Friday, March 4, 2011

Day Seven at the Legislature - Educator Day on the Hill

We had a good turnout for Educator Day on the Hill with 10 teachers.  In total, there were 45 teachers from around the state lobbying on your behalf.  As a group we were able to talk with many legislators.

We started by talking to Representative Jim Bird, pictured with Robin Frodge of West Jordan High, and thanking him for being a great supporter of public education. 
Then Representative Merlynn Newbold, pictured talking to Melinda Mansouri of Bingham High, spent quite a bit of time talking to several teachers.  Melinda was well prepared to ask questions about specific bills.  We asked many questions about Rep. Newbold's HB 313 - Charter School Funding.  She does not see why we view the bill as bad for education.  Go to my prior post about this bill to learn more.

Several of the teachers from Jordan live in Draper and Sandy and are represented by Representative Greg Hughes, seen with Karen Brown (left) of Bluffdale and Vivian Gubler of Rosamond.  They asked him about HB 313 - Charter School Funding.  His children attend charter schools, and he became defensive as the teachers asked more questions.  He said, "You are demonizing parents and children who attend charter schools," then he walked away.  It was a surprising interaction.

Ginny Raiser, a literacy coach, talked to her representative, Ken Ivory.  He listened intently and asked her some questions.  He is willing to meet with her after the session and have more dialogue.  This is a positive step.

Another friendly legislator we were able to talk to is Representative Joel Briscoe, pictured with Linda White of Rosamond.  He is a UniServ Director for Davis Education Association, so he does all he can to influence his colleagues on the hill to understand education issues and support UEA.

Congressman Jim Matheson was in town and spoke to us for a few minutes mid-morning.  You can see Mallory Meyer of Sunset Ridge, Debbie Atwood of Falcon Ridge, and Karen Brown in the background.  A question was asked about AYP and NCLB and how there are a lot of other factors besides the teacher.  He gave an example of the same teacher having 18 students who all come from stable homes or having 34 students with issues at home and how the test results would be different despite the teacher being the same.  He understands the variables we face in the classroom.

He said there is a positive relationship between teachers and the communities where they teach, and that relationship needs to be used at the legislature.

He was asked about the issues in Wisconsin.  He said there are 140+ items in the huge bill their governor has proposed in addition to the collective bargaining that haven't even come to the attention of the public.

Rep. Matheson emphasized the importance of attending caucus meetings to become county and state delegates.  He believes the majority of people in Utah are centrist in their views, but they don't participate.  Usually the extremists on both sides are the ones involved in the process of caucuses, become delegates, and select the candidates to go on the ballot.

NCLB should have been reauthorized in 2007, but it hasn't been yet.  He said that there is still a lack of clarity with new members of Congress.  Until they get their feet on the ground, nothing happens.  The budget is taking a lot of time right now.

His final thoughts were on curriculum.  He doesn't think the legislature should be making currciulum.  Parents may see the idea that students learn civics and character education as good, but if presented with the idea that the legislature is legislating curriculum, they would not like that.

We then went to the Senate to see if anyone would come talk to us.  The Senators do not come out of the chamber as readily as House members.  Since four in our group live in Senator Howard Stephenson's area, they put all of their names on the request, and we were summoned into the Senate office.  Senator Stephenson was very cordial.  He would like data on students being asked to leave charter schools.  He admitted that some teachers in charter schools are not certified, a different story than what we heard from Rep. Newbold and Rep. Hughes.  He admitted that some have higher test scores and some do not. 

Sen. Stephenson made an interesting point.  He said that when there is scarcity (lottery to enter a charter school), people tend to think it is better, because it is scare.  He said that is not necessarily true.  He still supports HB313 - Charter School Funding, but he was civil.  He had to cut our conversation off to make an amendment on a bill coming to the Senate floor.  It was to make the Association Leave bill harsher. The bill would have allowed up to 10 days per person to take days of leave for Association business and be paid.  He amended the bill to 0 days, and it passed out of the Senate.

After lunch, we listened in on the House for a while, but no education related bills came up.

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