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Saturday, May 31, 2008

KCPW: Education Bill Lawsuit

The Senate Education Chair talks about political grandstanding a lawsuit on the Education Bill on KCPW. Eric Ray reports:
Republican Senator Howard Stephenson calls a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of an omnibus education bill passed by lawmakers this year nothing more than election year politics.

"The plaintiffs know that there's no substance to the lawsuit. Omnibus bills have been done on single subjects, as this has been, for years in the state of Utah and have been found to be valid," says Stephenson. "I think if this was not an election year, this lawsuit would not have been filed."

Stephenson says the fact that the suit wasn't taken directly to the Supreme Court, and was instead filed in district court, is evidence of an attack by the plaintiffs on the Republican dominated legislature. He says the legal process will take longer, and gain extensive media exposure, by filing the suit in district court:

"They see this as a very low cost way of improving certain people's chances for reelection, and a chance of defeating conservative Republicans," says Stephenson. "This is just money in the bank for them. It's earned media and they don't have to pay for the advertising because the media will cover it for them."

Rosie Tapia

Senator Ross Romero donates billboard space to help bring justice in the death of Rosie Tapia.

If you have information, please call 801-799-INFO.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Guest Blog: IB Myth v. Fact Analysis

By Cherilyn Bacon Eagar
Director, World Class Education Research

Since 2005, controversy has dogged the International Baccalaureate Programme. But does the criticism have merit? IBO has responded on their website.

This is my analysis. For each statement, below, I have answered TRUE, FALSE or PT/PF (partly true, partly false), and given a short explanation. Here is a more thorough document, complete with citations. I have compiled an even more extensive overview on the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. If readers would like more information they can contact me.

The IB was developed for the purpose of creating an ‘international education system’.” PT/PF.
The founders were truly internationalists, liberal, and humanist in philosophy. The original idea was to provide an education that would provide continuity for transient League of Nations employees’ children (later of the U.N.). To this day, the mission of the international school re-mains different from a national or state school. The international school is not concerned with developing a national identity. That was not - and is not - its intent. A state school should examine why a curriculum constructed for students who are living abroad and who are transient is being used in schools whose student body is not transient and should develop an identity to the state and nation.

“The IB is only for private and international schools.” PT/PF.
The international schools that so many Americans speak so highly of from their experience living abroad are usually the privately-run IB programs that have a high tuition averaging around $25,000 a year per student. The IBO curriculum is in about 400 U.S. schools, public and private, and over 2,000 schools in 125 countries. The IBO is a business that plans to bring the IB to as many schools - public, charter, or private - as possible. Again, the mission of an international school is different from a national/state school. So in that regard, the IB is more appropriate for transient students living abroad.

“The IBO promotes a left-wing agenda, socialism, disarmament, radical environmentalism, and moral relativism, while attempting to undermine Christian religious values and national sovereignty.” TRUE.
A review of speeches given by its founders and contemporary leaders show an array of progressive (leftist) thought that include all of the above. Former IB Deputy Director Ian Hill delivered a speech on the purpose of international education to the Disarmament Forum identifying the organization’s political persuasion.

Desmond Cole, the recently deceased director of the United Nations International School in NYC, and one of the key leaders in the development of the IB gave a speech which supported the idea that no war is ever justified - only the war on poverty, want and hunger.

An Internet search of IB teacher websites shows a predominantly leftist thought process. The U.N. and UNESCO share the leftist ideals of redistribution of the wealth (for achieving “sustain-ability”), world citizenship, disarmament, and environmental policies whether or not scientific research warrants it. The solutions require that wealthy countries redistribute their wealth to developing countries through taxation.

History is taught from a regional perspective, rather than a national view.

The perspective of the teacher certainly could make a difference. However, because the curriculum takes a holistic, interdisciplinary approach (educating outside the traditional “three R’s”), the tests require politically correct answers and test in the “affective domain” - attitudes and values. One can logically reason that those who are internationalist and progressive in their own personal political philosophy would be more attracted to teaching in an IB program in the first place, so a more leftist philosophy is what a parent can expect. (More later on this point.)

It must be remembered that President Reagan withdrew the United States from UNESCO primarily because of its un-American views and leftist policies. The U.S. did not re-join Until 2003. Even then, the Heritage Foundation issued an unheeded warning.

Secretary of Education Rod Paige spoke to UNESCO, and even acknowledged the work of that organization in providing the Education for All Framework at Dakar as the parallel to the U.S.’ current plan - No Child Left Behind. Those who do not subscribe to the progressive, anti-American policies of UNESCO will not be supportive of NCLB, nor the progressive educational models that stem from any UNESCO partnership.

The claim that the IB might be anti-religious stems from two sources: First, the IB applies a narrow scope of analysis to “what is knowledge” and “how we know truth.” This is applied to a holistic curriculum (not limited to the 3 R’s, but including religious and ethics beliefs), which requires religion or the faith-based domain to be examined under the same microscope as the scientific method and empirical research. That which cannot be proven through epistemology can-not be true or fact. Although it would be unlikely that one’s religion would be outwardly attacked in a classroom setting, the critical thinking/higher order thinking skills process is persuasive.

The other concern is most likely that the UNESCO/IBO partnership, the connection between UNESCO’s Education for All and the U.S. Secretary of Education’s reference to its U.S. parallel, No Child Left Behind, shows a logical connection of principles. For example, Education for All Article 58 references allegiance to the United Nation’s universal Declaration on Human Rights Article 26 (a document the U.S. has not yet ratified), and in particular, its commitment to pro-mote U. N. activities.

