State School Board UAPCS Questionnaire

I am the parent

Recently I was asked by UAPCS to fill out a questionnaire which will be published on their site. I have also posted my response here on my website.

  1. In your opinion, what are the two most important functions performed by the State Board of Education? First: Parents are the primary educators of their children and the State School Board exists to represent them. Second: The State School Board should always stand for and defend true local control.
  2. How does your experience qualify you to represent the residents in your district on the State Board of Education? I have been defending the family and parental rights at the United Nations and on the State and Local levels for the past three years. I’m not an expert in business and I’m not an expert in Charter schools, but I am an expert in defending the family and I believe that is what Utah needs now, more than ever.

As you know, 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.

  1. First, what measures would you propose the State Board adopt, in order to prevent similar future problems? The real problem is that there is a lot of money to be managed by a few, part time State Board members. The answer is to put the money in the hands of the local school districts and allow them the option to contract with the State Office of Education for services rendered. 
  1. And second, what makes you uniquely qualified to assist in the correction of these errors? I am convinced that we need to hold firm to the guiding principle that the smallest or local level of government that can solve a problem should do so.
  1. 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?

When we implement policies and rules, we have to remember the ultimate law which is that the family is the fundamental unit of society…. As members of the State School Board implement policies and work with law makers we need to be the first to represent and protect the autonomy of the family. A good example of this is when dealing with attendance issues. A lot of well-meaning people would rather represent special interest groups like Attendance works rather than the families of Utah.  The State Board of Education should never implement rules and policies that come between parents and their children. It’s up to us as elected representatives to be the voice for the parents.

  1. 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? The parents are the drivers of education policy and the State Board of Education are elected specifically to represent the parents.

 Why? Let’s look at each of these. The State Board and Legislature are both elected offices and when dealing with educational issues both should be representing the parents. The Utah State Office of Education is not an elected body and therefore does not have to come back for reelection and face the parents every 2 to 4 years. For this reason the Utah State Office of Education should not have any rule making abilities, their role should be strictly reserved to assisting local school districts who ask for their help.

  1. 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? The charter schools are succeeding because they work directly with the parents who choose their schools. Their student body is not mandated by where they live. I admire charter schools in that they work with parents in doing what is best for the child. These disagreements between the State Board and Charter schools are a perfect example of how State and Federal controlled money drives policy not innovation. Charter schools are using innovation to bring more school choice to families in Utah and I will work hard to maintain that Charter schools keep their autonomy to do what is best for their school and the families they serve.
  1. 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? This single issue is one of the most detrimental things to the prosperity of our children. We have too many voices affecting the education of a single student. How can this be possibly result in a productive education?  I hope to foster a relationship with the parents so that parents can work with the members of the Utah State Board to develop a working relationship with the legislature in making laws that best represent the parents.
  1. And what will you do specifically, to foster that relationship? I will work with the parents to develop a relationship with the legislature. Regular newsletters would be a powerful help for parents who want to know what is happening on the hill, but don’t have time to research.  This will also add a measure of transparency for the board.  Many parents want to be involved, but find it difficult, especially when our district is so far from Capitol Hill.
  1. 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? This is based off an assumptions that old textbooks are of no worth and the budget in the state of Utah can keep up with the constant changes in technology. This is where local control of curriculum, budget decisions and school choice comes in. If schools have the freedom to choose what works best for their students then whatever they choose will be most effective.
  1. In your opinion, what is the State Board’s role in shaping standards and assessment? No one running for this office knows every single child in our district personally. One size fits all could never fix any educational problem. It is then up to us to have faith in local schools and charters to know the children they teach and to adjust the curriculum as necessary. I hold as a firm principle that the smallest or lowest level of government that can solve a problem should do so: First, the family, then the community, then the city, then the county, and then the state.
  1. 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? Utah has some of the most amazing teachers in the world. Most have been trained in Utah schools and by Utah families with ethics of hard work, honesty and a love for the children they teach. It’s arrogance to assume that these fine teachers need to be told what to do and say in every situation. Micromanaging has never worked in any organization. If we want to help Utah children truly succeed let’s empower teachers to do what they do best and encourage them to come to the State school Board with what they need instead of the other way around.



