The State of Utah is Negotiating Away Parental Rights

Thanks to the federal “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) – a bill over 1,000 pages long that was passed in a rush after Thanksgiving, 2015 – every state must submit an educational “plan” to the federal Department of Education – essentially asking “permission” for educational practices and programs. One of Utah’s “asks” was the submission of a waiver request – I urge you to read Superintendent Dickson’s excellent letter championing parents rights and reaffirming state law. Current ESSA provisions mandate that 95% of students must participate in the computer-adaptive assessments – the tests formerly known as SAGE in Utah. The request for that waiver was denied by the Federal Department of Education.

Translation – Utah to federal DOE: “DOE, is it okay if we have more than 5% of our students opt out of SAGE testing?”

DOE to Utah: “NO.”

After being denied by the unconstitutional Federal Department of Ed, the State Board asked again for a one year reprieve from reporting requirements. Once again we were denied followed up by a threatening letter by Sec. DeVos. Remember this President and his team vowed that they would eliminate the DOE and uphold state sovereignty. This additional denial and subsequent letter threatening funds from Sec. DeVos is further proof that ESSA strangles state sovereignty and the natural rights of the people.

As new negotiation attempts began, it became clear that Utah would only be “granted” its measly federal funding if it was compliant with the 95% rule. PROBLEM: Thanks to the few vigilant Utah parents who have fought this federal intrusion, there is a Utah state law which doesn’t grant parents the right to opt out – but rather affirms that because of natural, God-given rights which parents have, Utah schools would be prohibited from draconian tactics which would penalize Utah families and students from opting out of assessments.  

In an email from Superintendent Dickson to elected State Board members, dated July 13, 2018, she explained that Utah’s new negotiated educational plan had been approved, stating: “The Department felt strongly that in order to approve our plan, we needed to include language indicating we will comply with federal law. The approved plan does this.” Sadly, thanks to a manipulation of Robert’s Rules during our Aug. 3 board meeting, the Board did not discuss this new plan that was presented to Sec. DeVos, unilaterally, by the Superintendent and state board’s staff without board approval.

TRANSLATION: The Superintendent and the Board Chair acted independently of the elected board. In short, the public was not given the chance to weigh in on the ESSA plan because those who were elected to represent them were never given the chance to see or to vote on the new plan. Instead, administration and a single board member presented a plan to the federal DOE that puts it in direct conflict with Utah State law–a state law which prohibits the violation of natural parental rights. In the end, after being denied repeatedly, Utah became fully compliant with Federal dictates, setting aside the promise of the state’s ability to forge their own educational path.

And now, thanks to further ESSA provisions, Utah must submit to federal “auditing” – an invasive probe to determine why so many parents are opting out of assessments, and thereby placing non-compliant schools in a status of “failure” or “remediation”, to be put under the purview of federal overseers.

You may ask: exactly what is the paltry amount of funding Utah receives from the federal government? Unfortunately, the answer will shock and anger you: a whopping 6% of our entire educational budget for 2017-2018 school year. Of that, the amount Utah stands to lose if it stops playing this ridiculous game of “Mother May I” is significantly less (around 2% of Utah’s educational budget).

Utah parents, we are literally selling our birthright as the natural guardians of our children for a mess of pottage – and a pathetically meager mess of pottage at that. And why is the amount so small? Because any dollar that is sent to Washington naturally shrinks as it goes through its laundered process of paying the salaries, benefits, and pensions of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. That dollar shrinks to practically nothing before it ever comes back to the states. And to add insult to injury, we then must play this game of kissing rings and genuflecting, begging holy dispensation from the federal DOE to even get that pathetic, shrunken amount, and facing even more oppressive penalties if we are further non-compliant.  

This isn’t about opting out of a test; this is about where we believe our rights come from. Either our rights come from God or man. It should be unacceptable to all Utah parents that we must ask permission of the federal government concerning our children. I urge parents to contact their state legislators requiring them to come up with that 6% – by spending less somewhere else – so we can take back our children’s education. Please contact your State Board members and let them know that you expect them to defend your parental rights. This is an election year and we the people hold the power. Contact those in office and those running for office and see where they stand.

When I was sworn into office, I took an oath to defend the Constitution. This oath requires me to protect the rights of the people that I represent and this newly accepted ESSA plan is in direct violation of those rights. Parents, I know you are tired and it feels like no matter what we do things keep moving forward. But we need you! As an elected official I am merely the point of a spear. We, the people, are needed to give the elected officials the force and the direction for their actions.