U.N. activities include the promotion of its policies, declarations, accords, treaties and agreements, of which The Earth Charter is one. UDHR also declares that the purpose of education is to develop the affective domain (meaning to change children’s values and attitudes), to socialize students to the ideals of the UDHR. Among these ideals are same gender marriage rights, abortion rights, and immigration rights. No immigrant can be denied the right to change their nationality (which could explain why schools are hesitant to identify illegal students and why the U.S. Congress has been paralyzed in building a border fence or in keeping illegal immigrants from entering the country.)

The Earth Charter has put pressure on the U.S. to redistribute the wealth to eradicate worldwide poverty, to support abortion rights and same gender marriage internationally as human rights, and it uses controversial environmental “un-science” to drive its socialist solutions. Read it for yourself. www.TheEarthCharter.org .

To simplify this connect-the-dots maze, UNESCO, the IBO and NCLB are aligned in principle. UNESCO laid out the framework for NCLB, and the IBO is a model curriculum for that framework and in partnership with UNESCO, which is the U.N.’s education arm and which endorses the UDHR. (Citations here.)

“The IB comes from a philosophy that ‘America’s foundational principles of national sover-eignty, natural law and inalienable rights are at odds with the IB curriculum and are not taught.’” PT/PF.
The IB program gives lip-service to the right of a nation to teach about the national culture first, recognizing that most countries have state requirements. (Again, this references the two separate missions of national and international schools.)

For example, all Utah students are required to take U.S. History. However, U.S. History is not an IB course. The IB approach deconstructs the national view and re-constructs a new world view - for example, the regional, pan-American view. In IB history a student can select a region, but it does not necessarily have to be the pan-American region. The student is only required to research a 100 year period anywhere from 1750 to current events.

The IB Theory of Knowledge course, central to the program, places all perspectives on the table and, in a relativistic way, values them equally (e.g.: “What I value as right may not necessarily be what you value as right, but your value has as much value as mine.”). Therefore, what is a terrorist to one nation is a freedom-fighter to another. All things being equal, who is to decide who is right and who is wrong?

“The IB is very expensive.” PT/PF.
That depends on what is being evaluated. The IB tests themselves are comparable in cost to AP tests, minus the expensive international mailing costs. However, the entire program, including professional development, facility requirements, small class size requirements, start-up costs, ongoing costs, etc. makes the IB more expensive to deliver. I went to the IBO website to order two small booklets and the total was over $300, $70+ for shipping. The most effectively run IB schools are private and have an average tuition of $25,000 per student per year. The IB pro-grams in U.S. public schools are estimated to run about 3 to 7 times as expensive as AP courses. The IB school contracts with Geneva, so the Utah State Office has not been tracking the costs.

“The IB is a non-academic ‘fad’ program and many colleges and universities will not accept IB courses as fulfilling undergraduate requirements for admissions.” PT/PF.
The IB program not only tests academic rigor, it also tests the students’ attitudes and values toward the subject matter (such as global warming, population control, and sustainability, which lead to support of international, government-run programs to eradicate poverty). As mentioned before, AP courses are accepted as college credit. Only in rare instances are IB courses used for college credit.

“The IB examination assessment is not thorough enough.” PT/PF.
That depends on what one considers “thorough.” The IB assessment is an open essay format, as opposed to a multiple choice format, which requires the student to be able to write about a particular topic. However, the students also know what they will be tested on in advance. The student must give politically correct answers in order to qualify for the highest descriptor scores.

“The IB tests and papers of American [IB] students are sent to Europe/Geneva for grading and evaluation.” PT/PF.
The tests are not only sent to Europe/Geneva; they are sent to a number of regions of the world. The student does not know whether an examiner in Thailand or in Australia will be evaluating their essays, nor of what cultural or political persuasion that examiner will be. The answers must be written from a “neutral” position. (That in itself is an oxymoron.)

The international perspective of the IBO and its partner UNESCO embrace the Dakar Framework - Education for All - the U.N. parallel for No Child Left Behind. The Dakar Framework embraces The Earth Charter and other U.N. agreements promoting sustainability and global citizenship. Because of the partnership with UNESCO, the standard is outlined in the various protocols and agreements on human rights and sustainability. Those are the ideals to be demonstrated in the essays.

One of the most respected of leaders in global, international education is Robert Muller, former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General and 1989 recipient of the UNESCO Peace Education Prize. He summed up the philosophy of UNESCO and its partners in a daily email I received from him just as I was concluding this “Myth v. Fact” response. (What good timing he has.)
"In the year 2000 there were 3500 days left to the year 3000. If every day produces [sic] in their skyscrapers come up with more products, more markets and more advertisements, this might mean the end of our planet if the world population is not stabilized, if the rich countries continue to increase their consumption of often needless products, needless travel, car and airplane uses unnecessarily, which might lead to disasters. So would the increase of the world's poor population by several more billions in the next decades.

"Why not come up instead with ideas to conserve our precious planet and create a just and humane society. Please, governments and all great peoples of the world, elevate your heads and your minds to do it.

"There is also need for a World Parliament of the Future, which would look as far at least as the year 3000 ahead of us. It would bring together the best visionaries, thinkers and futurologist of the planet and submit their views, fears and recommendations to the United Nations.

The decision of heads of states to meet every few years in millennium 3000 meetings is a first good step. They should also create futurologist positions and even futurology departments in all their governments.”
Thanks for reading, and for all (well, most of) your previous comments in this IB discussion. I believe parents need to be aware of what their children are being taught.



Thursday, May 29, 2008

Word from Vernal

Re: Power

Tax Practitioner of the Year

President John L. Valentine was honored by his colleagues as the 2008 recipient of the Tax Practitioner of the Year Award.