Michelle Boulter’s Utah Capitol-Town Hall Speech.

'The is the fundamental unit of society and the state   school board should always keep this foremost% (1)

What is the purpose of education? I have thought a lot about this question.

We are now at a crossroads on how we proceed with education. Before us are two choices: continue in the direction we are going or come up with a truly unique Utah education for our children.  As we move forward let us not drift from the family values which have always anchored us in the past.

It is important to remember that parents have given schools a great trust with their children for most of their formative years. The lessons taught them will largely determine how they think and act throughout their lives. This is why we do a great disservice to our children when we implement programs and mandates that weaken the families we serve. The family is the fundamental unit of society and the state school board should always keep this foremost on their minds as they work to create the future of education in Utah.

School board members must represent the parents and families of Utah, not the Utah Office of Education. They should always reassert the primary right of parents in the education of their children. There is a growing tendency to shift this educational responsibility from the home to outside influences. We need a State school board with organization skills that will develop a better working relationship between schools and families. Schools in Utah should not be in a power struggle between parents and the state board of education. We need parents who are courageous enough to lead out in the education of their children. We can not forget the most basic principle, which is, that parents are the primary educators of their children. We need schools that are wise enough to recognize that basic principle and we need a state school board willing to stand and protect that principle.

The key to the future of education comes from lessons of the past. There is a beautiful heritage found here in Utah. It is important that we teach the character traits of the past so that we can add on to them for the future. This is the shaping of ideals and beliefs. Let me be clear when I talk about character. I am not talking about the character curriculum we are currently learning in schools. Although the character curriculum many Utah schools are using are cute and have fun songs for the children to learn, they fail to include what our ancestors knew was vital for their own character development. Our ancestors taught their children character through the trials and experiences within a family and close community settings.

One such example is that of Andreas Olsen who built the roof on one of the most beautiful buildings we have here in America. He was a Norwegian ship builder and had learned how to build sailboats. Having had no experience building roofs, he took the same principle used to build a ship and applied it for building a roof. He reasoned that a well built ship is solid and waterproof. He used the fundamental skills of his trade. The plans were drawn to build a ship and when finished they were turned upside down and used to construct the roof of the Manti temple. This is a great example of the character trait of perseverance. Seeing a problem and using innovation to solve it.

This Creative innovation has always shaped our land. Long before our pioneer ancestors came to this valley, the Anasazi cliff dwellers used large stone structures to build their community. We can learn a lot from these unique stone structures. Each stone had its own shape and characteristic that played an important role in building their community. Man made bricks that all look and act alike may be functional but lack the beauty and uniqueness that endure the test of time. We should follow the example of the Anasazi as we teach our children. Instead of making every child common we need to develop an educational system that encourages the uniqueness of each of our children, instead of focussing on the common traits that are so temporary.

Utah families deserve school board members that recognize that parents know best. But not only parents, but grandparents and great grandparents and on and on! Let’s use the lessons of the past to help influence the world. We don’t need to train our children to compete in a global economy, we need to prepare Utah children to lead in a global community! The only way to do this is to leave the global idea of education behind and turn to the lessons of the past.

Utah was innovative in bringing people from around the world in the mid 1800s utilizing their strengths, talents and skills and used the strength of each individual to build a beautiful society. They did not compete but rather worked together to build a thriving economy here in Utah. It is now our time to show the world how to do this. Let us follow the pattern our forefathers have taught us and work with the character, innovation and our individual uniqueness to encourage Utah students to become a great influence on the world around us.

Turning the hearts of the children to the fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the children, linking the principles and truths of the past to build the future – that is the purpose of education.

With all the educational reforms, one aspect seems to be continually overlooked, that of personal agency. We seem to forget that personal agency trumps everything. Knowledge must be sought after and made a personal goal. Reformers need to stop trying to control our children’s outcomes. Just as the instruments in a great orchestra are different so are our children. Our job as parents is to nurture our children’s unique gifts and talents, then we will see their individual worth and be able to hear the beautiful music they bring into the world.

