Politics & Legislation

UEA Report on the 2011 Utah Legislature General Session

WEEK SEVEN:

 

LEGISLATURE WEEK SEVEN SUMMARY: March 7-10, 2011 

Public Education Budget: The public education budget bill passed the House and Senate with very little debate. All in all, it is a very good budget for public education. The value of the WPU increased from $2,577 to $2,816, an increase of $239 dollars, but this was not new money. It was accomplished by rolling a large amount of the flexible allocation line item into the WPU. It is important to note that two restricted programs, Special Education Add-on and Career & Technical Ed District Add-on, which are funded on a WPU basis, are being funded at the previous WPU value of $2,577.

Some sources are reporting an overall increase of 2.2 percent in the public education budget. While this is technically correct, most of this increase will fund student population growth for the first time in three years. This is very good considering the impact that other state agencies and departments felt in their budgets. Teacher supply money was funded at the same level as last year and with the same distribution formula.

Comments by Gov. Gary Herbert: In a brief speech to the House and Senate on the session’s last day, Gov. Gary Herbert praised the legislature for prioritizing public education and providing money to cover student growth, streamlining government, and maintaining a business-friendly environment – all without raising taxes.

Educator Day on the Hill: The UEA held its final 2011 Educator Day on the Hill March 7 with teachers from the Davis and Jordan districts attending. They were given the charge to find out how their legislators were going to vote on certain bills then report back to the UEA Legislative Team. Even though there were few participants in this Educator Day on the Hill, having the teachers there to learn the positions of many legislators saved the Legislative Team hours of work.

