting for it, has been criticized by his constituents for caving under the pressure. Legislative watchers think he has been sacrificed by his colleagues to allow a less education-friendly candidate to be elected in the next cycle. Any guesses on who that might be? However, he was thrown a bone by the House when he was allowed to carry the bill getting funding for the K-3 reading program. It's tough to be a freshman in the rough and tumble world of Utah politics.

Senator Madsen Doesn't Understand ACT Scores

In the February 9 Senate Education Committee, Senator Madsen presented his bill (SB57), to receive a high school diploma if the student passes the basic skills competency test and receives certains scores on the ACT (scores that rank in the top 15% of Utah students). When questioned by Senator Howard Stephenson what those scores on the ACT would be for Utah, Senator Madsen didn't have that information with him and tried to figure out what it would be , saying that the top score on the ACT was 30 (the top score is actually 36). He was quickly corrected (start listening at the 8:20 mark of the Senate Education Committee hearing on SB57 on February 9, 2007).

Is anyone worried that the sponser for a bill using the ACT as one of the criteria for a diploma in his bill doesn't even know what the top score on the ACT is?