Senate Votes to Build on Utah’s Success in Education Reform

July 13, 2015
Author: Utah Policy
http://utahpolicy.com/index.php/features/featured-articles/6314-senate-votes-to-build-on-utah-s-success-in-education-reform

Following a string of major bipartisan successes in the first six months of the new Congress, the U.S. Senate is now turning its attention to education with the Every Child Achieves Act. 

This landmark bill drafted by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee aims to address the shortcomings of current federal education law and return power to states, school districts, teachers, and parents. Senator Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, a longtime member and former chairman of the Committee, won inclusion of several key provisions and amendments that will build on education successes that parents, educators, and policymakers have achieved in Utah. “We should build on Utah’s example and empower all states to implement these important reforms,” Senator Hatch said. 

This afternoon, the Senate voted to pass an amendment authored by Senator Hatch that would increase privacy protections for students’ confidential data from abuse. “It is important that Utah parents know their children’s privacy is protected when they are utilizing exciting new tools to learn,” Hatch asserted. That amendment passed with significant bipartisan support by a vote of 89 to 0.

Senator Hatch has also proposed an amendment that would apply Utah’s successful “Pay for Success” program on the national level, providing a flexible funding stream that would allow schools, districts, non-profits, and small businesses to develop evidence-based proposals based on the specific needs of students and the community. “Most importantly, this amendment puts parents and teachers in the driver’s seat, not Washington bureaucrats,” Hatch added.

Education leaders in Utah have applauded Senator Hatch’s efforts to build on what has worked at home. Tim Jackson, the COO of United Way of Northern Utah, an organization that has led efforts to implement Pay for Success in Utah, said, "Pay for Success is an innovative funding model that has been successfully adopted in Utah. It is exciting to see Senator Hatch emphasizing the need for inclusion of Pay for Success in the Every Child Achieves Act. One of the compelling elements of the pay for success model is that if results are not delivered taxpayer dollars are not spent.” 

Bill Crim, Chief Executive Officer of United Way of Salt Lake issued the following statement of support: “We applaud Senator Hatch and the work he has done to ensure the Every Child Achieves Act works for states, local communities, and the students they serve. Senator Hatch’s sponsorship of an amendment to provide flexibility for states to utilize Pay for Success financing is critical to Utah as we move to ensure all of our children start school ready to learn. Pay for Success has allowed the state of Utah to support programs that have proven outcomes, increase quality in its early learning programs, and to support the academic achievement of our most at-risk students.”

Hatch’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

“The first six months of this new Congress have been filled with exciting, meaningful victories, and we are now turning our attention to education. With the Every Child Achieves Act, Congress now has an opportunity to correct the shortcomings of No Child Left Behind. Instead of setting artificial and unattainable requirements, the new legislation allows states like Utah to set their own standards for success. It defers to local leaders to formulate goals that are realistic and effective for their districts. Most importantly, it puts parents and teachers in the driver’s seat, not Washington bureaucrats.

Under this new bill, states will continue to develop their own standards and will establish their own accountability systems linked to these standards. States will also be able to say what they want their accountability systems to measure and will be able to determine how well their students are doing based on a variety of important metrics, which we will be able to measure by keeping the important statewide one- test-a-year requirement. We can provide parents transparency, while doing away with the failed “high-stakes” testing approach.

To keep parents and teachers in charge, I’ve proposed the “Pay for Success” program—a flexible funding stream that would allow schools, districts, non-profits, and small businesses to develop proposals based on the specific needs of students and the community. Utah has led the way on “Pay for Success” by implementing the first-ever program designed to expand access to early childhood education for at-risk children. I believe we should build on Utah’s example and empower other states to develop similar proposals. The amendment I’ve proposed provides states the funding they will need to implement these kinds of programs.

In addition to “Pay for Success,” I’ve also offered an amendment that will preserve student privacy as technology becomes more integrated with education. This amendment will create a structured commission to study important aspects of the convoluted world of student privacy. This commission will give us the information we need to bring student privacy laws up to speed with recent developments in technology. It is important that Utah parents know their children’s privacy is protected while their children are utilizing exciting new tools to learn.

The bill we are considering will make significant improvements to the quality of education in Utah, and it will enhance the ability of our students to compete in a global economy once they enter the workforce. While the nature of compromise and governing means that this bill may not be perfect in each Senator’s eyes, it represents an opportunity for meaningful, needed reform for Utah schools.