Now that he has tweaked his proposal to amend rather than end compulsory education, the central theme of the South Jordan Republican’s ideas emerge: It’s all about parental rights.
The state would be hands-off home-schooling families and those sending their children to private schools.
But parents who want public schools — traditional and charter — to educate their children would have to sign contracts spelling out their rights as well as responsibilities.
While educators and other Utah residents praise Osmond for opening a conversation about parents’ roles, his proposals also are being called unworkable, heavy-handed and wrongheaded.
"It’s ludicrous," says Carol Anne Schuster Evans, a school psychologist. "Your parental rights are trumped by your child’s right to a future."
Shon Harris, a student at the University of Utah, says Osmond’s "heart’s in the right place," but exempting home-schooled and private students from any standards is "almost like a pass to do their worst." Such students, he said, would be at a disadvantage to their peers in college.
"The discussion is worth having," said Carol Lear, director of school law and legislation at the Utah State Office of Education.
"Is there a way the system can shift some responsibility back to parents? Is there a way that can be done without making the cure worse than the disease?"
Three new tactics » Osmond earlier this month said he will propose three bills in the upcoming legislative session.
"We have to have choice and accountability," Osmond said. "We have to shift the culture."
The bills are still being written, but Osmond described the goals in a post at utahpolicy.com and in an interview.
The first would require parents to pick one of three paths for their child: public, private or home school. The law would require parents to fill out an affidavit at the local district when their child turns 6 and any time the family moves to a new district.
If parents select private or home school and stick to that choice, the state will never have any say over curriculum, classroom time or testing of their children.
It’s not the government’s job to educate every child, he said, but to provide a free education for every child who wants one.
If parents choose to use what Osmond calls a public resource — schools — his second and more controversial proposed law would kick in.
Such families would have to sign a formal contract saying the parents accept and will follow the district’s attendance policies; support their child in completing homework; attend all scheduled parent-teacher conferences; respect teachers by supporting classroom discipline; and agree to pay for tutoring or extra schooling to help their child if he or she falls behind.
A parent who fails to file the affidavit when a child turns 6 or who violates the contract by, say, not paying for the school tutor, could be prosecuted under Utah’s compulsory-education law.
On the flip side, the state would issue a parent bill of rights.
It would allow parents to hold an immature child back a grade; influence the selection of a child’s teacher; decide when an absence is excused; have flexible scheduling for parent-teacher conferences; and enable a child to test out of subjects to graduate early.Next Page >
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