2014 UEA Legislative Summary
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- 2014 legislation of note
From day one to day 45 of the 2014 legislative session, the message that members and the UEA Legislative Team shared with lawmakers was that we needed to pay for basic education needs before investing in other expensive and unproven programs. That message became vitally important when Speaker of the House Becky Lockhart introduced a $200 million technology initiative midway through the session (see below).
In the end, the Legislature opted to cover the basic needs by voting to fully fund an additional 10,300 students expected to enter Utah schools this fall, increase the WPU by 2.5 percent, and fund $5 million to pay for teacher supplies. (See more about the budget)
“It is encouraging that our legislators recognized the need to fund growth and increase the WPU,” said UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “These are positive strides, but considering per-student state funding for public education is down 9.6 percent from its 2008 pre-recession levels, public education is still behind.”
Public education budget disappointments included:
- No separate line item to cover mandatory retirement increases for education employees;
- No restoration of funding for teacher professional development; and
- Failure of a bill to significantly increase public education funding by eliminating tax deductions.
Thank you to all those who contacted legislators, attended Educator Day on the Hill and provided other support for public education during the 2014 Legislative session.
More than 200 educators participated in Educator Day on the Hill. “Having teachers on the Hill with us to share their classroom experience with legislators is invaluable,” said UEA Vice President Tom Nedreberg. “The educators who are with us become the eyes, ears and mouth of the Legislative Team as they communicate with their individual legislators. Their participation makes a big difference and is very effective.”
Here are a few key issues and how they fared:
With just over three weeks left in the session, Speaker Lockhart released details of a bill (HB131: Public Education Modernization Act) to provide $200 million – $50 million from the Education Fund, $150 million from the General Fund – for student technology. While the House proposed paying for the bill out of transportation funds, the Senate voted to amend an equalization bill and use the $100 million collected for the Speaker’s bill. Viewing the Senate’s measure as a tax increase in an election year, the House refused to go along. In the middle of the ongoing debate – in which multiple meetings of the Executive Appropriations Committee were cancelled and senators and representatives walked away from the table – Governor Gary Herbert weighed in, saying he would veto HB131 if the price tag exceeded $30 million. In the end, the Senate offered up $26 million to the Speaker. She walked away from the table. HB131 died.
The backstory on this involved a UEA-generated survey of its members. Over a 36-hour period, more than 1,700 members weighed in (see inset). Copies of the survey results were forwarded to key legislative leaders. Again, the UEA message remained the same – pay for the basic needs of public education first – a minimum 2.5 percent increase on the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU), full funding of growth and a separate line item for retirement. Ultimately, two of those requests were funded.
Another high profile technology measure, HB150 (4th Sub): Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Amendments, passed. This bill provides for high quality professional development for educators related to STEM education in grades K-12, creates financial incentives for educators to earn an elementary or secondary STEM education endorsement, and expands the scope of STEM education to include students in grades 7 and 8. Enactment of this bill will result in an appropriation of $5 million ongoing from the General Fund and $15 million one-time from the Education Fund to the STEM Action Center.
One of the UEA’s priority bills, SB101: Public Education Human Resource Management Amendments extends the deadline for full implementation of the new evaluation system by one year. The bill passed both houses without a dissenting vote. The timeframe for every district to fully implement an evaluation system aligned to the new evaluation framework is now 2015-16 and the requirement that educator evaluations be tied to advancement on the salary schedule is now 2016-17.
SB103 (1st Sub.) Local Control of Classroom Time Requirements allows for a local school board to replace up to four days (down from 8 in the original bill) or 32 hours of instruction with either teacher professional development or teacher preparation time. It requires a two-thirds vote of a local school board to implement and parents must be notified at least 90 days before the beginning of a school year. Local education associations should work with school boards to assess whether to employ this option and, if so, how much instructional time should be converted and for what purpose.
SB209: School Grading Revisions modifies procedures and standards for assigning a letter grade to a school based on the proficiency, learning gains, or college and career readiness of the school’s students. It passed the Senate 19-8 and the House 62-12. The UEA remains opposed to the grading schools concept, but this bill made minor improvements.
Improvements include: exempting alternative schools from school grading and tasking the State Board of Education with creating an accountability better suited for these schools; changing the automatic “F” schools received last year if they did not achieve 95% test participation to simply lowering the school grade one letter; clarifying the use of an ACT score as a measure of college readiness; and, most importantly, allowing the State Board of Education to determine appropriate measurements for this year as schools transition to the implementation of the new SAGE computer adaptive testing system.
The UEA had concerns about SB122: Parental Rights in Public Education when it was initially introduced. The bill sponsor, Sen. Aaron Osmond, worked extensively with the UEA Legislative Team to create a bill that was acceptable to teachers. It now specifies certain rights of parents, including the right to retain a student on grade level, make teacher requests and excuse absences for vacations and health care. It specifies that schools will use multiple measures when determining placement of students.
Importantly, SB122 clarifies that as parents request accommodations, schools must balance these requests with considerations of teacher workload, employee working conditions, academic and behavioral impacts to a classroom and other factors. The bill also requires the State Board of Education to ensure that if parents opt students out of statewide assessments that neither schools nor employees will be negatively impacted in school grading or educator evaluations.
School Board Elections and USOE Governance—
Several bills targeted the way state school board members are nominated and elected. Two such bills would eliminate the current statewide committee that screens candidates for the governor’s selection and replace it with direct primary elections. HB223: School Board Election Provisions making the elections non-partisan, was supported by the UEA. It passed the House, but failed in the Senate Education Committee on a tie 3-3 vote. HB228 (1st Sub.): Utah State Board of Education Elections and Reporting Amendments, opposed by the UEA, would make the elections partisan. The bill initially failed in the House Education Committee before being re-heard. It then failed in the House 33-41.
HB236: State School Board Nomination Revisions originally would have prohibited a lobbyist from serving as a member of the statewide nominating committee. It was amended to only ensure that an incumbent is one of the three candidates forwarded to the Governor for consideration. The bill passed the House but failed in the Senate Education Committee.
A related proposal to have the state school superintendent appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate also failed. As a change to Utah’s State Constitution, SJR12: Joint Resolution on State Superintendent of Public Instruction would need to be put to a public vote. The bill passed the Senate but was not heard in the House before the closing bell on March 13. The UEA opposed this bill.
Often referred to as “backpack” funding, SB157: School-based Budgeting Amendments would send per-student funding directly to the school where a student attends rather than to a school district, tasking principals with the school’s finances. The bill failed in the Senate, as the same proposal did last year. The UEA opposes this change.
- See the complete UEA Legislative Archive