Archives for category: Utah

Just when you thought you had heard every twist and turn in Charter World, along comes another bizarre story. The Utah State Charter Board ordered the replacement of every member of a polygamy charter school.

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (KUTV) — In a dramatic move, the Utah State Charter School Board ordered Vanguard Academy to replace all seven members of its school board. In addition, the USBE will appoint a temporary director to work with the current director.

Vanguard is affiliated with the Kingston polygamist group, known as “The Order.” In a 2020 investigation, Crisis in the Classroom revealed the school regularly hires Kingston-connected businesses and pays them with taxpayer dollars. We found the board is made up almost entirely of Kingston family members. We also found that a Kingston-related business owner won the school’s lucrative contract to feed the students.

The Idaho legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill to drop requirements for new teachers, leaving it to districts to write their own standards.

In Idaho, anyone can teach so long as they have a BA degree, pass a criminal background check, and don’t have an infectious disease.

In short, teaching in Idaho is no longer a profession. The charter industry considers this a victory.

State Senator Lincoln Fillmore is very worried about the teaching of “critical race theory,” although there is no evidence that anyone is teaching it in Utah schools. He is calling for a law requiring social studies teachers to post their daily lesson plans online, so parents and other concerned members of the community can scrutinize them. Teachers are rightly furious.

A Utah lawmaker wants to require that all materials for social science classes in K-12 be vetted and posted online for parents to review in advance — and teachers are pushing back.

Educators say the proposal shows a lack of trust in their judgment. They call it micromanaging. Some argue that it will hamper their ability to teach students about what’s happening in the world in real time. One called it a “classic witch hunt.”

“The ‘witches’ are social studies teachers who dare discuss current events,” said Deborah Gatrell, a teacher at Hunter High in Granite School District, in a post about her concerns.

The controversial idea comes Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, as a continuation of the effort by conservative Utah leaders to control what’s being taught about history in the classroom. Fillmore was also the Senate sponsor on the bill last session that banned discussion of critical race theory in public schools in the state.

Marilee Coles-Ritchie is a teacher educator in Utah. She wrote this advice for her fellow educators and other concerned citizens in Utah but it is good advice for everyone.

Here are her recommendations:

1. Decrease standardized tests. They harm students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

2. Increase the numbers of teachers from these groups across the schools.

3. Eliminate all police officers in schools. Restorative justice empowers students to resolve conflicts on their own and in small groups. This strengthens school communities, prevents bullying, and reduces student conflicts. Early adoption has shown drastic reductions in suspension rates, and students report feeling more welcome, safe, and calm.

4. Require all students to take at least one course of history and literature of these groups.

5. Increase linguistic and cultural appreciation in all schools, diversifying the voices that are represented in the curriculum, with a goal of equity and inclusion.

Listening to educators and the state school board, Governor Gary Herbert vetoed a voucher program for students with special needs.

Critics pointed out that the state has had a. Oh her program for students with special needs for 15 years and doesn’t need another one. They also noted that Utah had a state referendum in 2007, and the public voted overwhelmingly against vouchers.

The voucher advocates always begin their campaign by seeking vouchers for children with special needs, even though private schools receiving vouchers are exempt from the federal protections for these students. In this case, Utah has long had such a program. But in other states, such as Florida and Arizona, ouches for students with disabilities is the prelude to many more requests, each targeted to a new group. The ultimate goal is universal vouchers, with no limitations. The size of the voucher is always far less than the tuition at high-quality private schools, but a much-welcome subsidy for those already enrolled in religious schools.

Charter enrollment declined in Utah for the first time in at least a decade, and no new charters opened.

Enrollment at Utah’s charter schools — which have seen explosive growth in the past as they’ve attempted to be “education’s disruptors” — declined this year for the first time in at least a decade.

The dip is largely unexpected but follows a particularly chaotic year for charters in the state. One was forced to close with millions in debts owed to overseas investors. Another filed for bankruptcy. A third was ordered to shut down after less than two years in operation…

In addition to some schools closing, no new charters opened this fall — which is also a first in the state for at least a decade, Peterson added, and likely contributed to the enrollment decline. Two or three were slated to enroll students in August but pushed back their starting dates over lease, land and building issues.

Royce Van Tassell, executive director of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools, said the price of land has gone up in Utah and has put new charters in a challenging spot…

Van Tassell also pointed to the closure of the American International School of Utah, or AISU, for the dip. The Murray charter shut its doors in August in the face of mounting debts. The school owed the state and federal government nearly half a million dollars in misspent funds, according to an audit of its books.It also still faces potentially millions of dollars in other unspecified debt, according to its former spokesman, most of which was spent overseas. It’s likely that will never be repaid.

I was glad to see the reporter refer to charters as”disrupters,” which they are, and not as “reform,” which they are not.


Two new charter schools in Utah have been warned that they may have to close by the end of the year, due to low enrollments.

The Utah State Charter School Board voted Thursday morning to begin the process of closing two financially troubled charter schools.

St. George Academy in Washington County and Capstone Classical Academy in Pleasant View are now on a watch list and have 14 days to ask for a meeting to appeal the charter school board’s decision.

Both schools are less than two years old. Capstone said they planned on having 500 students enrolled by this year, but the school struggled to recruit students and, as of Thursday, only had 177 students signed up.

The school gets money from the state for each student enrolled. The lack of bodies in the school means the state charter school board fears the school could be as much as $450,000 in the hole by the end of the year.

