Politics & Legislation

2012 Legislative Summary


Download a print version of this summary (PDF)
2012 Final Legislative Tracking Sheet (PDF)

Legislation ending collective bargaining – dead. Eliminating payroll deduction – dead. Laws threatening orderly termination procedures for educators – dead. Vouchers, unreasonable limitations on state spending, threats to the Association’s ability to work with school districts, teacher pay for test scores – all dead…at least for this year. Collaboratively created education reform (Senate Bill 64) – passed.

Prior to the beginning of the 2012 Utah General Legislative Session, Utah Education Association leaders identified four critical priorities: passing comprehensive employment reform (SB64), preserving collective bargaining, maintaining rights to payroll deduction of dues, and protecting orderly termination procedures. These goals were all met.

“During this legislative session we saw a tremendous effort to break down some barriers and work together to do what’s best for students.” said UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “On behalf of teachers throughout the state, I want to express our gratitude to all those who contributed to this endeavor." Those efforts included more than 200 educators who participated with the UEA Team at UEA Educator Day on the Hill in 2012.

The UEA Legislative Team waged both defensive and offensive battles. Other state legislatures around the country had already stripped public education employees of collective bargaining rights, eliminated employment protections, and restricted the ability of association members to have dues deducted from their paychecks. Utah appeared a ripe target for similar measures. In fact, several legislators had expressed interest in promoting those efforts here.

The UEA tracked about 130 education-related bills as they moved through the 2012 Utah Legislature. The Team worked very hard prior to the legislative session to build relationships with legislators and make sure they understood the position of teachers on each issue.

Many of the bills targeting the UEA and that were strongly opposed by the UEA were promoted by Parents for Choice in Education (PCE), the original voucher proponents. PCE operates with substantial contributions from out-of-state organizations set on privatizing public education and continues to be very active in lobbying on Utah’s Capitol Hill.

Following is a summary of key issues and how they fared:

Public Education Budget: The Legislature approved a public education budget that includes about $41 million to cover new-student growth and a 1.16 percent increase in the WPU. This increase should be adequate to cover increased costs in Social Security and retirement, but is unlikely to fund any employee salary or health care cost increases.

“We had great hope coming into the session, with the support of the business community and others, that more emphasis could have been placed on increased funding for public education,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “It’s disappointing that cost-of-living allowances for teachers were not included in the public education base budget.” Ultimately, each local will negotiate any potential salary adjustments with their school district.

The Legislature also approved $5 million for teacher supply money, the same amount and distribution formula as this year and $2 million to continue the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts Program, a reduction of $2 million from this year.

(See more about the approved FY2012-13 Public Education Budget HERE.)

Teacher Evaluations and Merit Pay: One of the biggest wins for teachers, and a primary reason some onerous proposals never moved forward, was passage of the collaboratively developed Senate Bill 64: Public Education Employment Reform (Osmond). This bill was the result of months of historic collaboration between many education stakeholders, including the UEA.

The UEA was intimately involved in the crafting of SB64. UEA made the decision to become involved in order to help shape the outcome of the bill. Negotiations on this bill were a give-and-take process. Because of SB64, many harmful bills (such as those that would make all teachers “at-will” employees, eliminate or restrict collective bargaining, or move teachers to a pay-for-test-scores model) failed or were abandoned.

Key provisions of SB64 include:

  • Additional accountability for administrators, including an annual evaluation and conversion to partial performance-based pay for administrators.
  • Annual evaluation and rating of educators within four performance levels based on a valid and reliable evaluation tool. The evaluation structure and criteria will be established by State Board of Education rule in partnership with local school districts.

(See more about what SB64 will do and why the UEA supported it HERE.)

Negotiated Agreements/Collective Bargaining: Prior to the session, several legislators had proposed various levels of restrictions on collective bargaining. House Bill 106 (Grover) was the only proposal to make it to bill form, but it never made it out of the Rules Committee. Due to work done by the UEA Legislative Team before and during the session, this and other proposals to eliminate or restrict public employee collective bargaining never materialized.

The defeat of anti-collective bargaining and anti-payroll deduction legislation (below) came as a result of a collaborative effort in the labor community. Last summer, the UEA joined together with eight other employee advocacy groups to form the One Utah Coalition, which represents 120,000 Utah workers. The coalition of police, firefighters, public school employees and teachers stood together throughout the 45-day session to support employee rights.

(See more about the Collective Bargaining issue HERE.)

Payroll Deduction: Although several legislators had discussed placing various levels of restrictions on payroll deduction for public employee association dues, only House Bill 350 (Daw) was introduced. This bill originally would have prohibited the payroll deduction of dues. Through the work of the UEA and a coalition of public employee organizations expressing concerns to legislators, it was changed to allow employees belonging to any professional or trade organization to be added to payroll deduction. The bill passed the House, but was not heard in the Senate.

(See more about the Payroll Deduction issue HERE.)

State Spending Limitations: Senate Joint Resolution 22 (Reid) would have limited state spending to the prior year’s budget, adjusted by inflation and population change. It would have required any future surplus revenues to be held in reserve or refunded to taxpayers unless specifically directed by a three-fifths majority of both houses. The bill did not pass either house. The UEA opposed the bill because it would greatly limit the state’s ability to increase funding for education.