The Utah State Bar Tax Law Section selected John Valentine to receive this prestigious award in recognition of longstanding service as a tax practitioner, his service as a state legislator, which including his sponsorship and endorsement of significant tax legislation, and his public service contributions including his service to the Tax Law Section and the Utah State Bar.

Rebecca Rockwell, our very own Associate General Counsel to the Legislature, was also recognized for her service as Chair of the Tax Law Section of the Utah State Bar for the 2007-08 year and an officer of the Tax Law Section from 2004 to 2007.

Provo, Utah

# 10

Pristine Software Mecca," says Kiplinger.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Eagle has Landed (sort of)

Most of us did not have the deep pockets for the afternoon fundraiser headlined by President Bush today, but we got a great view of the venue from a window in the Senate Hallway!



Look for the home on the edge of the canyon with a big pavilion in the backyard.

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Senator Dayton, traveling outside her district, happened upon this remnant of a fading western culture.


It's not too late to pay a visit. The festival runs until May 31st. Rich County. Northern Utah. Senator Dayton challenges blog readers to find a more unique example of this weekend's fine dining.

Word from Minnesota

Friday, May 23, 2008

Freeways Ain't.

By Sheldon Killpack
Utah State Senator and Majority Assistant Whip

For those of you who will only read the first few sentences: I did not state I support a 40 cent per gallon increase the gas tax. That was misquoted. But I do want to wake people up to the very real price tag on our transportation needs. Unless we think and act outside the box we're going to find ourselves with road problems that will be very difficult - and very expensive - to solve.

Last week's story stemmed from a mis-quote of a statement I made while speaking at the Utah Taxpayers Association Conference on Tuesday, May 13. The actual statement I made was,
"We have a 16.5 billion dollar shortfall in funding to build out needed transportation infrastructure (major roads and highways). If we relied only on the Gas Tax to fund the gap it would require a forty-cent tax increase in the gas tax to meet that need. However, before we turn to the tax payers for any increases we need to exhaust every possibility to fund this gap."
Apparently, in reporter language, that translates into my support of either a forty-cent gas tax increase or taking the gas tax to forty cents. Either way, the quotes are inaccurate. If ever you have had the pleasure of dealing with the media it will come to you as no surprise that they sometimes get things mixed up, and then feed off their own frenzy.

I have been a long-time advocate in improving our transportation system by turning first to available resources.

We are faced with some sobering realities:
* Between 1990 and 2007 Utah experienced a 47.5 percent increase in population growth.

* During that same period of time, travel on Utah roads, measured in vehicle miles traveled on our roads (VMT), increased 78.5 percent.

* During those same years the State added only 4.2 percent more capacity to the highway system to accommodate this explosion of growth.

So what does this mean? In a word: congestion.

To exacerbate the problem:

* Since 2000 UDOT construction costs have increased 91 percent. In fact, recent reports show that steel has increased again by another 30 percent in the past few weeks alone.

* Funding for transportation was raided beginning 2001 when we experienced a downturn in the economy in order to keep public education funding whole. It took the legislature several years to bring funding levels back to pre-downturn totals. But demand for roads and the cost of construction outpaced our capacity to meet the demand several times over leaving us far behind.

All of this equals problems with Utah's ability to get ahead of the congestion game.

So what steps have we taken without raising taxes?
* We looked internally for other funding options within existing budgets. We found that between 10 to 20 percent of the revenue from sales tax within the state came from auto related sales (car sales, tires, oil changes, etc). Many of us in the Legislature felt that these tax dollars should be earmarked for roads and so we pushed legislation through to capture this money. It is in place today.

* We are looking at ways to focus economic development in areas where the transportation system in unbalanced. In Northern Utah I-15 is a log jam southbound to SLC in the AM and the opposite in the afternoon leaving half the system underutilized. When placing incentives for economic development we, as a legislature, need to be conscious of balancing the transportation system and encouraging job growth closer to where people live.

I did suggest we look outside the box at every tool available to us, including congestion pricing which already exists in the State in one form. Over a year ago we turned the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane into a HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lane. Individuals who wished to use the far left lane could purchase a pass and use it in times of congestion regardless of the number of individuals riding in the car. It has turned out to be a very popular program and UDOT is in the process of setting up an electronic collection system. With an electronic collection system, individuals can chose if they want to hop in a lane and pay a determined amount to bypass the congestion. I don't mind having healthy dialog to look at every tool available to us and I consider this an additional viable tool.

If we simply do nothing, and stick our head in the sand we will find ourselves so far behind that it will be nearly impossible to catch up. I appreciate healthy dialog and encourage your suggestions on how to maintain a strong transportation system that is critical to our economic development in this State.

Last week press ignited a tempest of angry reaction but that has started to die down. For a few days I was getting 200 to 300 pieces of fan mail in my inbox per day. Now it's down to mere dozens. For anyone who came in late, I'm referring to this. And this. And this, this, this, etc. And then there was the full Trib editorial based on a misquote. I love how they do that.

We cannot avoid talking about funding possibilities including a look at the gas tax if it proves our only and best option. We will never move forward by avoiding the tough inquiries. Utah is the best managed State in the nation for a reason and it is because we aren't afraid to ask questions that create healthy discussion which ultimately lead to solid results.

I'm hoping our readers will offer some solutions on the transportation funding problem. Any ideas?

Forget Guitar Hero

We need a budget hero.

And by we I mean they. Our budget is balanced.

