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UEA Report on the 2016 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK TWO: 

Daily Reports

2016 LEGISLATURE WEEK TWO SUMMARY: February 1-5

Of the more than 80 education-related bills being tracked by the UEA, only about a dozen moved during week two of the 2016 Legislature. The Executive Appropriations Committee heard many reports and budget requests, but did not take action on the overall base budget. The UEA Legislative Team and teachers attending Educator Day on the Hill shared teacher survey results with legislators.

Public Education Budget: The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee continued to hear reports and budget requests, but took no action on the overall education budget during the week. There were concerns expressed by committee members that projected state revenue numbers could be revised downwards, leaving less money available for public education than originally anticipated.

Educator Day on the Hill: More than 50 education professionals braved the cold and ice to participate in Educator Day on the Hill. Participants came from a dozen school districts, including six teachers who traveled from Washington County School District. Teachers participated in a meeting of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee in the morning, then met with their legislators outside House and Senate chambers. At lunchtime, Rep. Steve Eliason and Sen. Todd Weiler stopped by to speak to the teachers.

Teacher Survey: Results from the UEA’s 2016 teacher survey of legislative issues were shared with legislators. The UEA received responses from 3,139 Utah educators, the largest response ever to a UEA survey. Teachers listed top priorities as 1) oppose tying teacher pay to test scores, 2) reduce class sizes, 3) increase teacher salaries, 4) increase paid time for planning/collaboration, and 5) oppose measures to reduce collective bargaining rights. Teachers also provided more than 1,700 comments which they asked to be shared with legislators. Those comments were compiled, divided by legislative district and hand delivered to each legislator. View teacher comments shared with legislators.

Bills on the move this week
(For the current status on all bills of interest see the UEA Legislative Tracking Sheet)

HB28: Grants for Educator Professional Learning appropriates $30 million for a grant program to support LEA professional learning programs. During debate on the House floor, some legislators indicated they support professional learning, but intended to vote ‘no’ on the bill because they would rather see the money on the WPU. The bill passed the House 61-12 and now goes to the Senate.

HB43: State Instructional Materials Commission Amendments passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature. It removes the repeal date of the State Instructional Materials Commission, allowing the Commission to continue.

HB95: Political Issues Committee Amendments passed the House and now moves to the Senate for consideration. This bill amends the definition of a political issues committee in the Campaign and Financial Reporting Requirements section of the Election Code.

HB107: Early College High Schools distinguishes an early college high school from a regularly authorized charter school and exempts early college high schools from certain rules. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HB142: Agency Auditing Procedures for Education provides that public school auditors report to the State Board of Education rather than the state superintendent, bringing the statute in line with current procedures. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HB147: State Board of Education Revisions eliminates statutory references to the State Office of Education and replaces the references with the State Board of Education, which is a constitutionally created body. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

SB78: State Board of Education Candidate Selection modifies the current candidate nomination and selection process for the state school board. The legislation keeps in place the “nominating committee” that vets candidates but changes the criteria by which a candidate is considered qualified. It creates a temporary selection process for the 2016 election. The UEA opposes this bill. It passed the Senate 24-5.

SB91 (1st sub.): Board of Education Amendments gives authority to the State Board of Education to audit money distributed to local agencies, even if that funding is distributed through a third party provider. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee on a vote of 4-3.

SB93 (1st sub.): Computer Science Initiative provides for Computer Science instruction and collaboration between USBE and the STEM Action Center. The bill appropriates $770,000 from the General Fund. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB98: Arts and Cultural Education Spending would require 3% of education spending be spent on visual arts, film, performing arts, sculpture, literature, music, theater, dance, digital arts, video-game arts, cultural vitality, archaeology, anthropology and history as designated in the bill. The bill failed in the Senate Economic Development Committee on a vote of 2-4.

SB103: Strategic Workforce Investments establishes a process for investing strategically in workforce development. It appropriates $5 million from the Education Fund. The bill passed the Senate Economic Development Committee unanimously.

SJR12: Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution -- Changes to School Funds a constitutional amendment to allow a change in the formula for distribution of State Institutional Trust Lands funds. The change would have the Trust operate more like an endowment and would require a public vote. SB109: State Institutional Trust Land Amendments is the enabling legislation that would go into effect if SJR12 passes the public vote. Both measures passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.


February 1, 2016

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): Legislative Analyst Ben Leishman gave a short review of the Capital Foundation Program and the district distributions under this program.

A motion was made to substitute HB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments to change the levy rates in order to allocate funding from last year’s SB96 property tax equalization that couldn’t be distributed because of conflicting language. The motion passed unanimously. The only concern expressed was the need for the governor to sign the bill immediately for the provision to take effect.

The committee heard a review of line items pertaining to the Utah State Office of Education, including the Statewide Online Educational Program. A motion to make a one-time allocation of $500,000 to the program passed and will be added to the base budget bill.

There were also presentations on licensing fees and finances at the USOE. Sen. Howard Stephenson remarked that the latter presentation should elicit confidence in the Board of Education.