 

 

New SAGE test Opt-Out Guidelines

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Parents,

A document was sent to all the local schools by Diana Suddreth at the Utah state office of education. This document provides some guidelines regarding rules for handling assessment opt-outs at local schools. These new guidelines are in place due to a change made to the opt-out rule.  It is important that parents be made aware of these changes so that you can make the best choices for your children. Please contact me via emai, phone, or FB message if you have any questions. 

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Guiding Document – Administration
R277-404

On January 4, 2018 the Utah State Board of Education amended R277-404, which opened a 30-day public comment period on February 1, 2018. One of the amendment reads, “In accordance with Subsection 53G-15-1403(1)(a), an LEA shall reasonably accommodate a parent’s or guardian’s request to allow a student’s demonstration of proficiency on a state required assessment to fulfill a requirement in a course.”

In addition to this change, several other requirements/restrictions related to the use of statewide assessment results are in Board rule or state statute. These include:

Utah Code 53E-4-303(This law applies only to statewide assessments in grades 3-8, however R277-404-6(a)(i) prohibits the use of a statewide assessment score to determine the student’s academic grade, or a portion of the student’s academic grade in any grade.)

(4) A student’s score on the standards assessment adopted under Subsection (2) may not be considered in determining:

(a) the student’s academic grade for a course; or

(b) whether the student may advance to the next grade level.

In addition, Board Rule R277-404-7 states:

(3)(b) An LEA may not penalize a student who is exempted from a state required assessment

(8) An LEA may not reward a student for a student’s participation in or performance on a state required assessment (as amended)

Utah Code 53G-6-803 Parental right to academic accommodations includes the following statement: “A student’s parent or guardian is the primary person responsible for the education of the student, and the state is in a secondary and supportive role to the parent or guardian. This statute also grants parents, among other rights, the “right to reasonable academic accommodations from the student’s LEA” and “shall allow a student to earn course credit towards high school graduation without completing a course in school by testing out of the course; or demonstrating competency in course standards.” It is in consideration of this statute that the USBE passed the amendment to R277-404.

How should teachers respond to the amendment to R277-404?

Teachers should consider how these changes can support the learning objectives for their students. In their considerations, teachers must not do the following:

a. Use a statewide assessment to reward or punish a student (R277-404-7(7).
b. Allow a statewide assessment score to have a negative impact on the student’s academic grade (R277-404-7(8).
c. Penalize a student for participating in the Parent Exclusion provision (R277-404-7(3)(b).
d. Independent of the parent or guardian, use the demonstrated proficiency of a student on a statewide assessment to fulfill a requirement in a course (r277-404-6(1)(c).

Teachers should also remember that R277-404 provides the following guidance related to Parental Exclusion from Testing. Schools and teachers must allow the following:

a. A parent the right to exempt their child from a state required assessment (R277-404-7(3)(a).
b. Accept the Parental Exclusion form provided by USBE or one created by the LEA (R277-404-7(4)(c).
c. May contact a parent to verify that the parent submitted the exclusion form (R277-404-7(5)(a).
d. Cannot require a parent to meet with a school official regarding their associated request (R277-404-7(5)(b).
e. Shall ensure a student that has been exempted from participating in the statewide assessment is provided an alternative learning experience (R277-404-5(9)
f. May allow an exempted student to be physically present in the room during test administration (R277-404-5(10).

June 2017 Newsletter

Dear Friends:
Over the last weeks, many of us have had the pleasure of attending high
school graduation ceremonies across the state. We want to congratulate
those students on their achievements and wish them a successful future.

As a Board, we will continue to meet throughout the summer. Some of
our current initiatives include examining the educator licensing process,
reviewing required high school graduation credits, preparing to submit the
Consolidated State Plan for ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) to the U.S.
Department of Education, and working to identify barriers that prevent
educational excellence in our schools. We look forward to working with
many of you on these important issues.

We meet again on July 13-14 and invite the public to join us. As always,
feel free to reach me at michellekboulter@gmail.com or 435-668-0758.

May 2017 Newletter

Please take the time to look over the newsletter and share any feedback that you might have!

Dear Washington County Parents:

Dear Washington County Parents:

It has come to my attention that the “alternative” test being given to your child if they opt out of SAGE is in fact still the SAGE test, just not recorded. This is happening in MANY of our schools and is an outright attempt to subvert your rights as a parent..

I am sharing with you State Law and our Board Rule so that you can be aware and better defend your divine right.