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Data and Our Rights as Parents

Education quote here

When it comes to data collection and one to one technology (1:1 technology) parental rights must always be at the forefront of the discussion. Data is being collected on our children at alarming rates, and yes I understand it goes with the territory that comes from living in a technology rich world. However, the data that is being collected from our children, whether through tests, online assignments, or paperwork we fill out, is then being released to third party vendors, without the knowledge or consent of the parents. This is effectively turning our children into a commodity. When society views children as a commodity how does that change a child’s worth? Are we letting this data determine our children’s worth as individuals?

While at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, my concerns grew as I gained more knowledge and understanding with what was intended to be done with this data. I attended a United Nations meeting in which the discussion was centered around “What if…” The focus of this meeting was, what if data could be used to determine the outcome of individuals and the human condition. You must ask according to whose standards.

I sat and listened to a top United Nations official answer two concerns brought up by Jenny Baker and myself: 1. How will they protect personal data and keep that data within the family? 2. How will you assure us that our children will not be turned into commodities and parents won’t be referred to as stakeholders?

Kate Gilmore, Executive Director of UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) said in response, “…we discovered that for millions and millions of women that marriage is not much better than an arbitrary detention cell; that the kitchen is a torture chamber; that the bedroom is a site for the gravest of human rights violations.  As much as we wish to uphold the responsibility and the burden of parenting to sustain people in that and to preserve the privacy, I am afraid by performance alone, we can neither trust nor leave alone the care of the most vulnerable to anybody who has power over them, whether it be the state, whether it be the church, whether it be the mosque, or the synagogue or unfortunately the family or the marriage.”

Again whose standards will be upheld in the use of this data and determining individual outcomes? Our children’s data privacy is a very real concern. Imagine the amount of data that will be collected once every child in school is given their very own tablet all in the name of “individualized instruction”. There is no way to guarantee the safety of our children’s data or of our children.

Many parents do not allow their children to have a personal electronic device. Many have a set age where they will give them a smartphone or tablet. This has always been a decision left to the parents. Now, school officials are circumventing those decisions in the name of “high stakes learning”. This parental right is being overlooked! As a parent, I feel that technology should be used as a supplement to my children’s learning, not as the main source, as it is currently being pushed with 1:1 technology. How many parents remember the warnings about the dangers of too much screen time? Now those warnings are being ignored in order to push forward an agenda. Parents are always being warned about the dangers of pornograph, currently being called the New Drug and recently declared a public health crisis in Utah. We all know how easily accessible it is via personal electronic devices. Will this access somehow be lessened on a school issued personal device?

We are told by school officials that they have safeguards in place to keep our children safe, yet our children are still being exposed to pornography while on school computers. Children as young as 3rd and 4th grades first encounter pornography on a school computer. Teenagers are sharing hacks to bypass any safeguard. These hacks also allow pornography to be viewed without any trace. There are apps that look and behave as something else when in reality it’s used to store files, videos and pictures. One such app is a calculator; this app behaves like a calculator but is actually a file cabinet. How will schools protect against those apps and hacks when those very hacks and apps are evolving just as fast as technology evolves?

We must slow down this momentum pushing these new reforms forward. Slow down and ask questions. The burden of proof must be placed on those asking us as parents to trust them with the welfare of our children. Parents must be brought to the table and allowed to ask the hard questions. After all, it’s our parental right.

Take time to watch the first 20 min.


The Fundamental Right of Parents

I firmly stand for and respect the fundamental right of parents to guide the educational decisions of their children and value the heightened protections declared in Utah State Code.

Unfortunately, this fundamental right of parents to guide their child’s education has been flipped on its head. Under the current educational reforms the state’s role is seen as primary, special interest groups secondary, and then parents. There is such a great momentum to push these reforms through that parents have lost control as to what is being taught to their children, so much so, that we are no longer consulted.

utah state code