The real world • The latest boogeyman striking fear and loathing in the hearts of Utah conservative Republicans is the Common Core educational standards. According to news reports, they were planning to consider a resolution at today's party convention to oppose using the standards in Utah public schools. This is ridiculous. Utah's education officials, along with those in most other states, adopted the standards in 2010 in a reasonable and good-faith effort to better prepare students for college and careers. The standards were developed as part of an initiative supported by the states, with no coercion from the federal government, to outline the concepts and skills students should learn in each grade in math and language arts. The standards are higher than Utah's previous standards. The initiative rightly leaves decisions about curriculum, or how the standards should be implemented, to local districts, schools and teachers. No matter how often these facts are explained to Eagle Forum members and other ultraconservatives in Utah, they cling to the provincial notion that Utah should isolate itself and its children from "outside influences." It's time they quit finding evil around every corner and moved into our 21st century world, where Utah schoolchildren will have to compete.
A close watch • The State Charter School Board, for the first time, has evaluated Utah's 81 charter schools in academics, finances and governance to create a baseline for comparing the schools next year. Charter schools in the Beehive State need this kind of oversight, and Utah schoolchildren deserve it. The concern of charter advocates that these non-traditional public schools are getting more scrutiny than regular public schools is not warranted. Charter schools have a checkered history in Utah some have failed financially, others' scores are low and they are allowed to use criteria for hiring teachers and adopting curriculum that differ from public schools. For those reasons, the Charter School Board has a responsibility to keep a close watch on charters, just as the state board does on traditional schools.
An unusual move • Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has responded to Congress' refusal to provide funds for implementing the Affordable Care Act by asking some private heath-care businesses to help educate young Americans in the importance of buying health insurance. While this is an unorthodox way to get the job done, it is not unprecedented. The Bush administration used "volunteer" consultants employed by oil and gas companies to process drilling permits in Utah, and Bush was not being stonewalled by Congress.