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Education Questions

Janet's Response
In your opinion, what are the two most important functions performed by the State Board of Education?

The two are:

Developing a Strategic Plan for Public Education 

Selection of the State Superintendent. 

    How does an elected, non-partisan Board unify, prioritize and make a difference in public education?  Through the process of strategic planning preceded by the Board developing its vision for the future of public education and a mission statement based on that vision.   In this way the Board identifies its objectives for education and ways in which to measure their achievement. By taking the time and making the effort to develop a strategic plan the Board changes from reactionary policymaking to developing policies that are  responsive and knowledge-based.  With the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there are tremendous opportunities for Utah to determine the academic standards, education policy, and school accountability that will work best for Utah educators and schools.

    The State Superintendent functions as the administrative arm of the Board.  It is his/her job to align and direct the work of the State Office of Education to meet the goals and objective set forth in the Board’s strategic plan.  It is paramount that every Board member have input into the selection of this most-important position.

The State Board of Education manages more than $4 billion per year in public education funds. Recently, it has come to light that the board, and its staff, have neglected critical finance and accounting matters. These miscalculations will likely take years to fix. What measures would you propose the State Board adopt, in order to prevent similar future problems?

Measures the State Board can take to improve its oversight of education funds are:

  • Update tools and programs used to track and oversee funding to better engineer reports and budget controls - the USOE accounting system should move from BASE to FINET which is used in other state accounting agencies.

  • Design and implement internal controls (approvals, verifications, reconciliations) to ensure accurate and reliable financial reporting.

  • Expenditure categories should reflect the detail expenditure codes to ensure transparent reporting (i.e.use FINET expenditure categories).

  • Update and implement a new policies and procedures manual for best education financial practices put together a universal timeline of what is required of districts (LEA’s) for not only financial but all other reports.

  • Provide ongoing transparent monthly Budget reports to the State Board.

  • Align the budget amounts to the appropriations amounts so comparisons between the two can be made easily.

  • At year end, overall state and federal spending should be monitored to ensure compliance with the Utah’s Budgetary Procedure Act.

How do you plan to address the statewide teacher shortage, and what should the State Board do to help school districts and charter schools attract competent and effective teachers? 

Short answer - give them better pay, good benefits and the respect they deserve.  

    Consider these factors that are facing Utah:

    Utah is 49th in the nation when it comes to average teacher salaries. 

    Students at Utah colleges and universities are not enrolling in programs to become teachers.   

    Elementary education is experiencing the greatest shortage.  

    Utah is losing teachers to retirement now and to portend the future by 2017 half of Utah's teachers will be eligible for retirement.  

    On top of that, Utah's public school student population has ballooned by 23 percent in the past decade.

 

    Nevertheless, research suggests that teacher quality is the most important school-based determinant of student success.

In your opinion, what is the State Board’s role in shaping standards and assessment?

   It is a primary task for the State Board of Education to design and implement a standards-based education system that will ensure high levels of student performance.  In Utah, the State Board has specific authority over the state’s summative assessment required by ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act - the 2015 reauthorization of ESEA - the federal Elementary & Secondary Education Act).  The federal government now requires every state to have an accountability system that is aligned to learning standards.  In Utah that assessment is SAGE.

    The purpose of standards is to establish expectations for students at each level and academic area.  Standards are not curriculum.  Standards establish the end product.  Curriculum is the means to that end.  if the state assessment is well aligned with state standards, a teacher cannot help but “teach to the test” because they are teaching the standards. 

    The Board needs to make sure that assessment results are reported in a timely manner and that results are easily accessible to teachers, parents and policymakers.  Teachers want test results that can help inform their instruction going forward.  Parents want tests to be used as a tool to help their children learn.  It is up to the Board to build a useful system that provides valuable, timely information to the community and builds support for public education.  

Over the years the State Board’s relationship with the Legislature has waxed and waned. How do you envision the Legislature and the State Board working together?

   The State Board and the Legislature must agree that in the state of Utah, public education is the best thing going for our children and families.  Over 93% of the state’s children attend public education.  (It is important to note that Charter schools ARE public schools).  Unlike some states whose best and brightest are syphoned off by large numbers into private schools, Utah has most of  it’s best and brightest in public education.  

    I think a new mindset would help.  We should equate funding for public education with making an investment in our state’s most valuable and vital resource - our children.  Like any good fund manager we want our investment to grow and pay dividends along the way.  During a good economy is a prime time to invest.  This is a time when our system should grow and flourish - not be held to mere maintenance of the struggling underfunded system we have.  

    We need legislative statesmen, willing to make our children their top priority, to lead the way.  We need State Board members who agree to be responsible  and accountable for the results of the State’s investment. 

    I personally support the Education First Initiative - a 2016 ballot proposal to raise money for education through raising income tax by 7/8 of 1%.  That money would go directly to individual schools.  

How does your experience qualify you to represent the residents in your district on the State Board of Education

    I have experience across a broad spectrum of education in Utah.

  • Current Board member and former vice-chair of the Utah State Board of Education.

    • Bylaws and Strategic Planning Chair - I wrote the Board’s first bylaws.

    • Legislative Committee Chair.

    • Standards and Assessment Committee Chair

  • Served as a member of higher education’s State Board of Regents.

  • Served on UCAT - Utah College of Applied Technology Education Board.