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

  • HB2 (2nd sub.): Minimum School Program and Public Education Budget Amendments is the primary budget bill for public education. Details of the bill, which passed both the House and Senate, are as outlined under “Public Education Budget” above.
  • HB98: Capital Outlay Funding Modifications allows a local school board of a school district with an enrollment of fewer than 2,500 students to use the proceeds of a capital outlay levy for certain maintenance and operations functions. The bill passed the Senate 19-8 and now goes to the Governor for signature.
  • HB110 (1st sub.): Teacher Salary Supplement Program Amendments passed the Senate. This bill allows teachers who have the qualifications but not the degree to apply for math and science incentive pay. It now goes to the Governor for signature.
  • HB183 School District Leave Policies limits the association leave a local school board may grant for certain employee association or union duties. In the Senate, the bill was amended to disallow the 10 days provided for association leave in the House bill. The House refused to concur. In a conference committee, the bill was amended to allow the 10 days only for associations which have previously provided association leave. The amended bill passed and goes to the Governor.
  • HB199: Advertisements on School Buses would allow for up to 35 percent of a school bus to be used for advertisements. Money collected through advertising will stay in the transportation budget of the school. The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 18-7. It now goes to the Governor.
  • HB220: Civics Education Amendments requires schools to teach about specific forms of government and political philosophies. The bill passed both houses and now goes to the Governor.
  • HB269 (1st sub.) Commission on Civic and Character Education passed the Senate unanimously. This bill requires school districts to submit a summary report on how civic and character education is integrated in school curriculum. This bill previously passed the House and now goes to the Governor.
  • HB288: Concurrent Enrollment Transcripts streamlines the process to make sure there are no repeated classes from different colleges for students taking concurrent enrollment classes. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor.
  • HB301: School District Property Tax Revisions rolls six specific property tax levies into two, and exempts school districts from certain truth-in-taxation notice and hearing requirements. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 20-6 and now goes to the Governor.
  • HB302 (1st sub.): Reading Program Amendments is a substitute bill (the original bill failed in the House, but was reconsidered) that imposes requirements for reading instruction in kindergarten through grade three. The substitute bill makes the use of technology as an opt-in consideration. It passed the House 46-28 and the Senate unanimously.
  • HB327: (1 sub.) Public Education Annual Report Amendments pertains to civic and character education and requires the Utah State Board of Education to annually report methods used to instruct and prepare students on how to become informed and responsible citizens. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor.
  • HB339: Charter School Enrollment Amendments gives the State Board of Education authority to approve an annual increase in charter school enrollment capacity equal to 2 percent of total school district enrollment. The bill originally failed on a vote of 37-37, but later the same day the bill was reconsidered and passed by a vote of 47-27.
  • HB388: Operation and Management of Charter Schools passed both the House and the Senate. This bill provides that a “chartering entity” may use certain data to measure the performance of a charter school; prohibits a chartering entity from imposing performance standards that would limit a charter school from accomplishing the purposes of charter schools; and requires a charter to include an acknowledgment that neither the chartering entity nor the state is liable for the debts or financial obligations of the charter school.
  • HB415: Schools for the Deaf and Blind Foundation allows the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind to establish a non-profit foundation to raise funds. The bill passed both houses unanimously.
  • SB4: Current School Year Supplemental Public Education Adjustments passed both the House and the Senate. The bill contains provisions for education funding proposed by the Executive Appropriations Committee (see “Public Education Budget” above).
  • SB59 (1st sub.): School Grading System would assign a single letter grade (A-F) to a school based on student test scores. The latest version of the bill is much more in line with U-PASS data that is currently part the reporting done by individual schools. After extensive debate in both houses, the bill passed the Senate on a vote of 17-10 and the House on a vote of 39-32. It now goes to the Governor.
  • SB63: K-3 Reading Improvement Program Accountability provides allowable uses for K-3 Reading Improvement Program money, and requires the Utah State Board of Education to report related school district and charter school expenditures. The bill passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Governor.
  • SB65 (1st sub.): Statewide Online Education Program establishes a statewide online education program. It was substituted in the House to reduce the dollar amount allowed for each course and restrict providers to current public schools, reducing some of the concern about public dollars going to private providers. The bill passed the House on a vote of 48-27. The Senate concurred with the substitute.
  • SB67 (1st sub.): Annual Eye Examination for Children in Grades Kindergarten Through Three passed the House by a vote of 55-14 and now goes to the Governor. This bill extends the public school vision screening from age seven to age eight.
  • SB73 (1st sub.): Public School Teacher Tenure Modifications prohibits school districts from using last-hired, first-fired as a policy for reduction-in-force and proposes an interim study of using test scores to determine “career” status for teachers. The bill passed the House 45-28 and now goes to the Governor for signature.
  • SB119 (1st Sub) School District Superintendents Amendments provides that a district superintendent is not required to hold an administrative/supervisory license. The bill passed the House 48-24 and now goes to the Governor.
  • SB127: Post Retirement Employment Amendments passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Governor. This bill allows a retiree who begins employment with a participating employer on or after July 1, 2010 to be reemployed within one year if the retiree does not receive any employer paid benefits, and the retiree does not earn more than $15,000, or one-half of the retiree’s final average salary, for any calendar year.
  • SB140: State Charter School Board Amendments modifies procedures for the selection of members of the State Charter School Board. It passed the House unanimously and goes to the Governor.
  • SB206: Labor Organization Provisions in Teacher Contracts requires that an employer promptly cease or commence a union dues wage deduction upon the written request of the employees. Because this reflects current practice, the UEA believes this legislation is unnecessary. It passed the House 55-16 and now goes to the Governor.
  • SB224: Partisan School Board Elections modifies the state’s election code by requiring that Utah State Board of Education members are elected in a partisan election. It passed the Senate by a vote of 17-12, but was not heard in the House before the session ended.
  • SB235 (1st sub.): Charter School Students' Participation in Extracurricular Activities provides that a charter school student is eligible to participate in an extracurricular activity at a public school other than the student’s charter school if the student’s charter school is located on the campus of the public school. The bill passed the House and the Senate concurred with amendments.
  • SB256 (2nd sub.): Teacher Effectiveness Evaluation Process is a substitute bill that moves the teacher evaluation process to the district level. The original bill required each school to have its own evaluation process. Unfortunately, the bill also removes the requirement that districts provide educators with “reasonable assistance” for improving performance. It also “sets up an interim study to review pay for performance pilot and further teacher pay” issues. The bill passed the House on a narrow 38-35 vote. The Senate concurred and passed it on a vote of 21-7.
  • SB263: State Board of Education Powers Amendments provides that the State Board of Education may investigate a school district or public school to determine compliance with state law. The bill passed the Senate second reading calendar, but was not voted on a third time before the session ended.
  • SB304: Preventing Bullying and Hazing in Elementary and Secondary Schools passed the Senate unanimously and the House on a vote of 64-11. This bill prohibits students and school employees from engaging in bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment, hazing, retaliation, and making false claims.
  • SB305 (1st sub.): Economic Development Through Education/Career Alignment creates the Utah Futures Steering Committee to encourage the use of the Utah Futures database and information. The bill was substituted in the House before passing both houses.