Teacher Association Activities: A bill passed in 2007 mandated that all teacher groups have equal access to teachers. Senate Bill 82: Equal Access for Education Employee Association Amendments (Madsen) was introduced because of concerns the 2007 law’s provisions are not being followed. SB82, strongly opposed by the UEA, would have fined principals and school districts that do not follow the law. The bill passed the Senate, but thanks to many hours of work by UniServ directors and others, the bill failed in the House on a vote of 18-51.

Online Education: A bill passed in the 2011 Legislative Session (SB65) created a statewide online education program. This year, the legislature attempted to address concerns created by that bill with Senate Bill 178 (Stephenson). This bill creates a tiered pricing structure for online courses and allows local districts to negotiate up to a certain amount with providers of online services. It reduces the amount allowed to be charged for online classes. This bill encourages school districts to develop a wide variety of online courses to high school students, allows the Electronic High School to continue to offer classes that fill the core requirements for graduation. It improves last year’s bill, which the UEA opposed.

Computer Adaptive Testing: Two bills, Senate Bill 97: Grants for Online Testing (Osmond) and House Bill 15: Statewide Adaptive Testing (Hughes), provide the resources for computer adaptive testing for students. The UEA supported these bills, which both passed.

Class Size: Utah is one of only 14 states without a cap on class sizes. Senate Bill 31 (Morgan) would have imposed caps in grades K-3 or allow for paraeducators in the classrooms. The UEA supported this bill, provided funding for it would not impact other critical programs or increase class sizes in other grades. The bill passed the Senate but failed in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on an 8-4 vote. Another proposal that did pass, Senate Bill 81 (Mayne), provides $300,000 to bring paraeducators into Title I schools that haven’t met AYP for two years.

High School Testing: Senate Bill 10 (Dayton) would have eliminated the UBSCT test and required all high school students to take a post-secondary assessment such as the ACT or ASVAB. The bill passed the Senate, but was not heard in the House, even though funding for the program was approved.

Charter School Funding: Several bills targeting additional funding for charter schools were considered. Two passed. House Bill 397 (Dee) appropriates $2.5 million for charter school start-up costs to offset the loss of federal start-up funds. Senate Bill 152 (Valentine) establishes a charter school reserve account to allow charter schools to use the state’s bond rating. In general, the UEA is opposed to dual funding tracks for charter vs. traditional public schools.

School Community Council Participation: House Bill 213 (Perry) corrects an inequity created last year. The bill allows school district employees to be parent members of a School Community Council, provided that employee does not work at the school. The UEA supported this bill, which passed with near unanimous support.

Student-Based Funding: A couple of bills targeted the way public education students are funded, creating what is often called “backpack funding.” House Bill 158: Student-Based Budgeting (Butterfield) would have sent per-student funding directly to the school where a student attends rather than to a school district. The bill died in the Rules Committee. House Bill 123: Education Savings Accounts (Dougall) would have given high school students with a per-student dollar credit then let the students decide how to “spend” it. A substitute bill created a pilot program, rather than statewide implementation, but failed in the House on a vote of 26-46. The UEA opposes these changes without further study.

School Supply Requests: House Bill 62 (Powell) allows elementary teachers to voluntarily request that parents provide classroom supplies. This bill passed both houses. It was supported by the UEA.

Peer Assistance and Review: House Bill 115 (Moss) creates a pilot peer assistance and review (PAR) program where master teachers provide support for new or struggling teachers. The PAR program was developed by the NEA. The bill passed.

Tuition Tax Credits (Vouchers): Senate Bill 151 (Stephenson) was originally a statewide voucher program that would have let taxpayers claim an income tax credit for donations they make to “scholarship organizations” providing scholarships for qualifying students to attend a private school. The bill that ultimately passed calls for a study of the issue over the next year.

Curriculum: Several bills mandating curriculum content were debated, including the “sex education” bill, House Bill 363: Health Education Amendments (Wright), House Bill 370: Education on Free Enterprise System (Grover) and House Bill 417: Education on Process for Electing Public Officials (Barlow). Only HB363 passed and, for any school district choosing to teach human sexuality, requires an abstinence-only curriculum.

Photos (top to bottom):

  • More than 50 teachers flood a Senate Education Committee meeting on February 17, 2012, as important legislation was discussed.
  • Rep. Brad Wilson (left) meets with Davis Education Association teachers Don Paver and Richard Heath.
  • Rep. Becky Edwards (standing in hat) introduced UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh and the Cat in the Hat on the House floor March 2, the birthday of children’s book author Dr. Seuss and the 15th anniversary of the National Education Association’s “Read Across America” celebration (see video of the introduction).
  • UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh speaks at a press conference where many public education stakeholders spoke in support of the reforms proposed in Senate Bill 64. Those participating included the UEA, the PTA, the Utah School Boards Association, the State Office of Education, the Salt Lake Chamber, Prosperity 2020 and the Governor’s office. (see video of the press conference).
  • Educators host a UEA-sponsored break in the House break room on February 3, 2012. Pictured, left to right, are Rep. Mark Wheatly, UEA Retired member Elizabeth Carlin, Cache County Education Association members Troy Pugmire and Don Sheffer, and Rep. Stephen Sandstrom.
  • Sen. Aaron Osmond addresses teachers during the Educator Day on the Hill lunchtime debrief January 27, 2012.