Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, made his last pitch for a bill to help fund programming preschool opportunities for at-risk youth. Critics helped kill the bill, however, arguing that what was at risk was inserting the government into families' education and rearing of their children.
Osmond’s Senate Bill 71 sought to allow the Utah State Board of Education to court as much as $10 million in private-sector investments to preschool programs for at-risk children. The Legislature would contract with entities to provide preschool programming and would set aside roughly $1 million annually to pay back investors if performance-based results could verify the effectiveness of the preschool programs. If established, the preschool would compile performance data on children participating, but the program would be voluntary.
Osmond cited the effectiveness of a similar program at the Granite High School as evidence that pre-school investments would pay off in the long term for taxpayers by reducing the need for special programming for when economically disadvantaged students get older and may have need. Osmond implored his colleagues on the floor to not worry about government intrusion and consider the evidence of effective preschool programming for at-risk youth.
“Take a risk on doing what is right, based on data and not on fear of what will happen,” Osmond said.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, was one of the few conservative votes in support of Osmond’s bill and acknowledged that many students in his legislative district struggle with English as a second language. “I have schools where 60 percent of kids in a class don’t understand the teacher they’re assigned to,” Thatcher said.
Still, the bill faced fierce criticism, including from Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, who bristled at the idea that money should be directed at closing the achievement gap. “That is not a noble goal,” Dayton said, arguing that different students simply progressed differently and it wasn’t the proper role of government to insert itself into this kind of education.
“I don’t think we want any more intrusion into the choices parents [already] have,” Dayton said.
In the final vote, SB 71 was defeated on the Senate floor 11-18.
To read more about SB 71, click here. To contact Osmond about his bill, click here. To find your legislator to contact about this issue, click here.For more updates from the Hill, follow @EricSPeterson on Twitter.