If the schools fail to convince the charter school board to allow them to stay open, they will be the second and third charter schools to be closed in the past two years.


Salt Lake City station KUTV noticed that the charter industry has a good friend in the Legislature. He has made millions from charter schools.

Journalists Chris Jones and Nadia Phlaum report:

State Sen. Lincoln Fillmore (Dist. 10) is one of the foremost experts on charter schools in the state legislature. That makes sense given that he runs Charter Solutions, a company that from 2015 to 2018 has collected $5.7 million in fees from charter schools.

That is taxpayer money given to those charter schools. As many as 23 different charter schools have hired Fillmore’s company to help them administer their curriculum and take care of back office activities like payroll and human resources.

Fillmore says although he does field questions from lawmakers regarding charter schools, he never sponsors legislation that affects them. 

Fillmore says he has no conflict of interest. Just business as usual.

The report includes a long list of state legislators who are directly involved in the charter industry and vote to enrich their enterprise.

This charter industry is not about education. It is about profits and self-enrichment.




Utah state education officials knew that Questar had a problem-filled record, but they picked it anyway and gave it a contract for $44 million.

From the Salt Lake City Tribune:

In other states, the year-end tests were marked by glitches and cyberattacks and hourlong delays. One school district threw out its results because the software was so unreliable. In another, all of the students had to start over when the programming shut down and didn’t save their responses.

Sensitive student data was stolen in New York and Mississippi. More than 1,400 students took the wrong test in Tennessee.

But even after those issues arose — and despite clearly knowing about them — Utah signed a $44 million contract with that same testing company last spring to develop the state’s standardized exams, now called RISE. And the rollout hasn’t gone well.

As students here have tried to submit their tests, their computer screens have frozen and some haven’t been able to recover their work.

“This is clearly problematic,” said Darin Nielsen, the state’s assistant superintendent of student learning. “It hasn’t performed like we had hoped or expected. There are frustrations for many people across the state.”

The outages in Utah have delayed more than 18,000 public school students in completing their assessments this April and May. For one day, no one was able to take a science exam. On at least four others, testing was stopped entirely for some school districts.

The state has had to expand the testing window into June. Now, it’s questioning whether the scores it gets back will even be valid enough to use.

Will students be denied their high school diploma based on this invalid test? Will schools be closed or teachers fired?

Stupid is as stupid does.

Why doesn’t Utah trust its teachers to write their own tests? They know what they taught, they know their students. Let them decide.

This report from television station KUTV in Salt Lake City points out a bizarre contradiction in Charter World.

Plenty of legislators are cashing in on charter schools

In Utah:

State Sen. Lincoln Fillmore (Dist. 10) is one of the foremost experts on charter schools in the state legislature. That makes sense given that he runs Charter Solutions, a company that from 2015 to 2018 has collected $5.7 million in fees from charter schools.

That is taxpayer money given to those charter schools. As many as 23 different charter schools have hired Fillmore’s company to help them administer their curriculum and take care of back office activities like payroll and human resources.

Fillmore says although he does field questions from lawmakers regarding charter schools, he never sponsors legislation that affects them.

He told 2News:

I’m fully transparent, my job, (as a lawmaker) the law requires all citizen legislators to fill out a conflict of interest disclosure. But I take the additional step of telling my constituents that I don’t run charter school bills

Critics say Fillmore doesn’t need to run legislation. He is the “go-to” voice in the legislature when it comes to charter schools.

In a Beyond the Books investigation, video of Fillmore was found during the second to last day of the legislature last year with him speaking on charter school legislation.

He wasn’t the sponsor of House Bill 231, or even the co-sponsor, but when lawmakers had questions about the bill, he was the one providing the answers.

Beyond the Books wanted to find out if lawmakers’ affiliations with charter schools affects their votes on legislation. A lengthy list of former and current lawmakers who currently sit, or used to sit, on the boards of individual charter schools was discovered.

They include:

  • Former House Speaker Greg Hughes, who is on the board of Summit Academy.
  • Senate President Stuart Adams, who is on the board of Assent Academies.
  • Rep. Kim Coleman is founder and director of Monticello Academy.
  • Former lawmakers Curt Oda, Chris Herrod, Matt Throckmorton, and Merlynn Newbold all sit or sat on the board of Utah Military Academy.
  • Former lawmaker Rob Muhlestein runs Harmony Education Services.
  • Former State Sen. Mark Madsen sat on the board of American Leadership Academy.
  • Howard Stephenson, who is considered the father of Utah Charter Schools because he sponsored the bill allowing for charter schools, says he does sit on a charter school board but resisted all offers until this year.
  • Sen. Jerry Stevenson, is on the board of Career Path High. His son, Jed Stevenson, is also part owner of Academica West with former state Sen. Sheldon Killpack, who resigned from the senate after he was arrested for DUI 8 years ago. Academica West has helped to build, design and manage 17 Utah charter schools. Stevenson says he never talks to his son, or his friend, Killpack, about business, even though the board of Career Path High meets at the Academica West offices. He said: “The only thing we do hold our board meetings (Career Path High) in their office building (Academica West), but they’re (Killpack, Jed Stevenson) not in attendance.”

Beyond the Books also compiled a list of lawmakers dating back to the early 2000’s who made millions off of charter schools while they were members of the legislature.

Former Reps. Glenn Way, Jim Ferrin and Mike Morley where in business together helping to build and run charter schools. The wife of Rep. Eric Hutchings, Stacey, runs Career Path High.