Sen. Lincoln Fillmore presented a request for a $10 million appropriation to offset costs that have not been funded that are associated with the Educator Salary Adjustment. These are payroll costs such as retirement, Social Security and other taxes.

House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): HB107: Early College High Schools was presented by Rep. Val Peterson. The bill was amended to allow any district or charter high school to be designated as an early college high school if the school meets certain specific “early college” trademark requirements. The bill would also waive the 180-day rule but maintain the rule requiring the number of instructional hours. It passed unanimously.

HB142: Agency Auditing Procedures for Education was presented by Rep. Bruce Cutler. He stated that this issue was brought forward by a member of the State School Board. The concern is that current Board procedures are out of sync with existing statute which needs to be updated. Previously, the Board auditor reported to and was supervised by the state superintendent. Now, the practice is that the auditor reports directly to the Board. This bill will bring statute in line with current procedures. It passed unanimously.

HB147: State Board of Education Revisions was also presented by Rep. Cutler. This bill eliminates statutory references to the State Office of Education and replaces the references with the State Board of Education, which is a constitutionally created body. He clarified that this would not eliminate the State Office of Education. Acting Superintendent Syd Dickson stated that this change would simply codify current practice that the Board is directing policy decisions. The bill passed unanimously.


February 2, 2016

Senate Education Committee (reported by Jay Blain): In presenting SB91 (1st sub.): Board of Education Amendments, Sen. Lyle Hillyard said there is no real authority for the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) to follow up on money distributed to local agencies. He yielded time to USBE President Dave Crandall to explain some examples. Crandall said they were trying to audit the enrollment numbers of a school district and they were told that some of the numbers were under the control of a third party provider and not accessible to them. Another example is that they receive reports but the need the ability to audit those reports.

Sen. Hillyard pointed out that they give the money to the USBE, a constitutional body, and require accountability from them. They pass it on to LEA’s who should have accountability to them (USBE). That requires the authority to audit.

Sen. Lincoln Fillmore spoke against the bill saying the onus should be on each LEA to provide the information. Howard Headlee, chair of State Charter School Board, also spoke against the bill. He explained that they have contracts with each charter and hopes that the State Board will come to the State Charter Board for the information and he is confident that they can get it.

The bill passed out of committee on a vote of 4-3.

SB109: State Institutional Trust Land Amendments was presented by Sen. Ann Millner. She is concerned that we don’t manage this fund as an endowment. This bill will allow the state to manage the fund better and provide more consistent distributions. This is the enabling legislation that would go into effect if SJR12 (see below) passes the public vote, she said.

SJR12: Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution -- Changes to School Funds is a constitutional amendment to allow a change in the formula for distribution of State Institutional Trust Lands funds. The change would have the Trust operate more like an endowment.

Several spoke in favor of the bill and the resolution, including State Treasurer David Damschen. Both measures passed the committee unanimously.

SB93 (1st sub.): Computer Science Initiative provides for Computer Science instruction and collaboration between USBE and the STEM Action Center. The bill appropriates $770,000 from the General Fund. Sen. Howard Stephenson, the bill’s sponsor, yielded time to Tami Goetz of the STEM Action Center to explain the initiative. She said a key component is teachers and would like to see STEM endorsements and professional development provided, in addition to outreach to students. The bill passed unanimously.

Senate Economic Development Committee (reported by Jay Blain): SB103: Strategic Workforce Investments establishes a process for investing strategically in workforce development. It appropriates $5 million from the Education Fund.

Sen. Scott Jenkins asked if this bill doesn’t do what they are doing already. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Millner, replied that they need to more and do it more strategically. Ben Hart from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development spoke in favor saying this proposal is industry demanded. Several other representatives from the business community spoke in favor. The bill passed the committee unanimously.

SB98: Arts and Cultural Education Spending would require 3% of education spending be spent on visual arts, film, performing arts, sculpture, literature, music, theater, dance, digital arts, video-game arts, cultural vitality, archaeology, anthropology, and history as designated in the bill.

Weber County School District Superintendent Jeff Stephens spoke against the bill. He described the difficulty in breaking out the part of teacher’s salary that would be counted in situations where only part of a teacher’s time is dedicated to arts, such as in an elementary school. Crystal Young Otterstrom from the Utah Cultural Alliance spoke in favor because many schools come to them to support arts programs. The bill failed on a vote of 2-4.


February 3, 2016

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): Legislative Analyst Ben Leishman gave a report on student enrollment growth and WPU value estimates. He also discussed the process used for projecting the next year’s enrollment.

Executive Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Lyle Hillyard talked about having only $180 million in new money available and then using about $90 million for growth and then only about 2% available for WPU increase.

Representatives from the Utah State Board of Education presented its budget requests and priorities. Board member Dave Thomas implored the committee to use Education Fund money for K-12 and not send so much to Higher Ed.

Peter Madsen, Chief Investment Officer of the State Institutional Trust Fund Office (SITFO), gave a report on that office and shared an issue brief. A presentation was also made in support of the Informal Science Education Enhancement (iSEE) program.

Several motions were made in relation to the Public Education Base Budget bill. These passed.

