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UEA Report on the 2017 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK FOUR: 

2017 LEGISLATURE WEEK FOUR SUMMARY: February 13-17

At the end of WEEK FOUR, the UEA was tracking 94 education-related bills, 31 of which progressed through the lawmaking process during the week. Friday’s UEA Educator Day on the Hill saw near record participation with more than 100 attending. The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee recommended a 3% WPU increase, more than originally expected.

Public Education Budget: The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee co-chairs presented their committee’s priorities during the week, which include fully funding enrollment growth ($64 million), 3% on the WPU ($90 million) and making the appropriation for teacher supply money ongoing rather than appropriating money year-to-year ($5 million). The priorities also include request to fully pay educator licensing fees ($2.6 million). This would eliminate the current requirement that educators pay out-of-pocket for licensing costs.

The subcommittee presented these recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee, which will take the recommendations from all appropriations subcommittees and determine the final budget for approval by the full legislature. Leaders announced Friday that new quarterly estimates show the Legislature will have $88 million more than it had expected for next year's budget. There have also been rumors of additional bills to enhance education revenue, leaving hope that additional money may be added to the WPU.

Educator Day on the Hill: It was a full house at UEA Educator Day On the Hill, with a well over 100 educators and education support professionals participating from 17 school districts. Nearly half were participating for the first time. The morning briefing on education-related legislation and lobbying was abbreviated to allow everyone to attend a meeting of the House Education Committee, which started at 8 a.m. (see below).

Four representatives, Craig Hall, Marie Poulson, Joel Briscoe and Robert Spendlove, stopped by after lunch to thank teachers and share information about proposals moving through the legislature. Rep. Poulson discussed her bill (HB241) to replace the school grading system with a more robust school accountability system. “Most do not believe school grades are a true reflection of what is going on in our schools,” she said. The Governor’s education advisor Tami Pyfer also shared insight into how to be effective when talking to legislators. The meeting concluded with a discussion of ideas about how to share the experience with other teachers.

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

HB23 (1st sub.): Income Tax Credit Modifications phases out the solar income tax credit until it is gone. The UEA is tracking this bill because of the potential impact on the education budget. It passed the House on a vote of 60-14.

HB29 (4th sub.): Energy Efficient Vehicle Tax Credit Amendments takes $375,000 from the General Fund and $125,000 (less than in previous versions of the bill) from the Education Fund to be used as tax credits for energy efficient vehicles. It passed the House Revenue and Taxation Committee unanimously, but committee members were unsure if it would be funded.

HB35: Minimum School Program Amendments amends provisions related to a local school board paying for a student to attend a school district outside of the state and amends provisions related to necessarily existent small schools. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB62: Educator Rights Amendments would require school districts to update definitions in policies related to bullying and implement a grievance procedure for employees experiencing abusive conduct by a parent or student. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB78: Nonbinding Opinion Questions would allow public opinion questions to be placed on election ballots. The bill failed on the House floor by a vote of 34-36.

HB108 (1st sub.): Teacher Salary Supplement Amendments allows those with Level 4 endorsements in science, in addition to those with science degrees, to be eligible for a teacher salary supplement. A substitute bill, which removes biology and adds endorsements to help math teachers, passed the House 67-5 and now goes to the Senate.

HB114: Local School Entity Amendments modifies provisions relating to the Minimum School Program Act. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor.

HB119 (1st sub.): School Board Midterm Replacement Process creates a process for a local school board to make an appointment to fill a vacancy on the school board after a local school board member resigns. It passed the House unanimously.

HB125: Student Residency Amendments clarifies issues related to a student’s district of residence when a student is receiving services from a health care facility or human services program. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB126: Student Plan for College and Career Readiness Revisions changes references for Student Education/Occupation Plan (SEOP) to “plan for college and career readiness” and Student Education Plan (SEP) to “individual learning plan,” to reflect current language. It passed the House unanimously.

HB166: School and Institutional Trust Fund Amendments changes the number of times the State Institutional Trust Funds Office (SITFO) meets from nine to six. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor.