March 7, 2011

Executive Appropriations Committee: (Reported by Jay Blain) After canceling meetings March 3 and 4, the Executive Appropriations Committee finally met on Monday and presented a public education budget proposal. All in all, it appears to be a good budget for public education. The budget shows a $458 increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU), from $2,577 to $3,035, but does so by folding into the WPU to other existing line items, such as the flexible line item called ‘WPU - Flexible Allocation,’ which was formerly the Social Security and Retirement line item and the Professional Staff Cost Factor line item.

The removal of the Professional Staff Cost Factor line item is of concern to us because this is the line item that helps districts fund experience and further education for educators. In addition, many districts have negotiated stipends for National Board Certification with money from this line item.

Other highlights from this tentative proposal include:

  • $5 million for teacher supply money, the same amount as last year;
  • Pupil Transportation funded at last year’s level;
  • $7.5 million for early interventions (which could include optional extended day kindergarten), but it is one-time money.

The budget proposal must now be approved by the full House and Senate.

House Floor: (Reported by Sara Jones and Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh) HB183 School District Leave Policies limits the association leave a local school board may grant for certain employee association or union duties. It passed the Senate on Friday, having been amended to strike the words “that exceeds 10 business days.” When the bill returned to the House for concurrence, the bill sponsor, Rep. Keith Grover, moved to accept the amendment and concur with the Senate. However, several representatives spoke against the Senate’s attempt to significantly change the bill. The motion to concur failed. The bill returned to the Senate and the Senate refused to drop the amendment. A conference committee will be appointed to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill.

HB302: Reading Program Amendments imposes requirements for reading instruction in kindergarten through grade three. Bill sponsor Rep. Merlynn Newbold stated that after six years and $185 million the goal of every child reading on grade level by the end of third grade has not been met. She believes that current policies are not working and that HB302 would provide needed improvements. The program would provide funds for an in-class diagnostics assessment administered three times each year to every student and provide immediate data with tools for interventions with struggling students. The bill would appropriate $1.75 million dollars in new money for the program. 

There was extensive debate on the bill for almost an hour. Several representatives asked if any data was available to show this specific assessment would improve reading scores. Several others asked how many vendors could meet the very specific criteria described in the bill. Concerns were also raised regarding whether a pilot program had been considered, the cost of this new assessment compared to the lower cost of a paper and pencil assessment, and whether this was the best use of limited funding. The bill failed to pass the House on a vote of 29-41.

Later in the day, Rep. Julie Fischer moved to reconsider action on this bill. The motion to reconsider passed after division had been called. Rep. Newbold moved to circle the bill. HB302 is circled.

HB339: Charter School Enrollment Amendments gives the State Board of Education authority to approve an annual increase in charter school enrollment capacity equal to 2 percent of total school district enrollment. An amendment was proposed and passed that would allow for charter schools with substantially higher levels of student achievement, compared to schools with similar demographics, be prioritized for expansion of enrollment capacity. Rep. Joel Briscoe asked for clarification as to the language saying that if a charter school does not qualify in a current year, they shall be tentatively approved for the next application year. It is also tied to the grading schools legislation. The bill failed on a vote of 37-37.

Later in the day, Rep. Kenneth Sumsion moved to reconsider action on this bill. The motion to reconsider passed and the bill was circled. It was later uncircled. In a second vote HB339 passed by a vote of 47-27.