Rep. Norman Thurston then made this motion to take 10 line items, totaling $227 million, and put them into the WPU. This would have the effect of increasing the value of the WPU by $314 per student, but add no new money to public education. The motion failed.

A motion was made by Sen. Howard Stephenson to increase funding for the Statewide Online Education Program $500,000 by transferring it from the Charter School Administration program. The motion passed

Other Committees: Several other committees originally scheduled for today, including the House Education Committee, were cancelled.


February 4, 2016

Senate Floor: HB43: State Instructional Materials Commission Amendments passed the Senate unanimously. Having previously passed the House, the bill now goes to the Governor for signature. It removes the repeal date of the State Instructional Materials Commission, allowing the Commission to continue.

SB78: State Board of Education Candidate Selection modifies the current candidate nomination and selection process for the state school board. The legislation keeps in place the “nominating committee” that vets candidates but changes the criteria by which a candidate is considered qualified. It creates a temporary selection process for the 2016 election. The UEA opposes this bill. It passed the Senate 24-5.


February 5, 2016

Educator Day on the Hill (reported by Mike Kelley): More than 50 education professionals braved the cold and ice to participate in Educator Day on the Hill. Participants came from a dozen districts, including six teachers who traveled from Washington County School District.

The morning began with introductions and a short overview from the UEA Legislative Team. At 7:45 a.m., participants adjourned to a meeting of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (see summary below), then met with their legislators outside House and Senate chambers.

At lunchtime, Rep. Steve Eliason and Sen. Todd Weiler stopped by to speak to the teachers. Rep. Eliason shared information about his proposal to allow parents to pay for an extra half day of kindergarten if the district offers it. Parents unable to pay could apply for waivers. He also discussed a bill to reimburse teachers upon obtaining National Board Certification and a $1,500 per year stipend or $2,500 per year for teacher in a Title 1 school. “I try not to bring a lot of bills that will micromanage education,” he said.

Sen. Weiler, who is chair of Senate Retirement Committee, talked about his SB19: Phased Retirement. The bill would allow state employees to “retire half way” and keep on working half-time at 50% salary and receive 50% of their pension payment, he said. He explained that an employer would need to elect to participate.

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): The meeting began with a follow-up report from the Statewide Online Education Program. The report showed that the majority of funding went to one private school, which raised concerns from some committee members. Rep. David Lifferth asked if perhaps there could be “guard rails” around the program to make it more available to all. Others suggested the payments to private schools were appropriate. Sen. Howard Stephenson remarked that he wants to bring more home school students in to the system.

Next up was a report on the State Board of Education Digital Teaching and Learning master plan. Board Chair Dave Thomas laid out the process that the task force used to develop the plan. He said Utah is the only state with a statewide plan and “many others are looking at us with great interest.” At a cost of about $100 million, some committee members questioned whether that money would be better invested in the WPU and allow local districts to make their own decisions.

Other reports heard by the subcommittee included:

  • Ray Timothy, Director of Utah Education and TeleHealth Network, presented the results of a statewide school inventory and engineering study.
  • Howard Headlee, chair and Kristen Elinkowski, vice chair of the State Charter Board then gave a presentation on charter schools.
  • Phil Dean with the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) presented Governor Herbert’s education budget, which calls for a 4.75% increase in the WPU.
  • The Professional Outreach Program in the Schools (POPS) presented a funding request.

The final presentation was from the School Boards and Superintendents Associations. Supt. Ray Terry from Beaver School District, Nancy Kennedy a board member from the Box Elder Board of Education and Supt. Martin Bates from Granite School District presented. They asked the committee to consider a 4.5% increase on WPU as top priority before directing money to other programs. Supt. Terry explained that a 2.5% WPU is required to “keep them even.” Unless basic items are funded first, the technology really doesn’t help them, said Kennedy. Supt. Bates mentioned Utah is not capturing Utah teachers, but losing them to neighboring states that pay more. Money on the WPU goes to salaries, Bates says, but it is necessary to recruit and retain employees.

House Floor (reported by Jay Blain): HB28: Grants for Educator Professional Learning was presented on the House floor by Rep. Brad Last. He began his presentation by saying that he is aware that the majority of the education community has prioritized the WPU but that this item is should be the first priority. This bill will have districts develop local plans under the guidelines set forth already in statute and apply for grants if this bill is funded, he said.

During floor debate, Rep. Lifferth and Rep. Justin Fawson both said they support professional learning, but will vote no because they would rather see the money on the WPU. Rep. Francis Gibson said he supports the bill because it restores the original line item that goes directly to support teachers not the WPU. Voting for this bill makes a statement that we value teachers as professionals and we want them to improve, he said. Rep. Bruce Cutler also said he supports the bill and legislators “can send a signal by passing this bill that we value teachers.” Rep. Snow said this is what teachers are looking for…they want to be treated like professionals. The bill passed the House 61-12 and now goes to the Senate.

HB95: Political Issues Committee Amendments also passed the House and moves to the Senate. This bill amends the definition of a political issues committee in the Campaign and Financial Reporting Requirements section of the Election Code.