HB209 (1st sub.): Administration of Medication to Students Amendment clarifies issues of immunity from liability when a student is administered a glucagon, seizure medication or an opioid antagonist. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB212 (2nd sub.): Incentive for Effective Teachers in High Poverty Schools appropriates about $400,000 to provide a $5,000 bonus for a teacher deemed highly effective based on test scores and teaching in a high poverty school. The UEA has concerns about defining a teacher’s effectiveness based solely on a standardized test score and the fact only a small percentage of teachers, those teaching grades 4-6 in elementary school or those teaching a tested subject in secondary schools, would even qualify. The bill passed the House Education Committee 6-4 and now goes to the full House.

HB223: Elementary School Counselor Pilot Program creates a grant program to fund school counselors in elementary schools to provide emotional and social support to students and college and career readiness counseling. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full House.

HB241: School Accountability Amendments discontinues the practice of school grading and replaces it with a system of indicators developed by the Utah State Board of Education. The bill passed the House Education Committee on a vote of 6-4 and now goes to the full House.

HB264: Utah Education Amendments requires the State Board of Education to work with the legislative auditor to review the effectiveness of education programs by November 30, 2018 and prepare and submit a revised 10-year plan to the Education Interim Committee by November 30, 2019. The bill passed the House Education Committee 9-2.

HB288 (1st sub.): School Sunscreen Provisions permits a student to carry and use sunscreen at a public school. It passed the House 67-1.

HB292: Charter School Admission Amendments allows a charter school to give an enrollment preference to the sibling of an individual who was previously enrolled in the charter school. The bill passed both the House Education Committee and the full House unanimously and now goes to the Senate.

HCR5 (1st sub.): Concurrent Resolution on Clean Fuel School Buses supports the dedication of a portion of the funds of the Volkswagen settlement for the replacement of old school buses with clean fuel buses. The bill passed the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee unanimously.

HJR1: Joint Rules Resolution on Redistricting Standards passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Senate. The resolution enacts principles and procedures to guide the Legislature during redistricting.

HJR4 (1st sub.): Joint Resolution on Maintenance-of-effort Requirements requests that Utah's congressional delegation submit federal legislation requiring that the state amount obligated as a maintenance-of-effort calculation not exceed the amount of federal funding provided. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor.

HJR8: Joint Resolution Supporting the Retention of Public Educators supports the retention of public educators by directing revenue generated after transfer of federal public lands to state ownership towards a fund to increase educator salaries. The UEA supports this resolution. It passed the House 62-7.

SB40 (1st sub.): School Bus Inspection Revisions changes the frequency of required safety inspections for school buses. It passed the Senate unanimously.

SB64 (1st sub.): Student Scholarship Amendments changes the amount of the Centennial Scholarship and allows for a deferment. It passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Governor.

SB78: Teacher Pedagogical Assessment would require that a graduate of university education preparation program pass a performance-based pedagogical assessment before receiving a Level I teaching license. It would allow an alternative-route-to-licensure candidate to teach up to two years before passing the same pedagogical assessment and retain their Level I license. It passed the Senate on a vote of 22-2 and now goes to the House.

SB102: Utah Student Privacy Act requires a public school to make a list of individuals who are authorized to access education records and provide training on student privacy laws. It passed the Senate unanimously.

SB115 (1st sub.): Compulsory Education Revisions amends penalties for a parent of a truant school-age child and amends requirements related to excusing a home-schooled student. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB125: Authorization to Modify Charter School Charter Agreements allows a charter to modify its charter without going to its authorizer in order to exceed its cap in cases when a district school within a two-mile radius is closed to open enrollment. The bill passed the Senate 24-4 and now goes to the House.

SB216: Reading Intervention Software License Program Accountability Amendments provides that a school district, the State Board of Education and a technology provider work with a public school if the usage rate of reading intervention software falls below a recommended rate. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB220: Student Assessment and School Accountability Amendments would eliminate the use of SAGE tests in high school and instead require ACT and ACT Aspire assessments for high school students. It would also modify the current school grading accountability system, incorporating several new criteria and changing calculation and reporting of school performance. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB223 (1st sub.): Modifications to Charter School Governance requires the State Board of Education to adopt principles and standards for quality charter authorizing and requires the Board to adopt rules for the oversight of a charter school authorizer. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.


February 13, 2017

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Sara Jones and Mike Kelley): The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee finalized its recommended budget priorities, which include fully funding enrollment growth ($64 million), 3% on the WPU ($90 million) and making the appropriation for teacher supply money ongoing rather than appropriating money year-to-year ($5 million). The priorities also include request to fully pay educator licensing fees ($2.6 million). This would eliminate the current requirement that educators pay out-of-pocket for licensing costs.