Guest Blog: Perspective on the IB

By Cherilyn Bacon Eagar
Director, World Class Education Research

Since 2005, the International Baccalaureate Programme (IB) has been under scrutiny in several states. As its history, leadership, mission, partnerships, philosophy, pedagogy and costs become more widely known, the IB program has received mixed reviews.

Concerns about IBO partnerships with the United Nations, UNESCO and the IBO endorsement of The Earth Charter have prompted the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) to respond with “Facts vs. Myths” flyers.

In addition, almost no empirical research is available on the effectiveness of IB in comparison to other gifted programs. The only empirical study available shows that the IB program yields no significant difference among IB gifted students compared to students in other gifted programs. Another is merely a survey of graduate perspectives, showing a positive correlation.

In 2007, the IBO encouraged teachers to show evidence to support their IB Programs and provided instructions and criteria on its website. However, again this evidence cannot prove that the IB program has an exclusive lock on higher results compared to other gifted programs. In both studies, gifted IB students were isolated from the students in the general program in homogeneous groupings, which is typical for IB programs.

Likewise, the rate at which colleges and universities may or may not be accepting IB diploma students has no rational, empirical basis to indicate that IB students would not have performed as well in other gifted programs. This IBO-commissioned study is more reflective of college perception and good IBO marketing.

In Utah, sufficient data to examine the costs has not been available, due to lack of tracking and the problem of no state accountability from an international administration.

Over the next few days, I will submit blog entries to address the truth and error in the IBO’s responses to concerns that have caused other states and schools to review the program and in some cases to discontinue it, in spite of popularity and growth. (See CA, PA, SC, CA again, MN, and AZ). The citations are from primary sources including the IBO website, IBO leaders, IBO partners or proponents of international education.

The three main areas of concern are:
1. History, funding, partnerships, mission, administration and arbitration.

2. Cost, growth, impact on student achievement and college entrance.

3. Philosophy, curriculum, pedagogy and testing.
The IBO’s responses to the following charges may be accessed at the IBO website. Hillcrest and West High Schools also provided me with similar flyers. Here is a summary of the myths that the IBO has addressed in its promotional literature:
Critics have claimed that the IB is “a western system,” “a Swiss export,” and is “funded by UNESCO.” It has been said that “IB Programs are pilot programs for UNESCO and the UN,” “developed for the purpose of creating an ‘international education system’ and that it is “only for private and international schools” and “hasn’t moved on since it was launched in 1968.”

Additional complaints are that the “IB is very expensive,” is “not a well-recognized qualification,” is “only for Diploma Programme students,” is an “elite club,” and is “only for the brightest students.”

Some have accused the IBO of promoting “a left-wing agenda, socialism, disarmament, radical environmentalism, and moral relativism, while attempting to undermine Christian religious values and national sovereignty.” They believe “the world view taught by IB includes the promotion of the Earth Charter” and find evidence that “America’s foundational principles of national sovereignty, natural law and inalienable rights are at odds with the IB curriculum and are not taught.”

Others find that IB Programs are “non-academic ‘fad’ programs and many colleges and universities will not accept IB courses as fulfilling undergraduate requirements for admissions.” Some are concerned that the “IB examination assessment is not thorough enough,” and others say that “all tests and papers of American [IB] students are sent to Europe/Geneva for grading and evaluation.”
Where’s the truth here? In my next blog entry we’ll begin to explore the answers. I would love to see hear from you on this.

NOTE: Cherilyn Bacon Eagar is a former teacher, researcher, and mother who has analyzed the IB program in significant depth. Senator Dayton has invited her to offer her perspective as a guest blogger on the Senate Site.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thursday Committee Meetings

Three legislative committees met yesterday:
- Health System Reform Task Force (Audio and Minutes here)

- Education Interim Committee (Audio and Minutes here)

- Immigration Interim Committee (Audio and Minutes here)
Big issues. Maybe our biggest. Find information on the scope and work of these committees here (on page 2).










Click the pics to embigger.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Concern with the IB - Part II

By Margaret Dayton
Utah State Senator, District 15

IB Commenters - thanks to those of you who posted thoughtful insight on my last blog. I appreciate you taking the time. I would like to respond with a few clarifying comments.

First, I have never espoused eliminating IB. This is a program that has been in some of our schools for years, which was a local decision into which the legislature did not insert itself. When the legislature was asked to put taxpayer money into IB, however, I did oppose it. Notwithstanding my opposition, IB has some taxpayer $$ allocated for student testing fees. Once state taxpayers foot the bill, the legislature has some oversight responsibility. Thus, my questions re: governance.

2. I have been accused of not wanting our students to be world citizens. That is correct. At least, it is correct in the following sense: I don't want to create 'world citizens' nearly as much as I want to help cultivate American citizens who function well in the world.

The IB program teaches a skeptical unattached philosophy of world citizenship. It does not try to instill cultural identity. It was built for a fairly transient group of students whose parents are employed abroad and who have no particular religious, national, or cultural loyalties. It is not governed by Americans.

From Dr. Nicholas Tate, Director of the International School of Geneva:
"In international schools there is no core body of historical and geographical knowledge, no literary canon, no obligatory cultural content whose transmission is a key purpose of the educational project as it has to be in a nation state. . . .

" … What distinguishes state schools, … whatever their student population, is that they must start from the basis that they are educating their students for life and future citizenship within the national community. They need to give priority to the national language … and to the history, literature and culture of the nation state of which they are an embodiment. This gives them a different mission from international schools."