  • Served as liaison between the State Board of Education and the State Charter School Board.

    • I assisted in writing bylaws for the State Charter School Board.

  • Elected twice as Western Area Director for National State Boards of Education.

    • Received their Distinguished Service Award - 1 of 3 given nationally.

  • Governmental Affairs Committee - deliberating federal education issues.

  • Chaired the School & Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) Nominating. Committee to select those with professional expertise to maximize the income from our state trust lands.

  • Utah Public Education Coalition.

 

I hold a Master’s Degree and Certificate of Clinical Competency in Speech Pathology.  I began my career working in the Davis School District as a speech pathologist. 

Who do you believe should be the primary driver of education policy – the State Board of Education, the Legislature, or the Utah State Office of Education? Why?

   Article X, Section 3.  of the Constitution of the State of Utah states:  The general control and supervision of the public education system shall be vested in a State Board of Education.  The State Board of Education should be the primary driver of education policy.

    Here’s why:

    The State Board is the only entity in government whose sole responsibility is the oversight of the education system.  The Board is able to focus on issues in-depth.  It makes informed decisions and provides oversight.  

    The State Board provides a statewide perspective on education due to a diversity of region, culture and occupations among it’s members.  Board members often seek and receive input from parents, administrators, local school board members and teachers within their districts that portrays the perspective of those working within the system; a view that is sometimes lacking within state bureaucracy.  

    Education is unique among state government divisions.  A multi-member, broadly representative board makes it more likely that education proposals will be widely acceptable to the public.  There is a long tradition of citizen input in education.  Everyone is a stakeholder in the success or failure of public education.  

    The State Board is required by law to make it’s decisions in public.  Public input is accepted and professional input is sought out.  It should be a goal of the Board to be responsive to public concerns.  The Board has a deliberative decision-making process that usually leads to good policy.

Many students are working out of textbooks older than they are. How will you work to modernize public education, and ensure Utah students are prepared to succeed in an increasingly technology-driven economy?

   The education needed by Utah students today is vastly different from that of the past.  Today’s students must compete in a global economy and have job skills that businesses cannot hire cheaper overseas.  It is a time of change.  Our schools must modernize education through technology with a laser-like focus on student-centered learning instead of teacher-centered instruction.

    Textbooks are expensive and often out of date by the time they are printed. Digital content is cheaper, easier to update with the latest research and less expensive to obtain.  I will be an advocate for technology in the classroom.  

    This new paradigm will change the role of both teachers and students. Technology should enable instruction to be personalized for every student so that students can work at their individual level and progress at their own speed.  Software will be an important delivery system. 

    Teachers will be guiding students to apply their knowledge to solve real-world problems and create meaningful learning experiences.  It will be more important than ever for teachers to instruct students how to evaluate information critically and identify what is fact from what is propaganda.  

    Utah’s students are counting on us to prepare them, to invest in them.  

    But let’s keep some wonderful children’s literature books on hand so the love of reading a book isn’t lost in the whirlwind of technology.  Reading is its own reward.  The more you read books the more you love them.  We still want students to experience the joy of reading a good book. 

Charter schools and school districts have historically disagreed on a number of different issues. Those disagreements often manifest themselves at the State Board level. How would you manage disagreements between charter schools and school districts?

   I believe the biggest factor that creates tension between Charters and the schools districts is insufficient funding.  Both entities feel underfunded and I believe they probably are.

    When the legislature created Charters it touted the claim that Charters could educate Utah students for less money than districts.  Now some years down the road Charters are claiming that they need at least equitable funding for their students as the districts get.  

    Charters offer one thing that Utah parents value highly: limited class size.  Utah is well-known for having the highest class sizes in the nation.  Districts are required by law to take all students whether it increases class size or not.  Charters are able to take only the number of students they agreed to handle in their Charter.

    Often Charters are proposed in areas of rapid growth.  Charters seem to be able to respond the need for more schools in high-growth areas faster than districts do.  

    Districts are required by law to offer student transportation and sports participation; two large ticket items that Charters often don’t offer and don’t have to pay for.   

       As far as managing disagreements; first, understand the history and viewpoint of both entities; be civil and courteous; follow the law.  

The State Board of Education is unique in that its members are elected, and it has rulemaking authority. How would you approach the sometimes tedious process of writing, implementing, and enforcing education rules, all of which have the force of law?

   Rulemaking begins after legislation is passed.  A good precursor to rulemaking is to monitor and give input on proposed legislation before it is passed into law to ensure workable laws are created regarding public education.  

    The Board has in-house legal counsel that creates a rule based on legislation.  It is critical to have attorneys on staff who are well-versed and knowledgable in all aspects of public education as the rule they propose comes before the Board for debate and amendment.  The Board rules must take into account how the new law can be implemented into the existing system of public education.  District superintendents are responsible for each of the schools within their district.  The State Superintendent must communicate all aspects of new rules to superintendents who take them directly to principals of each school for implementation.  

    Two factors are at work that significantly impede this process.  First, there are an overwhelming number of education bills proposed every year at the legislature.  Each of these must be vetted by Board members and/or staff at the State Office of Education.  The Board should hold legislative meetings to deliberate and take positions on the most important of these bills. 

    Second, most of these bills are passed without any fiscal note.  That means that the system must implement the new rule without any additional funding.  If lawmakers expect enforcement, money to accomplish it must be included.