In the 2014 legislative session, HB 77 would have created a tax credit for parents who home school. The incumbent, John Westwood, apparently thought that was just too expensive, and so he voted against the tax credit. But he didn’t think that a $75 million dollar tax credit for an unnamed billionaire to build a hotel with was too expensive – he supported that one. Call me crazy, but I think taking care of the economic interests of Iron County taxpayers is more important than serving special interests! As your representative I would have supported HB 77 and not the hotel subsidy.

 

Because this is a relatively rural, low population area, we don’t have a thriving private school system to offer an alternative to, and compete with, the public schools. For that reason and others, many parents consider home schooling a necessary option. For some, it might be the preferred option anyway – the truth is that no one system is the best choice for every child.

 

Yes, home schooling has its limitations. But frankly, so do our public schools, especially as they spend more and more time focused on satisfying standardized testing mandates. Teachers do the best they can with the resources available to them, but any endeavor that attempts to serve a large population, as schools must, will serve the typical student the best, and as the student moves further from the middle – either as an under- or over-achiever – the mesh of potential and reality move futher and further apart.

 

(I was a whiz kid. There were a number of teachers, and even more administrators, who just didn’t know what to do with me. There were also several who did know, but didn’t have the time because they needed to focus on those who needed help more than I did.)

 

Fortunately, the information revolution is giving us the ability to address education in new ways. let’s be honest – the standard classroom model, with an instructor up front and a class in rows of seats – has not changed very much in the past 150 years. Within the classroom, that’s already starting to change, but with a bit of innovation we have a remarkable opportunity to return our educational system to the excellence it once offered I see a new system coming that will incorporate and integrate all the best aspects of traditional group learning with the independent study and specialization offered through online and home school courses.

 

On a personal note, I see the education options available now, especially with full-credit online courses, and I am a little envious. If those had been available when I was in my teens….wow!

 

And so, I suggest that HB 77 did not go far enough. I’d like to see provisions made for tax credits based on the costs of accredited individual courses used as supplements to the basic education offered by Utah’s school system, not just a credit for completely opting out. One of the great problems of our schools is that, particularly over the past 50 years, we have wanted them to be all things to all people. But in the internet age, we don’t need them to do that. There are resources at our fingertips, and we simply need to be willing to grasp onto them.

 

There are some within my party who decry the idea of public schools as overreach. While I agree with them in regard to the federal department of education’s initiatives – they’re just a mess – I also recognize that having a publicly funded, non-sectarian education available to every child is enshrined in the Constitution of the State of Utah. My goal will always be to make that education as solid and useful as possible, embracing technologies that expand what can be achieved while keeping a watchful eye on spending. I have what’s known among libertarians as ‘utilitarian’ streak – I don’t like to spend tax dollars, but when we do spend them, I want to wring every ounce of value out of every cent.