Up against reality • HB318, a bill that died in committee the other day, would have capped class sizes in kindergarten at 20 students starting next school year; first-grade classes to 22 students the next year; second-grade classes to 22 the year after that; and third-grade classes to 24 starting in the 2016-2017 school year. It was an excellent idea, since Utah teachers in the early grades are struggling to teach basic reading and math skills to 30 or 40 children in a class. But the bill had a fatal flaw: It would have provided no new funding for the change. Shrinking early-grade classes would mean severe cuts in other areas or much larger classes in higher grades, despite the sponsor's belief that districts already have money for class-size reduction. Money now designated for class-size reduction is used, as it must be, just to keep schools operating as enrollments increase by many thousands every year. Shifting money from one pot to another doesn't solve the root problem: insufficient education funding. That should be the Legislature's focus.
Up against ideology • Driving or riding in a car without wearing a seat belt is senseless behavior. So was the action of the Utah House Transportation Committee when it killed a bill that would have made failure to buckle up a primary offense on roads where the speed limit is 45 mph or higher. The committee didn't even debate HB283, sponsored by Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, a Utah Highway Patrol officer who has seen firsthand the destruction of a human body when the car in which it was riding comes to a sudden stop or rolls off the pavement. But it's likely those who defeated it were much the same legislators who have kept similar bills from becoming law in the past. The vapid argument is that government should not be involved in protecting people from themselves. But that is exactly what many laws are for, and this is one instance when privacy isn't worth the price paid in human suffering.
Naming honors • A proposal to name Salt Lake City's new federal courthouse after the Beehive State's only Supreme Court justice is a fine idea and should be presented to Congress by Utah's congressional delegation. George Sutherland has a judicial service record unsurpassed in Utah. HJR9, a resolution asking for the designation has passed the House and should also get approval from the Senate. Sutherland served in the Utah Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. As a senator, Sutherland sponsored the Nineteenth Amendment in the Senate. He served on the U.S. Supreme from 1922 to 1938. He richly deserves the honor.