Source: Dr. Nicholas Tate, “What Is Education For? The Purposes of Education and Their Implications for the School Curriculum,” International Baccalaureate Organization, The Alec Peterson Lecture, April 24, 2004, Geneva: 10. http://www.ibo.org/council/peterson/tate/
In contrast, local school districts teach local language, laws, and cultural content. They help students recognize a literary canon, a shared history & identity for citizenship in a real community. The districts are governed by local people, parents and elected leaders. To me, that is very important.

America is special. I believe our nation is unique and we have a concept to teach and offer the world. There is something very inspiring about political and economic freedom - about a republic of, by, and for the People.

And I think those characteristics should be taught. Highlighted. Celebrated.

Again, I don't want to create 'world citizens' nearly as much as I want to help cultivate American citizens who function well in the world.

Seriously.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Interim Wednesday

Concern with the International Baccalaureate

By Margaret Dayton
Utah State Senator

In 1896 Congress passed the Enabling Act that legally created the State of Utah. The wording included these words:
"The schools, colleges, and university provided for in this act shall forever remain under the exclusive control of said State . . . " (italics added).
There is wisdom in that concept and I've taken it to heart. These words were part of the justification used in the bills I filed resisting No Child Left Behind when it was first imposed on our state.

Exhaustive research from multitudinous organizations has documented the significant decrease in state and local control of public education under the provisions of NCLB. In response, Utah enacted legislation that acknowledges state provisions can supersede federal provision when the two are in conflict.

I believe old-fashioned federalism and governance are serious stewardships. Sometimes it's not what we do but how we do it and who makes the decisions that make the long-term impact.

This urgency to maintain state and local control of education has given me some personal concern regarding the International Baccalaureate program which has been implemented in seven Utah high schools. While the IB program seems to answer an urgent need for rigor and challenge in high school curriculum, it also creates a concern with implementation of a program that is not administered in the state or even in the nation.

One of the questions the legislature needs to address is that of governance; are the benefits of a rigorous program justification for further loss of state control of public education? Can we do it better locally? Is the practice of routine international contracts in other areas of our culture justification for the public education system to enter in to such contractual agreements?

The Education Interim Committee will take some time for this issue on Wednesday and I'll discuss it further here on the Senate Site.

Immigration Committee

Senator Scott Jenkins chairs the Immigration Interim Committee. In the DNews:
"We've got to enforce our borders. We've also got to keep a strong economy," said Jenkins. "We are walking a little bit of a tightrope here."
First meeting is Thursday at 1:00 p.m.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Peace Officers Memorial

By Carlene Walker
Utah State Senator, District 8: Cottonwood Heights, Sandy, Midvale

Utah's Law Enforcement Memorial is well on it's way to becoming a reality -- as evidenced by a moving ground breaking ceremony last week. When it's complete, you will find a beautiful and shady setting for contemplation just west of the State Capitol; a fitting tribute to those who have given all for the peace and safety of our state. The names of 125 Utah officers who have been killed in the line of duty will be engraved on the site.

Those who have been involved in the design and fundraising for the Peace Officers' Memorial have made it a priority to create a serene and peaceful place for family, friends and all citizens to pay respect to our fallen law enforcement officers. When you visit, I hope you will share the reverence and gratitude I felt at the groundbreaking. We should be ready for a final dedication on September 6, 2008.

Computers and the Web

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

I have been very impressed on how the use of computers and the Internet in the legislative process has grown. From the statements of Rep. Evan Olsen to the effect that he finally found a use for his computer - as a stepping stone to get on his horse - to the current status of almost all legislators using the tools fairly effectively.

The new tools allow us to have everything at our finger tips so that I can access any bill while home in the evening during the session. I can speedily return messages. I was hesitant about getting a Blackberry but it has really proved helpful. I can access and respond to my email wherever I am. People can get ahold of me with helpful information that I may need. I usually receive several e-mails each session with good input about bills I am carrying. Earlier in my legislative career, those people would never be able to actually see the bills being discussed. My proposed rule change to allow legislators to attend meetings via the computer did not pass but it opened the topic for consideration and discussion.

With the integration of technology, I can see two serious problems that I wish could be solved. First, there are a large number of spam messages we receive even with very tight filtering. I can’t believe that there are people who still respond to the $23.0 M in gold awaiting them in Africa but unless they stop responding, the spam will keep coming.

My other concern is the vicious and mean-spirited messages that come from undisclosed writers. Being unknown seems to unleash the hidden spirit that most well-mannered people keep controlled. It is interesting to read the debate over this practice but I have found that someone who writes me a letter and then signs it “a concerned citizen” or who sends an e-mail without identification quickly find themselves in my recycle bin.

To anyone wanting to be taken seriously by a legislator, I would suggest you be accurate about where you live and identify yourself when writing as a “concerned citizen”. It will waste a lot less time and perhaps help you obtain your desired results.

Guv's website

The Guv has a new web site. It looks great and takes a few important steps toward easy interactivity with the public.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Decency, kindness, and generosity

Steve Urquhart:
"It is invigorating and greatly encouraging to witness the goodness and goodwill of the people. The challenge for those who successfully complete the campaign trail, after they hold office, is to match their discussions and actions to the core goodness of the people who put them in those offices."

GOED

The Governor's Office of Economic Development hosted a Utah Economic Network Webcast yesterday. You can still view it here.

These meetings happen quarterly. All Utahns are invited - especially those interested in economic development issues. Send an Email to Les Prall to join the network.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Another reason to be grateful

Reports from the Watchdog

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Legislative General Counsel

Some events carry an immediate seismic jolt. Other events quietly build on the Richter scale until their historic impact cannot be ignored. Hiring Gay Taylor in 1985 was one of the latter. Her work as general counsel to the legislature has influenced the life of every person in the state, whether they realize it or not.

