EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

UEA President criticizes proposed bill, lawmakers are making ‘continued attacks’ on public education

Feb 2, 2022, 7:50 PM
(Inside the Utah Capitol Rotunda, February 2, 2022.  Photo: Paul Nelson)...
(Inside the Utah Capitol Rotunda, February 2, 2022. Photo: Paul Nelson)
(Inside the Utah Capitol Rotunda, February 2, 2022. Photo: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY — The state’s largest teachers union is calling out lawmakers for what they’re describing as “continued attacks” on public education this legislative session.  For instance, educators say a new bill aimed at giving parents more authority over their child’s education would cause unnecessary problems.

Public education bill

Senate Bill 157 is designed to give the state total sovereignty to decide how Utah’s children should be educated, but it would also grant parents “primary authority and responsibility for the education of the parents’ children.”

A portion of the bill states, “The role of state and local government is to support and assist, rather than to interfere or conflict with, the primary authority of parents for the education of the parents’ children.”

If the bill were to pass, parents would be allowed to opt their children out of “objectionable matters and materials.”  However, Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews says parents already have ability to do that.

She said, “I know our educators are always flexible when there are circumstances that arise to work with individual students.”

State would have final say

Under SB 157, the state would be allowed to reject any effort by the federal government or a national organization to “direct or interfere with state sovereignty with respect to public education.”  Meaning, the state would have final say over curriculum, textbooks, courses of study and teacher training.  Matthews says lawmakers across the country are introducing bills that appear to undermine teachers’ integrity.

“What we have seen is, over and over in this legislative session, are just continued attacks on our public education system and on our educators,” Matthews said.

Parents have stronger standing

Plus, one section of the bill would give parents a stronger standing to take educators to court, in some cases.  It reads, “A parent has legal standing to seek and obtain judicial and other legal relief, as needed, to exercise and secure the parental rights described in this action.”  Matthews believes this will just place barriers between teachers and families.

“Our people in our schools, especially our teachers who are working day-to-day with our students, are feeling pretty beat up,” she said.

Matthews admits she needs more time to look over every detail set out in SB 157. However, she doesn’t believe it will improve education, in any way.

She said, “Is this bill going to help our students succeed?  I would say, ‘no.’”

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UEA President criticizes proposed bill, lawmakers are making ‘continued attacks’ on public education