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When it comes to applying rules to the public-education system in Utah, some schools are more equal than others.

People take for granted the fact that elementary schools have open playgrounds for children in the neighborhood to enjoy at any time.

But some charter schools, which also are public schools supported by taxpayer dollars, lock up their playgrounds so kids not enrolled in those schools can't play on the monkey bars, go down the slippery slide or swing.

That's because, when the Utah State Legislature defined schools as "community centers," it exempted charter schools.

Community centers, as it applies to schools, are where civic groups can meet, sports clubs can play and little kids can enjoy the school's play area.

Some neighbors of Northstar Academy, a charter school in Bluffdale, noticed that the school's playground is fenced and locked. It struck them as strange, since most public schools' playgrounds are open to the neighborhood.

Chris Bleak of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools said Northstar and other charter schools have chosen to lock their play areas to keep out vandals.

Another reason they lock them is because they can.

It's another example in what appears to be the charter-school ethic of taking all the advantages of being a public school while getting to act like a private school. Backed by the Legislature, the mantra seems to be: What's ours is ours, and what's yours is ours.


Budding book burners? • The student body officers of the College of Eastern Utah are poised to be future Utah legislators.

They hate the press and are determined to suppress it.

The student newspaper, The Eagle, won nine awards at the Utah Press Association convention in March — three first place, three second place and three third place.

The very next week, CEU's student government cut The Eagle's budget by 10 percent, claiming the paper had too much money in its account at the end of January ($12,000), although the budget is fluid. The paper had a $600 deficit at the end of the past school year.

The student government, which gets about $98,000 in student fees and, this year, had nearly $166,000 in its account, gave budget increases to many of the institutions on campus, even ones that didn't ask for it.

The newspaper staff circulated a petition and collected 300 signatures (100 more than the number who voted in the student government elections) asking Chancellor Joe Peterson to restore the budget. He refused.

Next year's student government leaders already have indicated they want to cut the paper's budget even more, making it solely an online publication.

The information on the student government's finances that the Eagle staff acquired for its article on this issue was not handed over voluntarily. It was obtained through an open-records request.

Sound familiar?


The missing link • I poked some fun in Monday's column at the logic of Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups. On one hand, he dismisses restaurant owners' complaints that laws requiring separate alcoholic drink mixing areas are killing business, citing a lack of scientific evidence. At the same time, he based his opposition to using federal money to extend unemployment benefits on a single anecdote his LDS bishop told him about a lazy benefits recipient.

Well, I may have found the evidence Waddoups needs to reconsider the liquor-stifling legislation for restaurants.

"Bliss," a one-panel cartoon in the Deseret News' comics section, had a doozy on Tuesday. Restaurant patrons are sitting at a table, looking puzzled, while the waiter tells them: "I'm sorry, we don't have a liquor license — can't you tell?"

All the other tables in the restaurant are empty.

So there you have it, Sen. Waddoups. This satire, in the paper owned by the LDS Church no less, takes a shot at Utah liquor policies.