The Executive Appropriations Committee will take the recommendations from all appropriations subcommittees and determine the final budget for approval by the full legislature. Updated revenue estimates are expected later this week and there have been rumors of additional bills to enhance education revenue, leaving hope that additional money may be added to the WPU.

House Education Committee (reported by Jay Blain): HB292: Charter School Admission Amendments allows a charter school to give an enrollment preference to the sibling of an individual who was previously enrolled in the charter school. It passed unanimously

HB264: Utah Education Amendments requires the State Board of Education to work with the legislative auditor to review the effectiveness of education programs by November 30, 2018 and prepare and submit a revised 10-year plan to the Education Interim Committee by November 30, 2019. It also requires the Education Interim Committee to review the updated and revised 10-year plan, recommend changes, and consider legislation that would implement the revised 10-year plan. The bill passed 9-2.

HB241: School Accountability Amendments discontinues the practice of school grading and replaces it with a system of indicators developed by the Utah State Board of Education. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Marie Poulson, stated that the school grading system has devolved into one of shaming teachers and students. The data is unreliable, she said, because SAGE cannot be used on student grades. The school grading system is more related to socioeconomic status than anything else, said Poulson. She added that another problem is the constant changing of the system by the legislature and that there is no concrete evidence that it has improved instruction. It has demoralized teachers and driven them from classrooms, she said.

Several spoke in favor of the bill, including UEA President Heidi Matthews, who said it will help “stop demoralizing teachers.” Janey Stoddard, a charter school principal, said school grading has been a moving target and has provided no meaningful data. The lowering of grades this past fall speaks the problems of retention and demoralization of teachers, she added.

Others speaking in favor included seventh-grade teacher and Granite Education Association President Susen Zobell, Utah PTA representative LeAnn Wood, elementary school principal Keith Conley, retired teacher Paul Zuckerman and Salt Lake teacher Becky Bissegger.

Rep. Poulson summarized by saying that it hurts her that school grading has demoralized teachers and driven them out of the schools where they are needed the most. “We need to have the political courage to reassess and change when needed,” she said. The bill passed the committee on a vote of 6-4 and now goes to the full House.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB64 (1st sub.): Student Scholarship Amendments changes the amount of the Centennial Scholarship and allows for a deferment. It passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Governor.

HB23 (1st sub.): Income Tax Credit Modifications phases out the solar income tax credit until it is gone. The UEA is tracking this bill because of the potential impact on the education budget. It passed the House on a vote of 60-14.

HB119 (1st sub.): School Board Midterm Replacement Process creates a process for a local school board to make an appointment to fill a vacancy on the school board after a local school board member resigns. It passed the House unanimously.

HB126: Student Plan for College and Career Readiness Revisions changes references for Student Education/Occupation Plan (SEOP) to “plan for college and career readiness” and Student Education Plan (SEP) to “individual learning plan,” to reflect current language. It passed the House unanimously.


February 14, 2017

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): All four bills heard in the Senate Education Committee passed unanimously:

HB62: Educator Rights Amendments was presented by Rep. Keven Stratton. The bill would require school districts to update definitions in policies related to bullying and implement a grievance procedure for employees experiencing abusive conduct by a parent or student. The UEA supports this bill.

HB125: Student Residency Amendments was presented by Rep. Derrin Owens. The bill clarifies issues related to a student’s district of residence when a student is receiving services from a health care facility or human services program.

HB35: Minimum School Program Amendments amends provisions related to a local school board paying for a student to attend a school district outside of the state and amends provisions related to necessarily existent small schools.

HB209 (1st sub.): Administration of Medication to Students Amendment was presented by Rep. Mike McKell. The bill clarifies issues of immunity from liability when a student is administered a glucagon, seizure medication or an opioid antagonist.

House Revenue and Taxation Committee (reported by Jay Blain): HB29 (4th sub.): Energy Efficient Vehicle Tax Credit Amendments takes $375,000 from the General Fund and $125,000 (less than in previous versions of the bill) from the Education Fund in ongoing funding to be used as tax credits for energy efficient vehicles. It passed the committee unanimously, but committee members were unsure if it would be funded.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB40 (1st sub.): School Bus Inspection Revisions changes the frequency of required safety inspections for school buses. It passed the Senate unanimously.

