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Utah Senators Kill Resolution Asking Them To Visit Schools
Salt Lake Tribune
by Lisa Schencker
March 6, 2012

A resolution that asked lawmakers to visit schools died in the Senate on Tuesday after many senators objected.

Senators voted 8-21 against SJR26, which would have encouraged legislators and state school board members to spend time in schools, reporting details of their visits on a public website. The resolution would have asked but not required the visits.

 "It’s an opportunity for us to build and develop strong relationships in our education system and understand the impacts of the decisions we make because we’ve seen it first-hand," said bill sponsor Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan.

But on Friday, senators attempted and, in some cases, succeeded in making a number of changes to the proposal.

For example, the original measure would have asked lawmakers and state school board members to spend at least 16 hours a year visiting public schools. Sen. Stuart Adams, however, asked fellow lawmakers to change the bill to also ask they spend an additional 16 hours visiting Utah College of Applied Technology campuses, colleges, private schools and home schools.

Senators voted 16-13 to allow that change.

Several then complained later in the debate that asking lawmakers to spend 32 hours visiting schools was burdensome. Several lawmakers argued that it can be difficult to devote that much time, considering Utah’s Legislature is part-time and many members have jobs outside of the session.

Several also argued that lawmakers make decisions about all types of institutions and topics and can’t spend that much time getting to know all areas.

"Where does it end?" asked Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville.

A number of lawmakers said they already visit schools and will continue to do so but didn’t feel a resolution setting out a specific amount of time or reporting requirements was needed.

"I will make visits to the classroom, but it’s not something that I’m going to allow to be out of balance with my other responsibilities," said Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden. "To me, this legislation is almost to the point, and I don’t want to be offensive at all, but it’s almost to the point of being childish."

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said the Legislature already has committees to focus on specific areas, so some lawmakers can specialize in certain topics and make recommendations to others.

Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, also attempted at one point to turn the table on educators, asking them to learn more. He tried to modify the resolution so that it also would have encouraged teachers to participate "in an online activity consisting of reading a fact sheet relating to commonly misunderstood aspects of public education" and then answering "a set of questions testing knowledge gained from information in that fact sheet."

Fellow lawmakers, however, voted against that addition before defeating the resolution as a whole.



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