Board shares funding priorities with legislature.
The lunch menu for legislators was lasagna and funding issues.
The Park City School Board met with legislative representatives for a lunch meeting on Wednesday to brief them about education issues. In attendance were Rep. Dave Ure, R-Kamas, Rep. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake and Sen. Bev Evans, R-Altamont.
Superintendent Dave Adamson urged them to focus on five main issues including: funding, teacher quality, vouchers, post employment benefits and local control.
Adamson highlighted issues from Governor Huntsman’s 2007 budget recommendations. He asked legislators to support the 5 percent increase in spending per child and funding for the 2 percent growth in school populations.
Money for transportation is also a large concern for the district. Von Hortin, Business Administrator for Park City School District, noted the cost of diesel has not fluctuated and estimates that gasoline costs alone will increase by 40 percent in the coming year.
The board would also like to receive financial support for students that need extra help through math and reading initiatives, as well as support for the Utah Basic Skills Competency Test.
Funding on-line testing would improve the efficiency of scoring UBSCT. Students who took the test in October received their results just before winter break began on Dec. 22. Those who take UBSCT at the end of January won’t know their scores until a month before school gets out for summer. "Online testing would solve a lot of this," said Adamson.
Concurrent enrollment is also in need of additional funding. Adamson reported colleges are talking about pulling out of the program because of insufficient funding. The PCSD supports concurrent enrollment and is working to increase participation in the program.
Attracting and retaining quality educators is also a primary concern for Park City High School. While the district isn’t facing a teacher shortage, many instructors and administrators are nearing retirement and those positions will need to be filled.
2015 the number of students in the state of Utah will grow by 140,000. More teachers will need to be hired to compensate for the increase in students.
Actively recruiting at college campuses is something board member Kathryn Adair would like to see. She observes at universities, "there doesn’t seem to be a lot of recruiting for teachers."
The lack of minority teachers is a state-wide problem. Only 7 percent of Utah teachers are ethnic minorities and the minority student population is up to 17 percent. According to Adamson, PCSD would like to employ more teachers that are fluent in Spanish.
Senator Evans addressed the reputation of the teaching profession and how it can effect recruitment. She said the attitude of some is, "the sky is always falling. And it’s not." Evans pointed out that teachers have a variety of fringe benefits that make the job attractive.
Adamson said PCSD would support vouchers if there was a systematic way to improve the quality of the district at the same time. "I don’t think we can do both," he said.
The Governmental Accounting Standards Board has set a new standard that state school districts must set aside a certain amount of money per teacher for post employment benefits. Dave Adamson asked that local boards be allowed to make the necessary policy changes with a transition period for full implementation.
These new standards call into question what matters should fall under state jurisdiction and what should remain in the school districts’ control. Adamson asked legislators to protect local control by watching for bills that give more power to the state. Referring to the school system he said, "It is already so productive on a dollar-for-dollar basis, there is no need to fix what isn’t broken."
Adamson said the school board feels Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative compromises local control. "It is a law that is badly in need of repairs," he said and recommended to legislators they seek amendments and rule changes in Washington.
The NCLB initiative presents an additional challenge to Utah students who already have to comply with the standards of the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students.
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The Summit County unemployment rate dropped slightly in October, the state Department of Workforce Services reported.