SB78: Teacher Pedagogical Assessment would require that a graduate of university education preparation program pass a performance-based pedagogical assessment before receiving a Level I teaching license. It would allow an alternative-route-to-licensure candidate to teach up to two years before passing the same pedagogical assessment and retain their Level I license. It passed the Senate on a vote of 22-2 and now goes to the House.

SB102: Utah Student Privacy Act requires a public school to make a list of individuals who are authorized to access education records and provide training on student privacy laws. It passed the Senate unanimously.


February 15, 2017

Executive Appropriations Committee (reported by Jay Blain): The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee co-chairs, Sen. Lyle Hillyard and Rep. Dan McCay, presented their committee’s priorities, highlighting a 3% increase on the WPU, $5 million in ongoing for teacher supply money (first time this money has been ongoing) and $2.5 million to pay for teacher licensing fees.

House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): HB212 (2nd sub.): Incentive for Effective Teachers in High Poverty Schools was presented by Rep. Mike Winder. This bill had previously been heard by the committee but no vote was taken. There was another lengthy discussion with many questions from committee members and extensive public comment. The bill appropriates about $400,000 to provide a $5,000 bonus for a teacher deemed highly effective based on test scores and teaching in a high poverty school.

Sara Jones, speaking on behalf of UEA, spoke in opposition to the bill. She stated that defining a teacher’s effectiveness based solely on a standardized test score is a problem because SAGE scores are not a reliable measure of teacher effectiveness and only a small percentage of teachers, those teaching grades 4-6 in elementary school or those teaching a tested subject in secondary schools, would even qualify. She also highlighted the problem that while the program may reward some effective teachers in highly impacted schools, the program does nothing to provide additional resources, training or support to elevate the practice of every teacher in the school to improve overall retention. The bill passed 6-4 and now goes to the full House.

House Floor (reported by Jay Blain and Mike Kelley): HB288 (1st sub.): School Sunscreen Provisions permits a student to carry and use sunscreen at a public school. It passed the House67-1.

HJR8: Joint Resolution Supporting the Retention of Public Educators supports the retention of public educators by directing revenue generated after transfer of federal public lands to state ownership towards a fund to increase educator salaries. The UEA supports this resolution. It doesn’t take one side or the other on the issue of the public lands transfer and is not prescriptive on the manner of distribution. It is completely separate from the SITLA formula for distribution. The resolution passed 62-7.

HB108 (1st sub.): Teacher Salary Supplement Amendments allows those with Level 4 endorsements in science, in addition to those with science degrees, to be eligible for a teacher salary supplement. The substitute bill removes biology and adds endorsements to especially help math teachers. The bill passed the House 67-5 and now goes to the Senate.


February 16, 2017

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones and Mike Kelley): SB220: Student Assessment and School Accountability Amendments was presented by Sen. Ann Millner. The bill would eliminate the use of SAGE tests in high school and instead require ACT and ACT Aspire assessments for high school students. It would also modify the current school grading accountability system, incorporating several new criteria and changing calculation and reporting of school performance. There was extensive discussion by the committee.

Sara Jones, speaking on behalf of the UEA, raised several considerations. First, because ESSA requires a public comment period before submitting a state accountability plan, it is a concern that this bill places in code very specific criteria that would not be able to be changed in response to public comment until the next legislative session in 2018. Second, the bill maintains the system of assigning a single letter grade to schools which has been demoralizing to educators and students and confusing to the public. Finally, accountability under the bill is based solely on test scores for elementary schools and primarily on test scores for secondary schools, despite the fact that ESSA allows accountability systems to incorporate new measures of educational opportunity which move beyond test scores. The bill passed unanimously. UEA has not yet taken a position on SB220 but does have a position of support on HB241: School Accountability Amendments, an alternate accountability bill that eliminates school grades.

SB223 (1st sub.): Modifications to Charter School Governance was presented by Sen. Deidre Henderson. The bill requires the State Board of Education to adopt principles and standards for quality charter authorizing and requires the Board to adopt rules for the oversight of a charter school authorizer. It passed the committee unanimously.

