How about a Utah bill?

The California bill I covered a few weeks ago, authorizing the establishment of “a pilot program to provide faculty and staff from community college districts around the state with the information, methods, and instructional materials to establish open education resources centers” has inspired me to do finally do one of those things on my “one of these days…” list.

As we drafted the language for the Cape Town Declaration‘s Strategy 3 on Open Education Policy, I worked to champion the idea that ‘taxpayer-funded educational resources should be open educational resources.’ This is the line of argument that helped secure legislative funding for the Utah OpenCourseWare Alliance. This language and other great ideas did eventually make it into the Strategy:

3. Open education policy: Third, governments, school boards, colleges and universities should make open education a high priority. Ideally, taxpayer-funded educational resources should be open educational resources. Accreditation and adoption processes should give preference to open educational resources. Educational resource repositories should actively include and highlight open educational resources within their collections.

So now what is obviously needed is some legislation that makes these policies real! Borrowing and improving the definition of OERs from the California bill, I’m thinking something along these lines:

Open educational resources are curriculum materials or learning resources whose copyrights have expired, that have been placed in the public domain, or that have been released with an intellectual property license that permits their free use, reuse, revision, and redistribution by others without further permission from the original authors or creators. Open educational resources include items such as courses, course materials, textbooks, lesson plans, videos or podcasts of classroom lectures, homework assignments, activities, tests, and any other tools, materials, or techniques that have an impact on teaching and learning.

Utah’s public schools spend a significant amount of taxpayer money each year purchasing or licensing curriculum materials and other learning resources. Given the limited nature of public funding available, Utah’s public schools can become better stewards of public resources by making greater use of open educational resources. Specifically, in cases where existing open educational resources provide a viable educational alternative to traditional curriculum materials, these should be strongly considered for adoption by the schools and districts. In cases where public funds are used to purchase or license materials instead of adopting educationally equivalent open educational resources, schools and districts have an obligation to justify these decisions to the taxpaying public.

Utah’s public schools also spend a significant amount of taxpayer money each year producing original curriculum materials and other learning resources. In order to provide the largest possible benefit to Utah’s public schools, any time public funds are used to produce curriculum materials these should immediately become open educational resources and be made available for free use, reuse, revision, and redistribution by other public schools and the public at large.

Such measures will create real cost savings for districts and schools. These cost savings can be redirected back into the schools and districts in a number of ways, including supporting teacher professional development regarding the discovery, creation, use, and sharing of open educational resources, summer funding for teachers to improve existing open educational resources, and summer funding for teachers to develop new open educational resources.

I realize right away that a bill espousing these principles may be far too right-headed to have a chance of passing, but as I was recently reminded, “being sure you will lose the fight does not free you from the moral obligation to fight the fight.” And yes, I realize this isn’t the proper format, &c., for a bill, but I’m only testing the ideas at this point. And yes, the ideas in the final paragraph probably don’t actually belong in the bill.

Know anyone who might want to sponsor legislation like this in Utah? Let me know! I’m doing my own searching in the meantime…