HB302 (1st sub.): Reading Program Amendments is a substitute bill that imposes requirements for reading instruction in kindergarten through grade three. The substitute bill makes the use of technology as an opt-in consideration. It will continue the benchmark assessment and include the first grade as determined by the state school board. The bill adds an alternative opt-in to use a district determined portable technology to assist in the administration of the assessment. It is no longer a requirement to utilize the technology but will be a pilot for the use of the technology. The bill passed 46-28.

Senate Floor: (Reported by Tom Nedreberg) HB220: Civics Education Amendments was amended a second time to change the meaning of the word socialism from a form of government to a system of philosophical thought and as an economic system. Sen. Mark Madsen then read a report on the type of teaching occurring in some parts of the country. He said he wants to make sure that we protect our children from these misguided efforts. The bill was passed unanimously. It will be returned to the House to concur with the amendment.

SB59 (1st sub.): School Grading System would assign a single letter grade (A-F) to a school based on student test scores. The latest version of the bill is much more in line with U-PASS data that is currently part the reporting done by individual schools. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Wayne Neiderhauser, said they will be working on this bill in interim. He said the State School Board likes the process of working with it during interim. First grades will be done next year.

Sen. Pat Jones express her concern that until we are willing to fund remediation, it’s unwise to punish schools and teachers who have students who are struggling. Sen. Karen Mayne stood against this bill because the majority of schools she represents are Title 1 schools, trying the best they can with what they have. The bill is not fair for them, she said. Sen. Liz Robles said it’s unfair because she also represents Title 1 schools and they have limited resources, limited English, limited access to preschool and kindergarten.

Sen. Stephen Urqhart said he is “180 degrees opposite” of those who spoke against the bill and it is a lifesaver for schools. The best teachers go to the best schools, he said. Because we don’t dismiss teachers and they get shuffled around from school to school that we need to shine the light on the poorer schools. As the poorer schools start getting the poor grades, they will have a tool to force the districts to invest more in these poor schools, concluded Sen. Urquart.

The bill passed on a vote of 17-10.

SB263: State Board of Education Powers Amendments provides that the State Board of Education may investigate a school district or public school to determine whether the school district or public school is in compliance with state law and provides that the State Board of Education may reverse a decision of a local school board or charter school governing board if the decision of the local school board or charter school governing board violates state law. Sen. Chris Buttars moved for the bill to be referred to interim study and returned to rules. The motion carried.

HB183 School District Leave Policies was referred from the House which refused to concur with Senate amendments (see “House Floor” above). Sen. Margaret Dayton moved to refuse to recede and asked to appoint a conference committee. There were no nays in the voice vote. Sens. Dayton, Stephenson and Morgan were appointed to be on the conference committee.

SB224: Partisan School Board Elections modifies the state’s election code by requiring that Utah State Board of Education members are elected in a partisan election. Sen. Howard Stephenson spoke about how school board members just threw their names into the hopper to be elected. Names would be on the ballot alphabetically and a large number of those at the top of the alphabet were elected by only 20 percent of the voters, he said. This was changed a few years ago with an appointment process which has worked “off and on in a hot and cold process.” His bill would “ensure that parties have a say in the nominating process and make it better.”

Sen. Pat Jones spoke against the bill saying that parties have a tendency to pick candidates that are towards the extremes. She asked what problem Sen. Stephenson was trying to solve. He said there are many times only one candidate, they aren’t properly vetted. Sen. Lyle Hillyard said his constituents overwhelmingly want this process to stay like it is. He said he didn’t know if it would help if people voted straight republican instead of knowing the person or voting for the person at the top of the list. Sen.  Buttars said that partisan elections have a much larger voter turnout and it would help increase voter participation and would be a great move to get the people motivated. The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 17-11

Educator Day on the Hill: (Reported by Tom Nedreberg) The UEA held its final 2011 Educator Day on the Hill today with seven teachers from the Davis and Jordan districts attending. They were given the charge to find out how their legislators were going to vote on HB313: Charter School Funding Amendments and then report back to the UEA Legislative Team. Even though there were few participants in this Educator Day on the Hill, having the teachers there to learn the positions of many legislators on HB313 saved the Legislative Team hours of work trying to defeat the bill. HB313 would transfer property tax funding to charter schools that currently goes to public school districts.