Hiring her successor promises to be the same kind of decision.

We sent two press releases today.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 14, 2008


UTAH LEGISLATURE LOSES VALUED GENERAL COUNSEL
M. Gay Taylor, Chief Legal Officer to the Legislature, Announces Retirement

SALT LAKE CITY - M. Gay Taylor, the Legislature's General Counsel, is retiring on May 30th, 2008. Ms. Taylor was hired by the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel in 1983 as Associate General Counsel. She quickly demonstrated her many abilities and two years later was appointed General Counsel. She has served in that position for 23 years.

The General Counsel position in Utah is nonpartisan with the requirement to serve as chief legal counsel to the legislature, its majority and minority leadership, its committees, its professional staff offices, and individual members of the legislature, and to represent them in litigation in state and federal court.

As General Counsel, Ms. Taylor has served with two directors in the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel: Richard Strong and Michael Christensen. Since her appointment in 1985, the number of attorneys in the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel has doubled due to increased demands for bill drafting and other legal services.

Ms. Taylor oversees 14 staff attorneys and several legal support staff, acts as the revisor of statutes, and assists in the preparation of all legal opinions for legislators. She staffs the Legislative Management Committee, Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee, and the Subcommittee on Oversight. She serves as a Utah Commissioner for the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and as a member of the Legal Services Staff Section, National Conference of State Legislatures, which she also chaired.

Among Ms. Taylor's numerous recognitions are the 1995 Honored Alumni Award from the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, the 2004 State and Local Government Distinguished Service Award, and the 2008 Excellence in Public Service Award, Utah Taxpayers Association.

Highlights of Ms. Taylor's tenure with the Utah Legislature include:

• Establishing the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel as a professional and respected legal and policy office within the State of Utah;

• Shepherding the legislature's transition to the electronic age for easy access to legislative information with features including a bill tracking process, printable copies of bills, committee audio, and streaming video on the Internet;

• Implementing a program to eliminate legalese in drafting laws in order for citizens to better understand the laws;

• Overseeing significant rewrites of major portions of Utah laws, including the Tax, Human Services, Election, Judicial, Retirement, Insurance, Motor Vehicle, Transportation, Special Districts, and Labor codes, and the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA), and Legislative Rules;

• Winning a unanimous Utah Supreme Court decision that established the Utah Legislature's exclusive right to judge the election and qualifications of its members; and

• Enhancing the Senate's involvement in the advise and consent process for Utah judges.

Those who have worked with Ms. Taylor in various capacities reluctantly say goodbye, and respect and appreciate the valuable and outstanding service she has provided during her 25 years of employment with the State of Utah.

# # #

NOTE:

1. A legislative hiring committee interviewed candidates today and is prepared to make a recommendation to the legislature on Gay Taylor's replacement. We will make that announcement later today after the candidates have been notified. More info here:
http://www.le.utah.gov/asp/interim/Commit.asp?Year=2008&Com=SUBRGC


and


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 14, 2008


LEGISLATIVE LEADERS RECOMMEND NEW CHIEF COUNSEL

SALT LAKE CITY - This morning a hiring sub-committee interviewed eight finalists and selected John Fellows as the next Legislative General Counsel. Gay Taylor, who has served as General Counsel for the past 23 years, recently announced her retirement, which will be effective May 30th.

In an E-mail message to colleagues in the Senate, President John Valentine wrote, "I have great faith in John Fellows' legal and management skill, problem-solving ability, people skills and vision for the legislative institution. I trust him implicitly."

Speaker of the House Greg Curtis likewise expressed support for the recommendation. "Working with John for the past 14 years has been an absolute privilege. He is a skilled and passionate attorney but more importantly he is a zealous advocate for the legislature and it's processes," said the Speaker. "He will be a fantastic general counsel."

John Fellows has served in the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel for 22 years; first as associate general counsel and then as deputy general counsel. He graduated magna cum laude from Augustana College, South Dakota, in 1978. In 1983 he graduated from the University of Utah College of Law. Prior to employment by the state he clerked for Judge Bruce Jenkins and worked briefly at the law firm of Greene, Callister and Nebeker. John is married to the former Robyn Rausher. They live in the Sugarhouse area with their two daughters, Kaitlyn and Meghan.

Upon learning of his promotion John Fellows remarked, "It is an honor to assist the legislature in carrying out its constitutional duties. I believe deeply in our system of government and the important role that the Utah legislature plays in America's democracy."

The sub-committee's recommendation will be considered by the full Legislative Management Committee on May 20th, 2008, at 3:00 p.m., in Room 445 of the Utah State Capitol.

# # #

NOTES:

1. You can find on-line information on the hiring sub-committee here:
http://www.le.utah.gov/asp/interim/Commit.asp?Year=2008&Com=SUBRGC

2. You can find on-line information for the Legislative Management Committee here:
http://www.le.utah.gov/asp/interim/Commit.asp?Year=2008&Com=SPEMAN


Get your education

Jennifer Wardell at the Davis County Clipper:
Though post-high-school education may be the best weapon against the economy’s current downward slide, thousands of Davis County residents are going around unarmed. That was the message that Dr. Richard Kendell, former Utah Commissioner of Higher Education, gave to the Bountiful Rotary Club during their meeting last week. According to Kendell, only 34 percent of Utah’s 18- to 24-year-olds are currently enrolled in college or technical schools, while 60 percent of the new jobs created between now and 2014 will require some post-secondary education. “Kids who don’t go to college are going to end up in low-paying jobs and won’t be able to support themselves,” said Kendell. “A high school diploma isn’t enough anymore.”

