Utah State Senator Aaron Osmond believes that compulsory education laws places too much of responsibility that should rightly be on parents on the public school system instead. A solution to this problem, he argues, is to get rid of compulsory education entirely.
Benjamin Wood of the Deseret News writes that in a blog post on the website of the Utah State Senate, Osmond says that compulsory education laws mean that parents no longer engage as much in their children's education, forcing them to rely instead on the state's public school system to step into the breech. The results are less than optimal because parents don't push to make sure that academic environment is suitable for unique needs of their children and public schools can't afford to become everything to all of their students.
"Some parents act as if the responsibility to educate, and even care for their child, is primarily the responsibility of the public school system," Osmond wrote. "As a result, our teachers and schools have been forced to become surrogate parents, expected to do everything from behavioral counseling, to providing adequate nutrition, to teaching sex education, as well as ensuring full college and career readiness."
Leslie Castle, a member of Utah School Board agrees – at least in part. The education system in the state has, in some instances, strayed far outside its stated mission by providing nutritional services, health screenings and even counseling in addition to teaching academics. However, according to Castle, as the demographics of the student population change in Utah, children increasingly need these services, and failing to provide them in school makes it more likely that they won't get them anywhere.
"We live in a society where some children require help beyond the ability of their parents," she said. "Those students don't deserve to be punished, they don't deserve to be disqualified."
She said because of compulsory education, teachers and educators are typically the first to see evidence of trouble at home, from abuse to malnourishment. Without the requirement to attend school, or if nonacademic services were removed from the public education system, it would be necessary for the state to create some other form of publicly funded service to fill that role.
"Right now, every single day, somebody is checking on these children in the state of Utah," she said. "Somebody is seeing them, somebody is a watchful eye."
She points out that thanks to the advances made by the education reform movement, parents who feel that public schools are not doing all they can for their children have other options. Utah has a thriving charter school movement, as well as a healthy number of private schools. The state also offers support for those families who wish to homeschool.