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2017 Interim Session – Education Update

Education Interim Committee

The issues discussed by  May’s interim Education Committee were largely technical in scope, but here are a few things that caught our eye:

  • Representative Snow presented the details of HB 239, his proposed bill for reforming K-12 school approaches to juvenile delinquency. Minor offenses (including tobacco use, truancy, and Class C misdemeanors) will no longer be referable to juvenile court, and must instead be taken care of by school instated “receiving centers” or “support centers”. On one hand, this change is positive, recognizing that punitive approaches to delinquency fail, and focusing more on evidence-based policy. It is regrettable, however, to see the committee members nonetheless rely on a distinction between “vicious kids” and “innocent kids” as they distinguish between procedures for greater or lesser offenses, implying that children who commit offenses like drug possession are part of a different “breed” from the rest. We hope that the Utah Legislature, while continuing to pass policy that lends nuance to procedures for juvenile justice, will also begin to Utah’s Youth with more nuance as well.
  • The Utah State Board of Education presented new metrics to the committee, reporting that only 49% of Utah students emerge prepared for future success (have graduated high school, have an ACT score of at least 18, and have taken preparatory coursework like AP or CTE courses). Their proposals to resolve this with more local coordination are perhaps helpful, but aren’t likely to cause substantial change unless our public schools simply receive more funding than they have now– Utah currently spends the least on education of any state in the union.
  • Dr. David Woolstenhulme, the Commissioner of Technical Education, remarked that “Mental Health and Sexual Assault are now being taken more seriously.” This is good, but it’s disheartening that his remark did follow queries or assenting statements from committee members regarding practices to assist mentally ill students, or to mitigate sexual violence. It will be very important, in the future, that our legislature recognize each issue as an epidemic and take measures both issues within every institution they can.
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