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A Meandering Meditation on Marching Mandates

Sitting in committee hearings can be mindboggingly boring, and that in turn causes the mind to wander. It was in that state that I sat through most of the July meeting of the Interim Joint Education Committee in Riverton.

The committee considered a draft bill, the “Jason Flatt Act.” Who? One thing about bills named after people you’ve never heard of is that the title tells you nothing of what the bill is about. In this case a title such as “The Youth Suicide Intervention Act” would be more informative and more on point. Conversely, it probably also would not jerk as many tears.

The bill is fairly straightforward. It mandates eight hours every four years of training for school district teachers and administrators on how to spot potential suicides among students. This sounds like a worthy goal. I doubt anyone this side of Cruella deVil is in favor of teenage suicide. I expect we’d all pitch into prevent one if we knew about it.

But let’s step back a bit from the Jason Flatt Act to consider that the legislature adds new mandates almost every year. In education its mandates include training and reports. However, the legislature never (well, hardly ever) removes anything from this accumulation, no matter how irrelevant. Had the legislature in1890 required a report on the use of buggy whips in the schools, districts today might still dutifully fill out that report.

The problem with the Jason Flatt Act is that it does not say which eight hours of training required elsewhere in statute are to be dropped. Eight hours in the course of four years isn’t much. But these hours pile up. The Education Committee should require any new bill that mandates training to specify what training elsewhere in the statute shall be dropped.

It should also consider a Sherman’s March through the current educational reporting requirements. The burden of proof must be placed squarely on the shoulders of those who advocate for adding or retaining a report.

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Thursday, 21 September 2017
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