By Christine Cooke

The following are public comments submitted on Utah’s draft of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Consolidated State Plan.

“Sutherland Institute champions the individual student. The aim and purpose of every K-12 education policy ought to be meeting the unique needs and potential of each child. We also champion federalism, a principle that requires policymaking authority to operate at the proper level of government.

Education is a state and local issue. Parents and leaders closest to the student are in the best position to make educational choices for a student. We urge state education leaders to make concerted efforts to reduce our dependence on federal programs and funds. Doing so will help restore state, local, and parental control and autonomy. 

In the next phase of drafting the state plan pursuant to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), we hope the State Board of Education adds requirements to more meaningfully engage parents in the educational processes listed. For example, Title I, Part C: Education of Migratory Children discusses the variety of services available to children. The plan should require that parents be given notice of the full range of services and options available. Additionally, parents should be given a parental conversation guide (for a similar concept see p. 76) that enables them to be advocates in finding services for their child. The guide should provide a glossary of terms, timelines, etc. These materials should be made available in the parent’s native language. Where such efforts already exist, they should be specified in the ESSA state plan.

Similarly, Title I, Part D: Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk should require that parents are made a part of the transition process whenever possible. It should outline efforts to facilitate a parent’s opportunity to work with the Education Transition and Career Advocate, including a parental conversation guide that provides a glossary of terms, timelines, services, etc. These materials should be made available in the parent’s native language. Where such efforts already exist, they should be specified in the ESSA state plan.

The Utah Constitution and Utah Code recognize that parents have the primary responsibility to educate their children. Efforts to engage or inform parents of educational options, language, or processes should be specified throughout.

Public comment is an essential element to creating public policy. We encourage the State Board of Education to continue improving its outreach in giving public notice of the opportunity to comment.”

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Christine Cooke works as a policy analyst for Sutherland Institute’s Center for Educational Progress. Christine has a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in English Teaching and graduated from Arizona State University with a law degree. Prior to joining Sutherland Institute, Christine was an English teacher at a public junior high school and a residential treatment center. As a student attorney in the Arizona State University Juvenile Advocacy Clinic, Christine represented clients in juvenile law proceedings and taught community legal education to high school students. She worked in legal and policy research with the legal counsel for the Arizona Office of the Governor, legal counsel for Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, the Goldwater Institute, and The Heritage Foundation. Christine has made appearances on Fox-13 News and KSL’s Sunday Edition and is regularly featured in regional publications and radio shows. She currently sits on a state committee that advises the Utah State Board of Education on specific education issues. When in her home state of Arizona, she loves to spend time with her family. She also loves music, hiking, and making cookies.

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