From: Patti Harrington
To: Brad Last, Lowry Snow, LaVar Christensen, Kim Coleman, Bruce Cutler, Steve Eliason, Justin Fawson, Francis Gibson, Eric Hutchings, David Lifferth, Daniel McCay, Carol Moss, Mike Noel (mnoel, Marie Poulson,
Subject: your House Education meeting today at 10:00
Date: Tue Mar 08 15:30:26 MST 2016

Good morning, Members of the House Education Committee –


There are some critical bills on your agenda this morning; some that greatly concern parents serving on local boards of education, their superintendents and business officials.  We would respectfully ask that you consider the following as you deliberate on these bills:


Please OPPOSE SB45 Compulsory Education Revisions – A. Jackson


SB45      Compulsory Education Revisions – A. Jackson

Eliminates criminal penalties for a parent of a truant school-age child.  Changes wording from the school “shall direct the parent… meet with school authorities to discuss… school attendance” to “shall request that the parent … meet with school authorities to discuss… school attendance.”  Deletes “failure to comply with compulsory education requirements in violation of Section 53A-11-101.5” from the list of required reporting for child abuse and neglect.

Request:  $0                                                                            OPPOSE



When a student is absent from school, school teachers and administrators work with the student and his/her parent to help the student catch up on learning concepts and to help the student improve toward on-time, regular attendance.  This is a time-consuming but worthwhile effort to help every child succeed. 


When a student is absent for 10 consecutive days or more due to illness, or is homebound due to illness or other incapacity, districts assign a homebound teacher to that child so their school studies do not suffer.  When parents ask to have their children excused from school for an extended activity/travel/vacation, school districts accommodate that need as well.  All of these accommodations occur even as Utah has a compulsory attendance law in place.  That law presumes that a parent is the one in control of their children and can best see to their on-time, regular attendance.


A truant is a different matter.  State Board rule define truants, in part, as those who “fail to cooperate with efforts on the part of school authorities to resolve the minor’s attendance problem” (R277-607.1)  No school takes truancy action with any student unless and until they are unable to resolve attendance problems in reasonable ways by meeting with parents and students to help them with their needs.  Indeed, Utah law requires school personnel to observe that the parent is “recklessly” or “intentionally” failing to meet with them and failing to prevent further absences from school and documentation to this effect is required by the courts if court action is deemed necessary.



When multiple reasonable efforts by school personnel are exhausted or ignored, and the student continues to miss school, the student is considered truant and it becomes necessary to use the weight of law to help parents and students focus on school attendance, per Utah law. 


Our Concern

This bill affects students who are aged 14 or younger who are enrolled in public schools.  This bill is in conflict with the Utah compulsory attendance law as it negates the ultimate parental responsibility for regular school attendance by their children.   In the 2014-15 school year, as reported by the bill’s sponsor, there were 171 truancy cases that resulted in a fine and 20 truancy cases wherein the parents were incarcerated for not ensuring their children attended school.  The process of truancy notice and school meetings is clearly strengthened by the inclusion of action with parents who “recklessly” or “intentionally” keep their children from attending school, even though, thankfully, incarceration last year was limited to 20 cases.  None of these truancy cases occurred until long after school personnel had tried to work closely with parents and their children to attend school regularly.  The state will need to decide, through this bill, whether school attendance should be compulsory or whether it is recommended only, leaving parents free of the ultimate responsibility.




Please OPPOSE SB165 Public Education Appointment and Hiring – H. Stephenson


SB165    Public Education Appointment and Hiring – H. Stephenson

A local school board shall obtain approval from the principal of each school where a school district employee will perform work before the local school board may enter into a contract with an individual to become a school district employee, or before the local school board can transfer a school district employee to the school.

Request:  $0                                                            OPPOSE

This bill would grant authority to an employee of a local school district over that employee’s own employing board.  Concerns about employee hiring and placement are local issues, best handled by local school boards.  Both of the associations that represent principals oppose this legislation (Utah Association of Secondary School Principals and Utah Association of Elementary School Principals).




Please OPPOSE SB163 Kindergarten Age Exceptions Amendments – H. Stephenson


SB163    Kindergarten Age Exception Amendments – H. Stephenson

Requires the state board to make rules that provide for a school district or charter school to enroll in kindergarten a student who is younger than five years old on September 2 or the year the child seeks to enroll if, 1) the child turns five on or before December 31 of that year, 2) the child’s parent or guardian requests to enroll the child, and 3) the LEA determines that the child is ready for kindergarten based on the child’s score on a kindergarten entry assessment, and other factors related to kindergarten readiness, as determined by the LEA in accordance with state board rules.  An LEA may charge a parent or guardian a fee to administer the assessment.  If both SB163 and HB42 pass and become law, the intent shall read as follows:  “A school district or charter school shall use the kindergarten entry assessment developed by the State Board of Education for the assessment described (herein).”  The Senate Committee amendment limits enrollment in 2016-17 to .5% of children enrolled in kindergarten in a school district or charter school or 1% of children enrolled in kindergarten in a school district or charter school each year after the 2016-17 school year, but allows each school district or charter school to enroll at least one student who is younger than five years old in kindergarten.

Request:  $0                                                                            OPPOSE

The current kindergarten entry age requirement in the state is at least five years of age before September 2nd of the year in which admission is sought.  We have two strong objections:

1.       Kindergarten assessments used in schools now and in past years require a one-on-one assessment by the kindergarten teacher.  This is likely to be the case with a future kindergarten assessment used statewide.  Such assessments are time-intensive and require at least one hour per child.  The bill also requires “other factors” related to kindergarten readiness, which signals additional assessment, observation, artifacts, etc.  This is all very time-intensive when the kindergarten teacher is already working with full classrooms of students, most for two sessions each day.   And, in addition, reporting and discussing assessment results with requesting parents/guardians will take time if done well.  This may be more than any one kindergarten teacher can handle, on-demand-by-request, while that teacher is still working with dozens of children every day.  A fee will not suffice for the time it will take to make this an effective entry model.

2.       If other states’ experience and our own state history are true predictors, this bill will not allow only for exceptions, but will soon become the new age rule of kindergarten entry.  The USOE’s tally of kindergarten students from the latest available year, the 2014-15 school year, was 48,366 for both district and charter schools. (

Estimating the additional children born in September-December would another 24, 183 students, a new enrollment that is not anticipated in the capacity of current facilities, not to mention kindergarten teacher preparation, which teachers are already in short supply.  Even with the amending language from the Senate Committee for enrollment limitations, we believe it will lead to a large number of parents requesting enrollment.  If the state chooses to allow four-year-olds to enter kindergarten in September, Utah parents should be consulted well ahead of the policy shift, and it must be anticipated by the state for capacity in buildings and teacher preparation long before this bill is enacted.


Additional information re: SB163


Here is the list of states in the U.S. and the starting age of kindergarten:


All but nine states require a kindergarten student to be five years of age by a summer or fall date near the start of kindergarten.


In summary,

·         States require 5 years of age on or before September 1                20 states

·         By August 15                                                                                                      2 states

·         By August 1                                                                                                        4 states

·         By October 1                                                                                                      2 states

·         By August 31                                                                                                      3 states

·         By July 31                                                                                                             2 states

·         By Sept. 15                                                                                                          2 states

·         By Sept. 2                                                                                                            1 state (Utah)

·         By Sept. 30                                                                                                          4 states

·         By October 15                                                                                                    1 state

·         By September 10                                                                                             1 state

·         By “local option” with varying compulsory education ages             7 states

·         By January 1 of the succeeding year                                                        2 states