Monday, January 22, 2007

PRESS RELEASE: - Legislative agenda

January 15, 2007
For more information:
Randy Smith, Spokesman

Subject: - Legislative agenda

o Public Education - Fiscal Accountability
o School Choice – (Intra-District), a grass roots parent organization from the Davis School District supports Governor Huntsman’s goal to increase funding for education this legislative session if the spending is tied to an increase in accountability and oversight. As the legislature considers the increase, offers Davis School District as a case study for discussion.

With four schools listed among the top high schools in the United States, our great teachers, in partnership with parents, have shown how much can be done with just a little. However, recent events have highlighted the need for better oversight. In fact, without enhanced oversight and accountability, experience tells us that the proposed increase may never reach the classroom and therefore be insufficient to address the needs that parents, teachers, and the legislature are hoping to meet. The examples below show that the enemy of public education is not the parent asking for accountability and choice, but a system that is complacent in its way of doing things, and resistant to input and review.

In order to ensure that Utah’s children receive the maximum benefit from increased educational spending, there are at least two areas of improvements that should be addressed this legislative session, before any substantial increases in funding are authorized – (1) fiscal accountability and (2) intra-district school choice. The need for both areas of improvement are clearly demonstrated with current examples from the Davis School District.


Davis School District Problems

Example 1:

Apparent lack of oversight appears to have allowed an alleged multi-million dollar fraud to continue for years in the Davis School District. A review of the Board Minutes from October 2005 through December 2006, did not find any discussion of how the abuse was allowed to continue or what is being done to prevent it in the future. While litigation and personnel issues may have been closed to the public, any discussion of improvements to internal controls was required to be in Open and Public Meetings. There were none.

Example 2:

The new high school in Syracuse and the recently rebuilt Davis High School were built for 2350 students. The budget for High School #8 was $50,000,000 or $21,000 per student. However, the district’s target numbers, which drove the recent boundary changes, had a maximum student population of 1900 students at both Davis High and High School #8. When asked, neither Superintendent Bryan Bowles nor former Superintendent Darrel White would explain why the district built these schools, but now refuses to fill them. Mr. White reported to the School Board that new home development in the Davis High School boundaries would not have a significant impact on the Davis High School student population over the next ten years.

Example 3:

Rather than moving students out of portables at Woods Cross High School and into the empty classrooms at Bountiful High School, just two miles away, the District is planning to expand Woods Cross and bus students from Farmington to fill the Bountiful area schools. The District’s staff has advocated this plan since the August 1st School Board meeting, but has never reported the costs associated with transportation or the costs of the new classrooms that will be required at Woods Cross. Paula Alder, Farmington City Council member and member of the 39-member Boundary Committee said that “we were repeatedly told that transportation is a State, not District cost, so we should not consider it”

Example 4:

The Davis School District has chosen to spend scarce education dollars to fight a legal battle to avoid compliance with the Open Meeting laws, even though the 2nd District Court, the Editorial Boards of all three local daily papers, the Davis County Republican and Democratic Chairmen and parents have all criticized the Davis School District’s failure to comply with the letter or intent of the law. What public benefit can result from the District’s decision to incur these legal expenses? And, why resist open government?

Example 5:

The district has announced plans to implement Small Learning Communities at Woods Cross, Bountiful and three other high schools, at a cost of over $800,000 per school. Small Learning Communities were created, after the Columbine tragedy, as a way to mitigate some of the negative effects of large high schools (student populations greater than 1,000). Why is the School District spending this money at the same time they are busing students to artificially inflate the student populations of these same schools?


* Require that at least 70% percent of every education dollar be spent IN (not on) the classroom.
* Require that a Fiscal Note be attached to every proposal presented for action by a School Board that will result in an increase in spending of either state or district funds.
* Provide funding for the State Auditor to create “best practices” and then audit the internal controls and financial oversight of our school districts.
* The State School Board should review the Federal Sarbanes Oxely Act and then develop procedures that will assist local school boards in maintaining the independence necessary to hold administrators accountable to the public.

SCHOOL CHOICE (Intra-District)

Davis School District Problems

Example 1:

Ninety students applied for a variance to attend Bountiful High School for SY06-07 but the district denied seventy1 of those requests. Bountiful High School is 170 students under capacity this school year. Had parents been able to choose how to fill the school, there would be no need to bus students to fill Bountiful High School or add classrooms to Woods Cross High School.

Example 2:

Against strong opposition from parents because of safety concerns, the Davis School District plans to move 150 students, who live just 2-3 miles from the approximately 400 empty class room seats at Davis High School to commute 3 times further to Viewmont High School.


If each school district applied the current law (53A-2-213) which allows students to choose any school in the district, more resources would be available for our children’s classrooms. As every child is different and has different needs, only the parents can know what is best for their child. Please help parents regain the ability to make decisions concerning their child’s educational needs.

The legislature should remove the loopholes in (53A-2-213) so that this law can achieve its original intent. Please enable parents to have greater influence over the education of their own children.