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School visit resolution defeated in Senate

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SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers voted against a bill Tuesday that would have committed legislators to making classroom visits.

Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, sponsored SJR26, which would have encouraged members of the Legislature to conduct 32 hours of classroom observation during the legislative interim period and report on those visits on an online repository, to be maintained by the State Office of Education.

Osmond said the goal of the resolution was to improve collaboration between the Legislature and State Office of Education, as well as better inform lawmakers on the state of education in Utah to improve future legislation.

Originally, the bill required 16 hours of visits — four hours each in an elementary school, middle school, high school and charter school — but was amended on the Senate floor to include an additional 16 hours for the visitation of private schools, home schools, applied-technology colleges and colleges or universities.

Several senators spoke in favor of the bill's intentions while opposing the resolution as a whole. Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, said the resolution placed an unfair focus on education in regards to other areas of state governance. While explaining his dissenting vote, he rhetorically asked what effect it would have on the Legislature if lawmakers were required to visit and report on highway patrol, law enforcement and every farm and coal mine in the state.

"Where does it end? If we spent 16 hours on everything we impact we're not a part-time legislature," he said.

Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, reiterated those comments, saying that legislators need to spend time in the classroom but asking his fellow senators if they were prepared to commit to 32 hours of visits and addition time reporting on those visits online.

"It's almost to the point of being childish," he said in regards to the resolution.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, refuted the goals of the resolution, saying it would not lead to better public relations with the State Board of Education or better legislation. He said he has a personal goal of visiting every school in his district and that it is harder than it sounds.

"I've gotten through about half of them," he said, "but I don't do it so I can report on some website how great I am that I've gone to some of these schools."

The resolution failed in a 8-20 vote. Multiple senators changed their initial supporting vote to one of opposition during the course of the roll call.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com