. . . "You have to have some post-secondary education. If that’s to become a diesel mechanic, that’s fantastic. But you’re not going to get that in high school. … Sell your car, your possessions, do whatever you have to do to get an education. We have to tell young people that it does matter."
Hat tip: Utah Policy Daily

Monday, May 12, 2008

Volcanoes!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Day Mom!

Today's Pignanelli & Webb:
Happy Mother's Day to all you mamas out there. We invited some of Utah's politicians to pay tribute to their mothers.

Sen. Carlene Walker: The epitome of a liberated woman before they invented the term, my mother raised my sister alone for three years while my dad fought in World War II. Feisty independence balanced with 1950s June Cleaver-esque homemaking skills; she endures as the strongest role model of my life.

Sen. Patricia Jones: Everyone thinks my mom is remarkable, especially for her age. She's a hip 86 years old and beautiful. No one ever comes close to guessing her age. She is a marvelous caregiver to my 90-year-old dad and so many others.

Mayor Peter Corroon: My mother taught me volunteerism. From an early age, I remember my mother volunteering at hospitals, senior centers or other facilities. Even on vacation, we visited a facility. At over 80 years old, she still volunteers. Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Rep. Rob Bishop: Mom had a great respect for America and was always involved in making the community better. The way she and Dad did things, I assumed all families were active in politics and civic affairs. She taught me to care about this country and other people. When I didn't, she had a hairbrush to remind me.

Rep. Brad King: My mother has the patience of Job, the intellect of Einstein, the looks of a super-model, is more fun than a barrel of monkeys, faster than a speeding bullet and is able to leap tall buildings at a single bound. As I recall, she was able to do even more when she was younger. I guess that it takes a lot of energy to raise a family. Thanks, Mom, I love you!

Sen. Bob Bennett: Mother always pushed me to do the things I should have done but sometimes didn't; when I did what she asked in a productive way, she was there cheering me on. Whatever anyone else ever thought of me, I always knew that Mother was by my side.

Sen. Karen Mayne: My mom was a very strong and noble woman. She taught me strength and courage. She taught me that if we have a problem, we face it, deal with it and go forward. I've tried to live my life that way.

Sen. Orrin Hatch: My mom, Helen, now passed away, was a friend to everybody. When someone told her, "Helen, you are so kind, you would have something nice to say about the devil," my mother responded, "He sure is a hard worker." My mother-in-law, Edries Hansen, recently broke her hip and wrist. She never complained. When Matt Harpring sent her an autographed picture, this great Jazz fan was thrilled! She has his picture alongside her husband's as she undergoes rehab for her injuries. Both mothers are pioneers and great women.

Rep. Karen Morgan: My mom's greatest influence has been through her cheerful attitude and her example of love and service to others. She's always there to lend a helping hand or give a word of encouragement to those in need.

Sen. John Valentine: My mother taught me a very important lesson early in my life: "You can do anything. You can overcome anything. You can be anything you want to be, if you are willing to work hard enough and pay the price."

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.: My mother has reinforced in me the principles of charity and love for community and a much deeper appreciation for humanity in all its different permutations. She's also been known to provide a swift kick to the rear end to one doing something that doesn't meet her approval. I have many dents on my backside demonstrating her accuracy. My debate skills were honed early on — mostly late at night in the kitchen — by my constantly trying to prove my innocence to her when I was clearly guilty. I wish her a very happy Mother's Day.

Mayor Ralph Becker: My mom has always shown wonderful love and support for everything I've pursued throughout my life. She has also played an unusual role in my political world: She is a devoted Republican who engages in intense dialogue. She may be misguided, but I love her.

Salt Lake County GOP Chairman James Evans: My mother is the example of grace and dignity, and she taught me the true meaning of inner strength and perseverance as we watched my father (and her husband of 52 years) decline in health and pass away on March 1. She is my hero.

Rep. Jim Matheson: My mom taught me that there is value in public service and that you should try to make the world better than you found it. Through her lifetime of community service, she showed me how rewarding that choice can be.

Webb: My mother, Eleanor, was like a sponge. She soaked up all the hurt from scraped knees and bruised egos in a boisterous family of 10 kids, without ever reflecting back any anger or offense ... an angelic example of unconditional love.

Pignanelli: Holladay City Council member and renown Irish mother, Patricia Murphy Pignanelli, passed to her children the important keys to success in life and politics: stubborn determination, the gift of gab and the greatest weapon of all — guilt.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Matt Hillyard

Once just a senate legend. Now, still a legend AND ALSO the name of a new USU building.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Progress Report: Funding Public Ed

By Curt Bramble
Senate Majority Leader

I appreciate Senator Hillyard's sentiments in his previous blog. It's something all of us have felt many times. Maybe it will take a few years for the unprecedented funding increases to sink into the public consciousness. We have truly taken some giant steps in funding education and expect to do more in the next few years.

Here is a progress report:

Education employee compensation growth has outpaced other government salary increases in each of the past three years. In FY 2007 and FY 2008 the increase was almost double.
In FY 2009, compensation items funded for public education equal a 6.6 percent increase in the value of the WPU compared to a 5 percent increase for state employees.

In FY 2008, compensation items funded for public education equal a 9.6 percent increase in the value of the WPU compared to a 4.5 percent increase for state employees.

In FY 2007, compensation items funded for public education equal a 6 percent increase in the value of the WPU compared to a 3.5 percent increase for state employees.
In the last three years, the Legislature has nearly doubled the rate of increases to the WPU. From 2006 to 2009 the value of the WPU increased 13 percent (Compared to 6.9 percent 2003 to 2006).