1- It is against the law for ANY points to be given towards a student’s grade regarding SAGE testing. Pay close attention to the word reward- This includes participation points for taking SAGE, prizes given for SAGE scores, and field trips awarded for high SAGE scores.

https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title53A/Chapter15/53A-15-S1403.html

c)An LEA:

(i)shall follow the procedures outlined in rules made by the State Board of Education under Subsection (9)(b) to excuse a student under Subsection (9)(a);

(ii)may not require procedures to excuse a student under Subsection (9)(a) in addition to the procedures outlined in rules made by the State Board of Education under Subsection (9)(b); and

(iii)may not reward a student for taking an assessment described in Subsection (9)(a).

2- It is against Board Rule to use the SAGE test to determine a student’s grade. The test can not be used to determine if your child can or can not take an AP class. If you are being told this, it is against Board Rule.

https://rules.utah.gov/publicat/code/r277/r277-404.htm#/E6

R277-404-6 School Responsibilities:

(1) An LEA, school, or educator may not use a student’s score on a state required assessment to determine:

(a) the student’s academic grade, or a portion of the student’s academic grade, for the appropriate course; or

(b) whether the student may advance to the next grade level.

3- Some LEA’s are using what is written here regarding an alternate assessment as a green card to offer it to all students. That is not the case. Read it carefully and you will see that you may exercise the right to exempt your child from a state required assessment, this includes any alternative assessment that your school claims is required by the State.

https://rules.utah.gov/publicat/code/r277/r277-404.htm#/E7

R277-404-7 Student and Parent Participation in Student Assessments in Public Schools; Parental Exclusion from Testing and Safe Harbor Provisions.:

(1)(a) Parents are primarily responsible for their children’s education and have the constitutional right to determine which aspects of public education, including assessment systems, in which their children participate.

(b) Parents may further exercise their inherent rights to exempt their children from a state required assessment without further consequence by an LEA.

(2) An LEA shall administer state required assessments to all students unless:

(a) the Utah alternate assessment is approved for specific students consistent with federal law and as specified in the student’s IEP; or

(b) students are excused by a parent or guardian under Section 53A-15-1403(9) and as provided in this rule.

(3)(a) A parent may exercise the right to exempt their child from a state required assessment.

 

Advocating for Parents

One of my favorite things about serving on the State School Board is touring our local schools and meeting the wonderful administrators in our area. During one such meeting, the topic of my recent radio interview with Kate Dalley regarding a parent’s right to opt out of the SAGE test came up. The administrators were concerned that I had relayed a few of Utah’s laws regarding parental rights to the radio listeners. In discussing the merits of parental rights, they felt that parents didn’t know what was best for their children. They tried to reason with me that it was better for school administrators to keep parents from fully understanding parental rights laws in order to protect the schools.

Until this moment, it never occurred to me that someone could be offended by laws that advocate for parents, let alone our own, public school administrators. Yet, throughout the meeting, it became clear that there are administrators in our own community that truly believe that their educational background and experience take precedence over parents in making decisions for the children of Southern Utah.

Now that I have a better understanding of what some local administrators believe, I would like to know the following:

1- What guidelines do local administrators use to assess what is in the best interest of the child and how do they regard the expertise of the parents as they make these assessments?

2- What measurements do the administrators use to decide if the parents are qualified to make educational decisions for their own children?

3- Will parents only be regarded as competent if they agree with the administrators?

4- What laws or statutes endow administrators with the power to decide a parent’s worthiness to make decisions regarding the education of their children?

5- Who are administrators accountable to if they make decisions for a child that end up negatively impacting that child?

Parents, please talk to your school administrators and make sure they understand that the family is the fundamental unit of society. We are grateful for school officials that serve our community at the pleasure of the parents.

May 2017 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

As the school year winds down, the Utah State Board of Education expresses appreciation to the students, families, and educators who help move the public education system toward excellence each day. We are grateful for your service and passion and especially want to thank teachers as May 8-12 is National Teacher Appreciation Week. In our May meeting, we began amending, creating, and repealing rules due to 2017 legislative changes to statute. Those reviewed so far are summarized in this newsletter. We meet on June 1-2 and invite the public to join us at 250 East 500 South. Feel free to reach me at:

michellekboulter@gmail.com or 435-668-0758.

Please take the time to look over the newsletter and share any feedback that you might have!

May 2017 Newsletter

Vote to elect Boulter

Vote on November 8th to #ElectBoulter! I will uphold the tenants of parental rights and local control of education.

“Boulter believes that under current educational reforms, parents come in last.”

“’There is a trend of lumping parents into a list of ‘stakeholders’ in their children’s education. This is wrong. We have a duty to work closely with parents who see the effects of state and local board decisions in the lives of their children,’ she said, adding that while the support of other stakeholders is appreciated, they should never be placed on equal footing as a parent.”

Read more here!