Saturday, February 21, 2009

Senator Bramble's PTA Revenge Bill

SB-199, which seeks to provide equal access to school resources for all parent groups and prohibits access to school resources by groups that charge dues (and won't waive upon request), has a number of problems.

The bill isn't long, so take a minute to read it here.

  1. The definition of "parent group" is recursive. In other words, it says that a "Parent group" is a legally organized parent or parent/teacher group, association, or organization. You can't define something in terms of itself. What constitutes a parent group?
  2. So what is a parent group? Is a group that has parents in it a parent group? Does it have to have "parent" in the name of the group? Would booster clubs be parent groups? Can anyone create a "parent group" and demand equal access? What about "Utah County Republican Women"? Is that a parent group? It's composed of parents? What about "Parents for Legalization of Marijuana"? Is that a parent group because it has "Parents" in the name?
  3. This bill likely has unintended consequences. It seeks to provide equal access for all parent groups to the following: general meetings, school facilities, resources, and staff members, opportunities and invitations to serve on school committees, school goods and services, volunteer opportunities, leadership opportunities, voting privileges. What this means is that any parent group (whatever that is) can demand the same access to any of the resources as any other group. So if one organization has the principal on their board, then he would have to serve on the board for all parent committees. If one group has a fund-raising table, all parent groups get one. If one group gets to address parents of incoming students, all groups would get that opportunity.
  4. So what would happen if a bunch of different parent groups get organized? They all get equal access, no matter what they may or may not bring to the school. An group that has 2 members and brings little of value to the school would get the same access as a group that has 500 members and brings great value. What would happen if there were 5 parent groups, or 10, or 20?
  5. Among the equal access provisions is that if a school accepts invitations to participate in one parent group, it HAS to accept invitations to all parent groups. If a large number of parent groups decide to descend on the school, this could be extremely burdensome to the school, having to participate in all parent groups if it participates in one.
  6. This bill prohibits schools from working with any group that requires dues as a condition for participation in the group (including access to leadership positions and ability to vote in the group). He added an amendment that said groups that asked for dues would be permitted if they would waive the dues upon request of a person. Senator Bramble, during his introduction of this bill at the Senate Education Committee, equated this to the waiving of school fees. What??? Those fees are only waived upon meeting strict financial guidelines as set by the legislature. You can't just ask for them to be waived. Yet he seems to think that a private organization should be required to waive dues for any person that requests it.
The PTA's funding mechanism is primarily through member dues. That is not just at the local level, but is the funding mechanism at the state and national level. Even if Utah PTA decided to change their funding mechanism (which is not as simple as it sounds), they still have to pay dues to National PTA for each member. Utah PTA would have rely on donations to fund the dues required for people who request their dues be waived. I call upon Senator Bramble to make the first donation to PTA if his bill passes.

Senator Bramble, you and your colleagues often complain about Washington not giving local control on a variety of issues. You don't seem to extend the same courtesy to local school boards. Why not let them decide what groups serve the needs of their schools best? Or let a school decide? Schools are not required to have a PTA. If they decide another organization is best for them, fine. But let them decide. If the PTA isn't meeting a school's needs, the school won't have a PTA.

Despite what you say it seems obvious that this is an attempt to get rid of PTA. Talk about unintended consequences.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sen. Bramble and the Utah PTA

It seems Sen. Bramble is taking on the PTA moms and dads in an effort to...

Actually, I am lost as to his motive.

His bill, SB 199, wants to grant equal access to all parent and parent/teacher groups. Evidently this is a problem in Provo, so he is using his legislative prerogative to mandate a change for the entire state. Equal access doesn't seem like a bad thing, but he wants to prohibit schools from working with a parent group that requires dues for its members to vote and elect their leaders. He added an amendment in committee yesterday that would allow a school to work with a dues-paying organization that waives the dues requirement upon request. So you could belong to the organization, use its name, benefit from its resources, elect its leaders and not pay to belong.

Huh? He wants to legislate how a private organization conducts its own affairs? Is this good public policy? Because I can think of many professional organizations that collect dues and elect their leaders, and I'm pretty sure they don't want the Legislature telling them whether or not they can continue.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Budget

Today is the last round of Appropriations Subcommittee meetings. The committees have to submit their recommendations to Executive Appropriations for the 2010 budget. So after today we'll have a good idea of where the state's programs are going and what will be left. Some things may be restored if revenue projections are higher on Tuesday. Keep watching.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ethics and the Senate

The Deseret News says: "Lawmakers are struggling to settle on ethics reforms this session. Senate Republicans have said there's little hope they'll agree as a caucus on any particular bill."

There seems to be a feeling among House Representatives that something needs to be done about legislative ethics. But just as in other years, the Senate Republicans are dragging their feet. Why is this so hard? Why can't the Senate Republicans see that their constituents want this? Are they that out of touch with the citizens of Utah?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Seen at the Capitol

People will do almost anything to speak with their legislators.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mr. Van Tassell goes to committee

Royce Van Tassell is the vice-president of the Utah Taxpayer's Association and policy voice on Capitol Hill for the UTA. (Not to be confused with the Utah Transit Authority-sometimes acronyms can be confusing.) He has extensive experience as a lobbyist on the Hill, but it's been a rough session for him so far. He tangled with the urbane, and always knowledgeable, Sen. Jon Valentine on Friday in his testimony against the increase in the cigarette tax.

Sen. Valentine won.

Monday morning, he appeared before the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. The committee was discussing 1st Substitute HB 35, Nonrefundable Higher Education Tuition Credit by Rep. Dougall. He testifed that targeting the credit to certain majors, such as engineering and technology, would be a better use of the money and help drive our flagging economy. The example he used was that he had majored in political science and after all, who needs more poli sci majors? He also referenced his sister's degree in recreation management, along with English and other liberal arts degrees. The tone inferred that these were flippant and irrelevant college majors.

Now the fun began.

Rep. Seelig and Sandstrom both informed him that they had been political science majors and then gone on to graduate work. They sounded offended. Um, really offended.

Rep. Spackman-Moss then defended English majors. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that she taught high school English for years.

At this point, he scanned the committee and realized that he had managed to insult most of the members of the committee and attempted to extricate himself, but unfortunately, the damage had been done. His pertinent policy points were repeatedly knocked down by the committee and ignored.

In the end, he bowed out. Rather red in the face.

Some days, it's really tough to be a lobbyist.