Is This Any Way to Run an Education System?
By any, objective measure, Utah has its peculiarities. Perhaps none are so glaring as its treatment of schools, in spite of a lot of lip service being paid to kids and their education. Among the many oddities, I shall point out these: 1) Although we have burgeoning subdivisions full of burgeoning families, schools have no authority to ensure that developers set aside land for schools; 2) as the Canyons-Jordan debacle shows, sections of school districts may secede without any say from the rest of the district (or other districts that end up having to pay equalization money); and 3) you can just about open up a school out of the trunk of your car.
Witness the Bob Jones tandem train wreck, the John Locke Academy and the School for Autistic Healing. A real estate developer, Jones was flying high until the market turned. He used his cash flow to finance the schools, and by most reports, they were good facilities. But then the market did turn, and the money ran out, and the schools crashed and burned. Parents were left scrambling for alternate schools, especially tough for special needs kids, and often after having paid tuition up front for educations that now would never happen.
I can't say Jones is blameless in this. He looks like yet another Utah glad-hander who stretched everything well beyond the breaking point. But I have to ask, "Where's the bonding? Where's the back-up plan?" The quick and dirty answer is that they don't exist because there is nothing in Utah law requiring them. Our Glorious Legislature is very keen on making it easy to provide "alternatives" to public schools, but it doesn't want anyone to be responsible when those "alternatives" go belly-up. Anyone, that is, except the public schools, which must now scramble to find places for all these kids.