Parents in Utah are benefiting from a new source of information about education opportunities in their state.
Parents for Choice in Education (PCE), a Salt Lake City-based organization promoting school choice, has unveiled a new Web site, UtahEducationFacts.org, offering information about all facets of Utah’s education system, including public schools.
“Part of our mission is to empower parents, and we think this is the best way to do that,” said Robyn Bagley, the group’s chairperson of the board.
“We want to give them quality information in one place and allow them to become more educated about their children’s education opportunities, whether it be public or charter schools or homeschooling,” Bagley continued.
“The more empowered they are, the better they can help their children,” Bagley said. “The site offers information about budgets, what percentage of property tax dollars go to schools, and even how much money goes to each individual student.”
The Web site features videos, news updates, school performance information, and suggestions on how parents can get involved in the education system. Executive Director Judi Clark says the organization is using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to help get the word out regarding the new site. She expects parents to be receptive to the reservoir of education information.
“I think there is a certain percentage of parents who are really engaged and always looking for resources to find that kind of information,” said Clark. “Here in Utah, people are interested in education and are constantly looking for information in a clear, easy-to-navigate way that doesn’t bombard them.”
PCE saw a need for such a Web site after noticing Utahns appeared to have numerous misconceptions about education funding during an unsuccessful push to get a statewide universal school voucher referendum passed in 2007.
Because of the organization’s work on the voucher issue, some public school reform opponents accuse the site of being biased. In a December article in the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah Education Association President Kim Campbell noted, “From my brief look at it, there’s some good information, but there’s also a heavy bias. The point of view promoted on that Web site is pro-voucher, pro-private school, and anti-public school, and readers should keep that in mind.”
That’s not true, Bagley said.
“We really wanted to provide a tool to help people get involved in the dialogue,” Bagley explained. “There is no agenda behind it. If people sit back and say [K-12] education is doing well in the United States, they are just fooling themselves. We want every avenue of education to be the best it can be, whether it is public or charter. We hope this tool will give people a better idea of where we are in terms of education in the state as a whole.”
In the long run, Bagley said, the goal is to educate parents and get them involved in finding the best learning environment for their child. She suggests the best way to do this is by learning how to make do with the current resources available to the education system.
“We’re always going to be fighting the dollar issue, which has been the largest argument of the establishment when it comes to making changes,” said Bagley. “But even the highest-funded system doesn’t necessarily have the best results.
“The bottom line is we have to accept the fact that we have a certain amount of dollars and figure out how we are going to use them most effectively,” Bagley concluded.
Aricka Flowers ([email protected]) writes from Chicago.
For more information …
Parents for Choice in Education: www.UtahEducationFacts.com