March 8, 2011

House Floor: (Reported by Mark Mickelsen) SB127: Post Retirement Employment Amendments by Sen. Dan Liljenquist passed the House unanimously. This bill allows a retiree who begins employment with a participating employer on or after July 1, 2010 to be reemployed within one year if the retiree does not receive any employer paid benefits, and the retiree does not earn more than $15,000, or one-half of the retiree’s final average salary, for any calendar year.

SB63: K-3 Reading Improvement Program Accountability provides allowable uses for K-3 Reading Improvement Program money, and requires the Utah State Board of Education to report related school district and charter school expenditures. The bill passed unanimously.

SB67 (1st sub.): Annual Eye Examination for Children in Grades Kindergarten Through Three passed by a vote of 55-14. This bill extends the public school vision screening from age seven to age eight; requires a public school that performs vision screening to develop a process to notify a parent or guardian if a child fails the vision screening or needs follow-up care; and provides limited immunity to volunteer vision screeners who are trained or supervised by the Utah State Office of Education.

House sponsor Rep. Rebecca Edwards said the program has been going on for decades. Last year, it was amended to allow optometrists to participate. Edwards aid “this is an optional program,” but allows the school to identify vision problems early on.

One representative said he was thankful that as a child his parents pursued an eye exam for him when people at this school wanted to send him to a remedial school because they did not know about his vision problem.

Senate Floor: (Reported by Mark Mickelsen and Sara Jones) SB224: Partisan School Board Elections, sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson, passed the Senate today by a vote of 17-12. This bill requires members of the State Board of Education to be elected in a partisan election. The proposed legislation also repeals the current process in which USBE candidates must have their candidacy vetted by a nominating and recruiting committee. This committee sifts through potential candidates and forwards to the governor three or more candidate names for each state board district. The governor then selects candidates to place on the ballot. The UEA supports the direct, nonpartisan election of state school board members.

SB304: Preventing Bullying and Hazing in Elementary and Secondary Schools passed unanimously. This bill prohibits students and school employees from engaging in bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment, hazing, retaliation, and making false claims regarding the aforementioned conduct. It also requires schools, local school districts, and the Utah State Board of Education to implement anti-bullying and hazing policies.

SB256 (1 sub.): Teacher Effectiveness Evaluation Process passed by a vote of 19-7. This bill sets up a process requiring annual evaluations for every teacher and establishes a school joint committee, including teachers and parents, that will develop the school’s educator evaluation program. Sadly, the bill also removes the requirement that districts provide educators with “reasonable assistance” for improving performance. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. J. Stuart Adams, said Utah has “some of the best teachers in the country” and argued they should be rewarded for their performance.

SB305 (1st sub.): Economic Development Through Education/Career Alignment, sponsored by Sen. Stephenson, passed unanimously. This bill creates the Utah Futures Steering Committee and encourages the group to “more dynamically present and push” the Utah Futures database and information to portfolio users.

In testimony on Monday, Sen. Stephenson said, “This bill is a shadow of its former self.” The senator said his substitute bill “establishes that we will move forward with Utah Futures” (a web portal already in place) and make sure legislators and two business people are involved in the Steering Committee. The legislation focuses on assisting students with career opportunities.

HB199: Advertising on School Buses was debated on second reading. Questions were asked regarding the material that would be allowed to be advertised on school buses. Sen. Michael Waddoups clarified that a local school board, within certain established criteria, will set the policies for what material is allowable to be advertised. He also said that Texas and Colorado have similar policies and have not reported any problems with the types of advertising allowed. The bill passed 17-7 and now moves to the third reading calendar.


March 9, 2011

House Floor: (reported by Sara Jones and Mike Kelley) SB73 (1st sub.): Public School Teacher Tenure Modifications prohibits school districts from using last-hired, first-fired as a policy for reduction-in-force and proposes an interim study of using test scores to determine “career” status for teachers. Rep. Joel Briscoe proposed an amendment which would add the word “primarily” so that districts would still be able to use seniority but that it may not be a primary factor. He argued that this change would preserve the intent of the bill but provide flexibility to principals and districts in terminating employees. Rep. Brad Last opposed the amendment and stated he felt it weakened the bill. The amendment failed. In further debate, Rep. Marie Poulson expressed concern that changing this policy would have the unintended consequence of districts letting go more experienced teachers because newer teachers are less expensive. Rep. Jim Bird also raised the question of whether this new policy will set a precedent for state agencies being unable to consider seniority. The bill passed 45-28. It has now passed both the House and the Senate and goes to the Governor for his signature.

