Friday, March 30, 2007

Utah Heroes of the Week - David and Lynda Roskelley

After Accelerated Cure Project, a nonprofit organization that is trying to accelerate finding advancements in MS treatment. His efforts include fund raising for the organization. He is currently training to run in the Boston Marathon for the second time to raise funds. While David runs in the morning, Lynda attends an MS-specific yoga class. Last year they raised $4000 and this year they have a goal to raise $5000 before they leave for Boston on April 14. I can't imagine running a marathon so I have the greatest respect for David and Lynda. Their efforts and determination make them Utah heroes. I'm sure they would appreciate any donations to ACP on their behalf. Please send a link to this page to all your friends. Let's help them meet their goal!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spring Snow

Happy Spring and the Beehive State has a blanket of snow! If I were a skier, I would head to the slopes and enjoy the new powder, but instead I'm looking at my daffodils bent over in the snow. It's been 70 degrees lately but just when Mother Nature lulls you into thinking it's warm weather forever, she blows us a storm. Welcome to a Utah spring!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Voucher Referendum Questions

The issue about what will happen to the voucher program if the referendum is able to get enough signatures to put it to a vote and if HB148 is overturned by the voters is an interesting one. And a gamble for the voucher opponents. It seems to be a foregone conclusion by the voucher proponents that it would not dissolve the voucher program because of HB174.
Some questions and thoughts:

  1. HB174 is titled as Education Voucher Amendments and modifies code that was modified by HB148. Normally, I would think that if a bill upon which an amendment as based is not signed into law by the governor, any amendments passed on that bill would also be null and void. However, what happens when the original bill is signed into law and then is 'repealed' in some other manner? For example, what would happen if HB148 was declared unconstitutional (I'm not saying it would be, just playing devil's advocate). Would HB174 stand (assuming no constitutional challenge)? I'm not a lawyer, but it doesn't seem like it would. Or would the challenge have to be against the net effect from the legislative session, meaning the combination of HB148 and HB174?
  2. There seems to be a problem with our referendum laws which requires referendums to be filed against laws within 5 days of the end of session, but apparently don't allow for referendums to be filed against bills that haven't been signed into law yet. That prevents referendums from being filed against certain bills that otherwise, if they were passed and signed earlier in the session, would have been eligible.
  3. If everything is how the voucher proponents claim, and the voucher program is here regardless of the referendum, I'm a bit suspicous of what happened in our Legislature. Perhaps I am giving too much credit to our legislators, but it looks like a very carefully devised plan to ensure that the voucher program would survive some of the challenges, as long as they could get the original bill to pass. Think about it. Attempt to pass a bill early in the session. Get the governor to sign it quickly. Pass another bill amending the first one late in the session, late enough so that the governor wouldn't have to sign it until after 5 days passed, making it referendum-proof. Put into the second bill additional provisions that would make it very attractive to voucher opponents, if they assumed that the original bill stood. Get it to pass by greater than 2/3. Done. Door shut. Case closed.
  4. The sponsor of HB148, Representative Urquart couldn't understand why anyone would vote against HB174 when it added provisions that opponents had asked to be added to HB148. He publicly called out the Democratic members of the House to explain their reasoning. Well, Representative Urquart, you have your answer. If the voucher portion is unable to be repealed through referendum because of HB174, then more of the opponents should have followed their lead and voted against HB174. If it had not passed by a 2/3 majority, then it might have been possible to file the referendum against it also (except for that issue listed in #2). Your questioning of their vote makes me think you weren't as smart as I thought you might have been.
  5. Then again, it was asked why you didn't put the HB174 provisions in the original HB148 bill. Several Democratic representatives apparently tried to amend HB148 to add the HB174 provisions, but were denied. This makes me think you might have been as smart as I thought, and this entire thing was planned and intentional but that other representatives were duped and didn't understand the full effect of their vote (probably not the first time that has happened).
  6. This whole mess may require a court challenge to resolve. And that probably wouldn't be able to happen until the referendum successfully repealed HB148 (assuming that happens). A court would have to decide what would happen to HB174 if HB148 was gone. Would the voucher program survive and only the clauses that were not amended by HB174 die? Or is HB174 dependent on HB148 for existence and be gone if HB148 was gone? I would guess that question would make its way to the Utah Supreme Court and no one can know for sure which way would be ruled. The voucher opponents have the "Hold Harmless" money (one of the HB148 sections that was not amended by HB174) at risk if they were to lose the court challenge. So this really is a big gamble by the Utah for Public Education folks. I hope they got lots of solid legal advice before they started this ball rolling.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Life Elevated

My governor has decided that our former state slogan, "The Greatest Snow on Earth" is not good enough anymore and we need a new one. He has chosen "Life Elevated". It has become a source of humor in the Beehive State because frankly, nobody really gets it.

