Editorial: This bill is unfair to parents and educators
SB257 imposes on volunteers
Published: March 25, 2014 01:01AM
Updated: March 25, 2014 01:01AM

It seems that Sen. Howard Stephenson would rather have just about anybody doing the business of education other than Utah’s professional educators.

In his bill SB257, which was hurried through the Legislature all too fast at the end of the just-completed session, Stephenson would impose a lot more work on a group of 15 parents who generously volunteered to review 10,000 test questions last year to allay fears of some that standardized tests have a liberal bent.

They didn’t find any questions like that, but they spent hundreds of hours on the mostly useless quest. Now Stephenson wants the same group to take on a much larger and broader review of complaints from parents about statewide curriculum and materials.

The Utah State Board of Education and at least some of the test-review committee members are rightly asking Gov. Gary Herbert to veto Stephenson’s overreaching bill. We agree that it should not become law.

Some members of the test-question group are worried, not only that they wouldn’t have time to address complaints coming from throughout the state, but that they are not qualified to act as an “appeal board” for parents who want something changed and have not been satisfied after contacting the school, school board and district. That’s a valid concern.

In the first place, Stephenson neglected to determine whether these volunteers, mostly parents with young children, would be willing to take on the added responsibility. And, at least as important, Stephenson wrongly assumes that educators making decisions about curriculum need constant supervision from non-educators — whether legislators or parents.

Parents who have complaints or concerns about curriculum in their children’s schools already have appropriate channels through which to get answers, starting first with teachers, then principals and on to local school boards and district offices.

We recognize that parents have an important role to play in the education process, and their concerns and ideas should be valued. Local parental committees of willing volunteers set up by school community councils could act as sounding boards and liaisons between parents and school districts.

One thing is certain: Neither parents nor Utah’s professional educators need the Legislature dictating every detail of the process.