SB206: Labor Organization Provisions in Teacher Contracts requires that an employer promptly cease or commence a union dues wage deduction upon the written request of the employees. Because this reflects current practice, the UEA believes this legislation is unnecessary. Rep. Holly Richardson stated that the bill would allow for a teacher to opt out or in of the association during any time of the year. There was no floor debate. The bill passed 55-16.

SB140: State Charter School Board Amendments, modifies procedures for the selection of members of the State Charter School Board. It passed unanimously.

SB256 (2nd sub.): Teacher Effectiveness Evaluation Process is a substitute bill that moves the teacher evaluation process to the district level. The original bill required each school to have its own evaluation process. The bill eliminates the requirement for school districts to provide resources to correct deficiencies and “sets up an interim study to review pay for performance pilot and further teacher pay” issues. Rep. Briscoe questioned why the provision that a district provide support for teachers was removed. Rep. Merlynn Newbold stated that the district can choose to provide those supports, but the bill removes the mandate. Not requiring resources, she said, means that teachers can’t “argue that the only reason they are not making it is because the district did not provide the resources.” The bill passed on a narrow 38-35 vote. The Senate concurred with the substitute. It now goes to the governor.

SB119 (1st Sub) School District Superintendents Amendments provides that a district superintendent of schools is not required to hold an administrative/supervisory license issued by the State Board of Education. Rep. Newbold stated that the provision to require an administrative license for superintendents prohibits good candidates from applying and allowing local school boards to consider any candidate that has good qualifications. This bill removes that license provision. Rep. Bird said that “we want people who are qualified to be leading our school districts” and someone who hasn’t been in the classroom, doesn’t understand the process of teaching children, and doesn’t have an administrative license like the principals they are overseeing is not the best prospect. He proposed an amendment but it failed. The bill passed 48-24.

SB59 (1st sub.): School Grading System had great debate. In presenting the bill, Rep. Greg Hughes said it “provides transparency and accountability for all of our schools.” He compared the measure to one implemented in Florida, which has seen success in improving test scores over the past 10 years.

Reps. Moss, Bird, Poulson, Edwards, Watkins, Briscoe and Cosgrove each presented strong debate against the bill.

Rep. Carol Moss asked her fellow representatives if they “would you like to live in a neighborhood with a school that received an “F” grade?” She said, “a grading system that is A-F…tells you very little about what goes on in that school. And therein lies the problem.” She pointed out that Florida didn’t just grade schools. “They poured money, more staff, more help for kids to improve achievement.”

Rep. Jim Bird said, “classroom size in the state of Florida is 14.1, the average classroom size in Utah is 23. The teacher salary in Florida is substantially more than it is in the state of Utah. If we want to grade like Florida, then let’s amend this bill to be like Florida—lower the class sizes and raise the teachers’ salaries to be competitive.”

Rep. Marie Poulson said she supports accountability and transparency, but is concerned that the state testing system is in transition and may make any grades invalid. She also pointed out that comparing Utah to Florida is not comparing apples to apples. “We are requiring unrealistic expectations on our schools without giving them the proper funding or support to comply,” she said.

Rep. Becky Edwards said, “I have concerns that provisions of this bill have not been fully thought out, and it may not be ready for prime time.”

Rep. Mel Brown expressed his concern that it is impossible to provide same services in a small, rural school as in a larger, more comprehensive school. Students in rural school cannot meet same proficiency requirement. He said we must make sure there is a “level playing field” when comparing schools. He also pointed out that there is are no resources provided to help schools improve their grade.

Rep. Christine Watkins said giving a grade to a school like this bill proposes is bad for education.

