Some things just require a complete do-over. That's the case with West Ridge Academy, formerly the Utah Boys Ranch. That was the former West Jordan Republican, Sen. Chris Buttars', baby, a school steeped in abuse in the name of rehabilitation. Now renamed, the private treatment center is seeking charter-school status—you know, for the money. Hey, it would be a clean start, right? New name: Eagle Summit Academy. But there are still ongoing investigations and a pending Salt Lake Tribune request for records from the West Jordan Police Department. And while the school promises a "new, empathetic approach to discipline," it could be cosmetic surgery rather than a new paradigm. Most troubling, perhaps, is Charter Board Chairman Howard Headlee's comment that all will be well, and it's not their job to dictate who can be employed by a school. If we're looking for better oversight, let's not depend on charter-school status.
Eat, Pray, Build Skills
There's something wrong with Utah's approach to people living in poverty, and we're not talking about panhandling. Some legislative bills this session seem to be seeking to punish the poor or at least teach them a lesson or two. Sen. Lincoln Filmore, R-South Jordan, thinks it's a grand idea to force prospective welfare recipients to go through self-reliance training. In other words, these are slackers who want a handout and have no intention of bettering themselves. This has drawn disdain from Utahns Against Hunger and the Catholic Diocese of Utah. The fear is that it puts another barrier to receiving real aid while there are already hurdles to climb. Filmore says the principle is not to provide food or housing, but rather to build skills. That's all fine, but people in poverty often need food and housing before they can start building any skill.
Senate Bill 101 (High Quality School Readiness Program Expansion) builds on some pilot projects for high-quality pre-kindergarten classes and focuses on intergenerational poverty. If kids don't get to school ready to learn, then they are doomed to start behind and stay there. Sounds like a no-brainer, and is, in fact, something that United Way has long championed. Sorry to say that, in Utah, there are some who think it's a bad idea because it takes the decisions for children out of the hands of parents. Yes, that comes from the Eagle Forum and the Sutherland Institute. The most important place to be is at home with Mom, they say. Maybe they're right in saying kids need more time outside playing, but children in poverty aren't likely to have that opportunity. The bill is on its way to approval.