Charter school enrollment increased 256 percent from 2004 to 2007. Number of charter schools increased from 28 in 2004 to more than 55 in 2007-08.

From 2006 to 2009, Education fund appropriations (including the Uniform School Fund) supporting public education increased 37.7 percent (compared to a 13.5 percent increase from 2003 to 2006). Total education appropriations (including all funds) increased 36.6 percent from 2006 to 2009. (Compared to 19.1 percent 2003 to 2006).

Total education appropriations increased 11.3 percent in FY 2007 and 14.4 percent in FY 2008 – representing the highest annual increases since 1991 at 11.4 percent.

Since FY 2000, total education appropriations have increased more than 73 percent. Student enrollment has increased 15.7 percent.

The average annual change in education appropriations from FY 2000 to FY 2009 equals 6.4 percent compared to the average annual change in student enrollment of 1.6 percent.

A few more stats . . .

Utah Criterion Reference Test (CRT) results have increased from 2004 to 2007:
  • Language Arts: 75.78 percent proficient in 2004 to 77.09 percent in 2007
  • Mathematics: 69.9 percent proficient in 2004 to 69.98 percent in 2007
  • Science: 60.62 percent proficient in 2004 to 63.6 percent in 2007
Keep paying attention. The vast majority of my colleagues are fully committed to meet the funding [and other] challenges faced by our students and teachers.

Public Education Funding

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

I was attending a public meeting the other day when a good friend asked me when the legislature was going to get serious about funding education and raise taxes. It reminded me, once again, of the misconception about how “we are always cutting education” and that is why there are still the concerns about what we are doing to improve the lagging success of public education.

Of course, I mentioned all the money we have put into education the last few years. I heard Gov. Huntsman point out that the initial salary for beginning teachers has risen about 20% in the last two years. In this last year’s budget, public education received, by far, the most new state dollars.

My final point in talking to my friend was this: if pouring nothing but money was the solution for what he thought ailed public education, the huge amounts of money that we had invested the past few years would have reduced or at least started to reduce his concerns (and it obviously had not). More money would probably help every program but he finally suggested that maybe the biggest help to public education would be for more parents to become involved with the process in helping their children and holding them to a higher expectation of performance. After all, helping public education succeed is not just a problem for teachers. All of us need to be involved at a level beyond merely complaining.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Education $$

KUTV: More Utah Taxpayer Money Going To Kids' Educations
Public spending on Utah's students increased by nearly 10 percent last year, officials said.

According to the Utah Taxpayers Association, spending increased from $6,529 per student in 2006 to $7,009 per student in 2007 -- a 7.3 percent increase. Officials credit the Utah Legislature with the increase, since they have allocated more public funds to the state's education system.

Operations expenditures also increased during the same period from $5,126 to $5,348 -- a 4.3 percent increase.

The report, which includes students between kindergarten and 12th grade, predicted that per-student spending would reach $7,500 by the 2008 fiscal year.
Here's the Taxpayers Association report.

Another reason to hate us

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Internet Safety Podcast

Dr. Charles Knutson spoke with Senate President John Valentine about internet safety, legislation, the will of the majority vs. the protection of the minority, spyware, mobile technology, etc.

Listen in here.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Time to get serious

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

It is time to get serious about the garden.

This has really been a strange spring. We really received a lot of snow in Cache Valley this past winter and it has taken longer than usual for it to melt. It seems like every day that it has been warm and dry enough to work in the garden in the evening, I have had another commitment. I have gotten the raspberries mostly caned and my brother in law (freshly returned from a mission in Scotland) and gotten a few rows of potatoes planted. With the State Republican Convention slated for this Saturday, I will miss the normal Mother’s Day weekend where I have really gotten most of the garden planted. With the food prices going crazy, gardening this year may be more than just a hobby but a budget-conscious behavior.

At least this time of the year, I don’t have to worry about mosquitoes when it gets dark. I have learned that you don’t plant corn until it turns 70 degrees but that may only be for two days sometime next week so I had better be ready. It is my plan to have the raspberries fully weeded, caned and fertilized, the first crop of corn, peas and another few rows of potatoes planted. I will have to let the bananas and rice and grapes wait until at least Memorial Day.

Rebooting America

Heard of the PDF?
"Technology and the Internet are changing democracy in America. Personal Democracy Forum is a hub for the exciting conversation underway between political professionals, technologists, and anyone else invigorated by the remarkable potential of technology to engage citizens in the democratic process."
Also - if you are on LinkedIn, consider joining the Government 2.0, a network of citizens and professionals exploring the use of New Media tools in government communication.

Task Force Assignments

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

I think that we have really taken on some difficult tasks this interim with general task force assignments. Health Care Reform, Immigration, and Governance of Higher Ed and ATC’s are all worthy subjects but very complex and emotional.

With all House members running for re-election as well as half of the Senators, these task forces will be a serious time commitment for all committee members. I am sure the “advocates” will be following the meetings carefully but it is important that all Utahns become involved by attending meetings when possible and giving their input and suggestions by regular mail and e-mail to their legislators as well as those serving on one of these committees.

I sense that progress will require everyone to be willing to give up something for the betterment of the whole but these studies are really processes rather than immediate results. I believe the greatest challenge will be to see to the long term objectives and find the best path to achieve them.

This just in . . .

Friday, May 02, 2008

Didn't get that recession memo

Forbes.com :: SLC among recession-proof cities.

Final paragraph of the Forbes article:
In his statements to Congress' Joint Economic Committee earlier this month, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke predicted the economy would possibly move into recession in the first half of 2008 but begin to rebound in the second half.

If you're tired of waiting, these might be the best places to go.

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