Rep. Joel Briscoe pointed out that “we’ve been trying for 45 years to find out what will break the link (between poverty and educational attainment) in schools.” Applying a label will not fix the problems, he said. “In Florida they said, ‘we’re going to label you, but we’re going to support you. We’re going to give you some monetary resources when you are not doing well.’”

Rep. Tim Cosgrove said he disagrees with the method. “The power to label is the power to destroy.” He shared examples of schools in his area with high transient populations. “No matter where these families come from, (the schools) are making an impact on the kids, and then (the families) move on. If you label these schools with an “F”, all you do is disparage them.”

Despite the opposition, the bill passed on a vote of 39-32. It now goes to the Governor.

SB65 (1st sub.): Statewide Online Education Program was substituted in the House. The substitute bill reduces the dollar amount allowed for each course and restricts providers to current public schools, reducing some of the concern about public dollars going to private providers. In presenting the bill, Rep. Brad Daw said online education “takes away the unnecessary parts of education.” He then referred to the “tyranny” of the clock, of printed textbooks and of location. Online education, he said, “allows students to interact with the teacher at the point in time where they are having difficulty and they need that interaction.”

Rep. Ronda Menlove questioned why we would be paying more for online credit at the high school level than what is currently charged a course at Utah Valley University. Rep. Marie Poulson questioned the cost of the bill.

Rep. Eric Hutchings, whose wife is a principal at an online charter school, expressed his support for the bill and how it could help students overcome the “tyranny of location.”

The bill passed on a vote of 48-27 and now goes to the Governor.

Senate Floor: (Reported by Tom Nedreberg and Jay Blain) HB415: Schools for the Deaf and Blind Foundation allows the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind to establish a non-profit foundation to raise funds. The bill passed both houses unanimously.

HB288: Concurrent Enrollment Transcripts streamlines the process to make sure there are no repeated classes from different colleges for students taking concurrent enrollment classes. It passed unanimously.

HB199: Advertisements on School Buses would allow for up to 35 percent of a school bus to be used for advertisements. Money collected through advertising will stay in the transportation budget of the school. Sen. Scott Jenkins said he felt it is the responsibility of the private sector and government should not compete. Sen. Howard Stephenson said since Utah is at the bottom of the funding ladder, it is an opportunity to increase funds for schools. Sen. Karen Morgan said she voted against the bill because she did not want to commercialize our buses and we won’t have the control over what is put on the buses. Sen. Ross Romero said he appreciates looking for places to find new funding and encourages legislators to continue to look for other areas to fund education since “we seem to be unwilling to fund it out of our budget.” The bill passed on a vote of 18-7. It now goes to the governor.

SB4: Current School Year Supplemental Public Education Adjustments was moved under suspension of rules and passed unanimously. The bill contains provisions for education funding proposed by the Executive Appropriations Committee.

The Senate concurred on House amendments to SB256 (2nd sub.): Teacher Effectiveness Evaluation Process (see above). The bill then passed the Senate on a vote of 21-7. It now goes to the Governor.

HB302 (1st sub.): Reading Program Amendments passed unanimously. It imposes requirements for reading instruction in kindergarten through grade three.

HB110 (1st sub.): Teacher Salary Supplement Program Amendments was brought out rules and passed. This bill allows teachers who have the qualifications but not the degree to apply for math and science incentive pay. It now moves to the Governor for signature.


March 10, 2011

Public Education Budget: (Reported by Jay Blain) The public education budget bill finally came to the House floor this afternoon. All in all, it is a very good budget for public education. The value of the WPU increased from $2,577 to $2,816, an increase of $239 dollars, but this was not new money. It was accomplished by rolling a large amount of the flexible allocation line item into the WPU. It is important to note that two restricted programs, Special Education Add-on and Career & Technical Ed District Add-on, which are funded on a WPU basis, are being funded at the previous WPU value of $2,577.

Some sources are reporting an overall increase of 2.2 percent in the public education budget. While this is technically correct, most of this increase will fund student population growth for the first time in three years. This is very good considering the impact that other state agencies and departments felt in their budgets. Teacher supply money was funded at the same level as last year and with the same distribution formula.

The budget passed the House and Senate with very little debate.