SB115 (1st sub.): Compulsory Education Revisions was presented by Sen. Jacob Anderegg. This bill amends penalties for a parent of a truant school-age child and amends requirements related to excusing a home-schooled student. It passed the committee unanimously.

SB216: Reading Intervention Software License Program Accountability Amendments was presented by Sen. Howard Stephenson. This bill provides that a school district, the State Board of Education and a technology provider work with a public school if the usage rate of reading intervention software falls below the recommended rate within the first month of a public school implementing the software and provides that a public school shall be placed on probation by the school district and the State Board of Education if the public school fails to meet the minimum usage rate for reading intervention software within the first half of the school year. It passed the committee unanimously.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB292: Charter School Admission Amendments allows a charter school to give an enrollment preference to the sibling of an individual who was previously enrolled in the charter school. The bill passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Senate.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HJR4 (1st sub.): Joint Resolution on Maintenance-of-effort Requirements passed unanimously and now goes to the Governor. The bill requests that Utah's congressional delegation submit federal legislation requiring that the state amount obligated as a maintenance-of-effort calculation not exceed the amount of federal funding provided. The UEA supports this bill.

HB114: Local School Entity Amendments modifies provisions relating to the Minimum School Program Act. It passed unanimously and now goes to the Governor.


February 17, 2017

Educator Day on the Hill (reported by Mike Kelley): It was a full house at UEA Educator Day on the Hill, with well over 100 educators and education support professionals participating from 17 school districts. Nearly half were participating for the first time. The morning briefing on education-related legislation and lobbying was abbreviated to allow everyone to attend a meeting of the House Education Committee, which started at 8 a.m. (see below).

Four representatives, Craig HallMarie PoulsonJoel Briscoe and Robert Spendlove, stopped by after lunch to thank teachers and share information about proposals moving through the legislature. Rep. Poulson discussed her bill (HB241) to replace the school grading system with a more robust school accountability system. “School grading to me has basically become the public shaming of those who work with impoverished schools and school populations,” she said. “Most do not believe school grades are a true reflection of what is going on in our schools.”

Rep. Spendlove, House vice-chair of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, shared information about the development of this year’s budget. He said members of the committee asked “Why are teachers paying a fee to be low-paid public servants,” which led to a proposal to fully fund teacher licensing fees. The committee also prioritized moving teacher supply money from a one-time appropriation to ongoing.

The Governor’s education advisor Tami Pyfer also shared insight into how to be effective when talking to legislators. The meeting concluded with a discussion of ideas about how to share the experience with other teachers.

House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): HB223: Elementary School Counselor Pilot Program was presented by Rep. Steve Eliason. The bill creates a grant program to fund school counselors in elementary schools to provide emotional and social support to students and college and career readiness counseling. The bill appropriates $1 million from the Education Fund and participating districts would have to match grant funds with their own money.

There was extensive public input, including from a number of educators attending UEA Educator Day on the Hill. They expressed the growing need for elementary school counselors but also concern that a small grant program will not be sufficient to meet the needs in every elementary school across the state. Sara Jones, speaking on behalf of UEA, expressed support for the program and the importance of elementary school counselors especially in high needs schools, but acknowledged that the goal must be access to counselors for every student in every elementary school. It passed unanimously and now goes to the full House.

Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee (reported by Jay Blain): HCR5 (1st sub.): Concurrent Resolution on Clean Fuel School Buses was presented by Rep. Stephen Handy. This bill supports the dedication of a portion of the funds of the Volkswagen settlement for the replacement of old school buses with clean fuel buses. Rep. Handy said this will not be binding but provide direction when the trust is accessed. The money may not be available for many years, he said. The bill passed the committee unanimously.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB78: Nonbinding Opinion Questions would allow public opinion questions to be placed on election ballots. The bill failed on a vote of 34-36.

HJR1: Joint Rules Resolution on Redistricting Standards passed unanimously. The resolution enacts principles and procedures to guide the Legislature during redistricting.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB166: School and Institutional Trust Fund Amendments changes the number of times the State Institutional Trust Funds Office (SITFO) meets from nine to six. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor.

SB125: Authorization to Modify Charter School Charter Agreements allows a charter to modify its charter without going to its authorizer in order to exceed its cap in cases when a district school within a two-mile radius is closed to open enrollment. The bill passed 24-4 and now goes to the House.