Life Elevated-what does this really mean? And does it give me bragging rights for my state?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Some Thoughts About the Voucher Referendum

Given the recent voucher controversy and current referendum effort, here are some things that I think about the referendum:

  1. There is a lot of misinformation about the referendum -- It is simply about putting the issue to the voters. There clearly was tremendous pressure put on legislators this year to pass HB148 by a number of sources, including the Utah County block and special interests (some of which are pouring money in from outside the state). I suspect, as do many others, that what was passed is not what the people want. The referendum simply lets the voters make the choice.
  2. I think there are at least two reasons there is a huge push to try and stop the referendum. First, the voucher supporters fear they may lose in an election. Second, it was much easier to strong arm a relatively few number of legislators. It will be much more difficult, and much more costly to try and convince thousands of voters.
  3. If we think things have gotten nasty with all the recent quarreling through the press and blogs about vouchers, we may not have seen anything yet. If enough signatures are gathered to allow the referendum to go to a vote, it will be very interesting time seeing how the discussion proceeds. I'm not expecting it to be particularly civil.
  4. If you would like to see the voucher on the ballot so you can voice your opinion through your vote, the time to sign is now. There is a very limited time for signatures to be gathered. Every PTA in the state should have a signature sheets. Contact your local PTA president and ask where it is and get your signature. It is important to realize that not all PTA presidents may be against vouchers and may not be actively seeking signatures. Be proactive and seek them out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Some Thoughts About Vouchers

  1. No one really knows the effect that the voucher bills from this session (HB148, HB174) will have on public education. I suspect that it will have a negative effect, other think not. In reality only time, probably a long time, will tell. What we do know is that this is not the end. Senator Bramble stated, at a Republican Party Central Committee Meeting, that they were just trying to get their foot in the door, and now, they will attempt to pass incremental changes each year. I suspect that over time those changes will be detrimental to public education.
  2. There is tremendous pressure within the Utah Country Legislators to vote as a block. It is a bad thing when one strays. Hence the pressure put on Stephen Sandstrom to vote for vouchers, despite running a campaign where he promised people he would vote against vouchers. He even told constituents a couple of days before the voucher vote that he would be voting against it. Then after a town meeting, where he was enlightened and educated by Jim Ferrin, the former legislator whom he beat in the last election, he told at least one constituent that he had no choice but to vote for HB148, since he would be targeted by Parents for Choice during the next election if he did not.
  3. There is a perception that all or most Republicans are pro-voucher. That is absolutely not true. There are many Republicans that are not for vouchers.
  4. I have no problem with public money going to private businesses. Our government does it all the time. Anyone who doesn't think so is fooling themselves. I have worked for defense contractors most of my professional life, helping make technology to be used by our soldiers to keep American safe. This technology, and consequently my employment, is essentially provided through our taxes. Our local, state, and national government all use private contractors to obtain goods and services on our behalf. Here is the difference, however. In almost all of those cases, there is a very specific procurement process that the government has to follow to ensure that appropriate value is received for the money spent. It may not work the best in every case, but that process exists and is generally followed. It requires requests for proposals to be issued and bids to be collected and analyzed before the contract is awarded. Even then, there are processes to help ensure that a correct choice was made. Again, it doesn't always work well, and people, being people, are subject to making mistakes and acting unethically. The point is that there is a process that is to be followed when the government is using tax dollars to procure goods and services from private entities. THIS DOES NOT EXIST WITH THE VOUCHER PROGRAM. There is virtually no government oversight to ensure that our tax dollars are going to be appropriately used.
  5. One of the big differences between traditional public schools and private schools (and charter schools) is that private and charters schools can cap their enrollment, while traditional public schools can't. That means that charter and private schools can make very specific financial plans based on the exact numbers of students that they decide to accept. Public schools can't do that. They have to be able to support any child that resides in their boundary. To allow the public schools to plan better, and to minimize impact to the children of the parents who make the choice to have their children attend traditional public schools, it is my opinion that if parents make the choice to put their children in private schools, charter schools, or home schools, they should be required to stick with that choice for some minimum number of years. They shouldn't be able to put their children back in the public schools for some period of time. And they should be required to provide the public schools with some advance notification of their intentions to do that.
  6. There is nothing to stop private schools from raising their tuition rates by some amount that corresponds to the voucher credit. Don't be surprised if you see them raise their tuition incrementally over the next several years. This makes the voucher program mute, since it will do just the opposite of what was intended. That money won't help any family and will simply go straight to the school. It would be interesting for someone to track this and see if this actually happens.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Utah Hero of the Week - Corrine Holston

Corrine Holston has worked the past 56 years at the Ogden Regional Medical Center, 40 as the hospital's baker. The amazing thing is that, in those 56 years, she has never missed a day of work. Simply amazing...I thought I was doing good going a couple of years without missing a day. She says her big secret is liking people and being unflappable. Corrine, thank you, for a great example to the rest of us.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Lone Peak Knights Win State 5-A Basketball Championship

Congratulations to our local high school, Lone Peak, on their 5-A state basketball championship! They wrapped up an outstanding season (23-1) with a dominating win over Riverton 68-43. It was a great win and puts Lone Peak right back at the top after a bit of a disappointing season last year.

Book recommendation

I have been informed that the natives get restless without lots of postings, but I admit that I'm still trying to figure out what exactly I should blog about, so the etherworld needs to be patient with me while I get my act together.

Before my brain was totally consumed with reading bills at the Legislature, I actually read books, and the last one I read in January was Cane River by Lalita Tademy. This was loaned to me by a reading friend and since I love historical fiction and family history, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a multi-generational tale that begins with a slave woman and then follows her female descendants. The book is reminiscent of Roots, in that it is a fictional story of the author's real ancestors, and there are photographs of the real women. It is a fascinating story of strong black women and their white masters or partners and how the family's ideal is to get whiter each generation, but then the realizations of what it really means to be a person of color. I admired some of these women and their choices to survive, and yet some of the children grew up not knowing who they were and which world they really belonged in. It really caused me to think about our self-perceptions and what we do to ourselves. Since I live in the Beehive State which is predominantly white, it was interesting to read about the loss of self experienced by people wanting to be white.

Happy reading!