House Floor: HB388: Operation and Management of Charter Schools passed the House by a vote of 46-20. This bill provides that a “chartering entity” may use certain data to measure the performance of a charter school; prohibits a chartering entity from imposing performance standards that would limit a charter school from accomplishing the purposes of charter schools; and requires a charter to include an acknowledgment that neither the chartering entity nor the state is liable for the debts or financial obligations of the charter school. Earlier in the day, this bill passed the Senate (see below).

HB2 (2nd sub.): Minimum School Program and Public Education Budget Amendments is the primary budget bill for public education. Details of the bill, which passed both the House and Senate, are as outlined under “Public Education Budget” above. Sen. Howard Stephenson tried to amend the bill in the Senate on the last day to take money from the “Flexible Allocation” line item, which funds school district employee Social Security and retirement, to fund signing bonuses for highly qualified math, science and special education teachers. Sen. Lyle Hillyard objected to the amendment saying there was plenty of time to make this proposal prior to the last day. The amendment failed.

SB235 (1st sub.): Charter School Students' Participation in Extracurricular Activities provides that a charter school student is eligible to participate in an extracurricular activity at a public school other than the student’s charter school if the student’s charter school is located on the campus of the public school. The bill passed the House on a vote of 61-2. The Senate concurred with amendments made in the House and the bill now goes to the Governor.

Senate Floor: (Reported by Mark Mickelsen) HB269 (1st sub.) Commission on Civic and Character Education passed the Senate unanimously. This bill requires school districts to submit a summary report to the lieutenant governor and Commission on Civic and Character Education on how civic and character education is integrated in school curriculum. This bill previously passed the House and now goes to the Governor.

HB327: (1 sub.) Public Education Annual Report Amendments pertains to civic and character education and requires the Utah State Board of Education to annually report to the Education Interim Committee, the methods used to instruct and prepare students on how to become informed and responsible citizens through integrated curriculum taught in connection with regular school work. The bill passed the Senate 27-0. This bill previously passed the House and now goes to the Governor.

HB388: Operation and Management of Charter Schools passed the Senate by a vote of 22-4. This bill provides that a “chartering entity” may use certain data to measure the performance of a charter school; prohibits a chartering entity from imposing performance standards that would limit a charter school from accomplishing the purposes of charter schools; and requires a charter to include an acknowledgment that neither the chartering entity nor the state is liable for the debts or financial obligations of the charter school. Later in the day, this bill passed the House (see above.)

HB98: Capital Outlay Funding Modifications, sponsored by Rep. Chris Watkins, allows a local school board of a school district with an enrollment of fewer than 2,500 students to use the proceeds of a capital outlay levy for certain maintenance and operations functions. The legislation helps school districts like Grand who have suffered through serious financial crises during the past couple of years. The bill passed the Senate 19-8 and now goes to the Governor for signature.

HB301: School District Property Tax Revisions repeals the authority of a school district to impose certain property tax levies; authorizes a school district to impose a board local levy and a capital local levy; provides that, in setting a board local levy or capital local levy for the calendar year beginning on January 1, 2012, a school is exempt from truth in taxation notice and hearing requirements if the school district budgets a certain amount of ad valorem property tax revenue.

Sen. Curt Bramble said bill doesn’t change property taxes, but reduces from 13-6 the levies available to school districts. Rather than have them shift between buckets of money, Bramble said, “let’s combine those that can be combined.” The bill passed by a vote of 20-6. Having previously passed the House, the bill now goes to the Governor.

Comments by Governor Gary Herbert: (Reported by Mark Mickelsen) In a brief speech to the House and Senate this morning, Governor Gary Herbert praised the legislature for prioritizing public education and providing money to cover student growth, streamlining government, and maintaining a business-friendly environment – all without raising taxes.

“You have tackled some difficult issues and you have had great accomplishments,” Herbert said, noting that while the legislative process is messy and frustrating at times, Utah delivers good outcomes. “I recognize the sacrifice you make for the state of Utah,” the governor told senators and representatives. “Thanks to one and all. We are blessed to live in the greatest state in the nation.”

Herbert also recognized the Democrats in the Legislature, saying “they are an integral part of the process.”