Based on current headlines and news reports, one would believe that there is a serious rift between parents/families and public schools. This is a false narrative based on the somewhat hysterical claims of people in Political Action Committees ( PACs), many of whom do not have close ties to Utah schools.
Below are the most common questions our Board of Directors has encountered from parents and families when talking about upcoming school board races.
Q. Who do school boards represent?
A. School boards and elected officials must consider the opinions and needs of a diverse group of people when making decisions. They represent all families.
Some politically motivated groups request certain policy changes that do not reflect the broad range of students and parents affected. The fact that a board does not accede to a particular request is not evidence of a rift between schools and parents. Boards must act in open and deliberative ways and cannot and should not rubber stamp every idea that is proposed. This is the way representative government bodies work.
Q. Do teachers, administrators, and school board members routinely work together?
A. YES - Teachers, administrators, and school board members are generally collaborative in their approach to issues and problems. Parents/families and community members are involved in Utah schools in various substantive ways:
Parent-teacher conferences allow for presentation, discussion, and clarification of curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
Back-to-school nights provide parents with the opportunity to see and hear what teachers are doing subject by subject.
All Utah Schools are required to have an elected School Community Council to help guide their decisions and programs.
Parent/family volunteers are legions in number. Some school programs could not be accomplished without such volunteers. The impact of parents in Utah schools is enormous.
Every Utah School gets a check each year from SITLA ( State Institutional Trust Lands Administration ). The use of these funds is governed by a committee that includes parents.
All curriculum materials are approved by committees that include parents. Not every curriculum item is approved unanimously, but the process is collaborative and open.
Teachers maintain office hours, (normally without an office) and reserve time to meet with students and parents on any matter of concern.
Q. What is this really about?
A. In the final analysis, the complaint against schools and teachers is not about collaboration or open processes. The issue is really one of forcing on public schools a political point of view and agenda that is requested by a Political Action Group (PAC).
Such groups are often funded by through donations outside of the state of Utah. These PACs may request that discussions about race, equality, and inclusion be
subject to their examination and approval or not taught at all. Others believe that any discussion about gender and LGBTQ issues is off-limits. Such issues should be discussed and resolved in open and collaborative ways. Schools exist to serve all students and parents, even students who do not meet the approval or standards of a political action group.
One of the great virtues of public education is that it is open to all students (ALL STUDENTS) and is a mix of ideas, values, and lived experiences - not the property of any particular group. This does not mean that prudence and care are abandoned; rather, schools must honor different points of view and sources of information. This kind of intellectual openness and honesty is what makes us a strong and vibrant nation.
Get to know the people who want to represent you on
your local and state school boards.
Learn more about Raise Your Hand Utah's Network of Allies for Public Education.