Utah lawmaker proposes an end to compulsory education

Posted at 6:28 PM, Jul 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-17 20:28:24-04

SALT LAKE CITY – One Utah state lawmaker is proposing an end to the law that requires parents to put their children in school, and he said lifting the rule would actually improve learning.

Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-District 10, said education is a parent’s primary responsibility, not the state's.

He said requiring parents to put their children in school has made many of them disengaged, and he said he believes teachers aren’t empowered to deal with disciplinary problems and academic issues.

“They can't seem to engage or have the authority or the respect that they deserve as educators because they are viewed as, 'Hey, you guys have to take my kids. You are required to take my kids. You deal with my kids' problems,’” he said.

Osmond said he is working on a bill that would eliminate compulsory education and let parents choose whether to educate kids. He said he believes the impact would be more positive than some might think.

“I don't see parents disengaging from education completely and saying, ‘I'm not going to send them,’” he said. “But they are going to rethink this now. ‘Oh, I have to enroll my kid in school. I'm accountable for what my kid does while they are in school. It’s important to me now what their academic performance is because they could be held-back.’”

Members of the State Board of Education, like Dixie Allen, questioned whether doing away with the requirement might mean limiting some children’s access to education.

“My concerns are, doing away with compulsory education will probably cause those students who need it the most to have the least access to it,” she said. “And especially rural Utah, which I represent.”

Board member Jennifer Johnson said discussion doesn’t necessarily mean change.

“What I love about Sen. Osmond is he brings some of the hard topics to the table for us to discuss,” she said.

Parents who spoke to FOX 13 News had differing opinions on the issue.

Parent Cindy Barker said she thinks it’s an “awful” idea.

“I think that would be terribly detrimental to our society overall,” she said.

Parent Scott Sofonia said he disagrees with Osmond’s proposal.

“I believe parents should be involved, but I think the state and country should be making children go to school,” he said.

Parent Esther Marsden said giving parents more control is a good thing.

“I think a lot of it should be up to the parents,” she said.

Osmond said he isn’t suggesting the state do away with public education. He said he believes making education a choice would change people’s attitudes for the better.