No EDOH, only one committee meeting to report – January 22, 2021
Among things lost to the pandemic, we can now add UEA Educator Day on the Hill. For the first time in many years, a legislative Friday passed without teachers gathering on Utah’s Capitol Hill to advocate for public education. No public education bills moved during shortened floor time in the House and Senate. The committee charged with making public education budget recommendations continued to hear requests from various agencies.
Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): The subcommittee continued to hear budget request from various groups.
State Board of Education Chair Mark Huntsman and State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson presented the funding priorities from the State Board of Education. Huntsman started by explaining about Utah’s Portrait of a Graduate. Dickson said many of the Board’s requests focus on needs created or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the requests for restoration and to address disrupted learning enumerated by Dickson included:
- $5 million ongoing for early learning
- $8.7 million ongoing for Option Enhanced Kindergarten
- $350,000 ongoing and $5 million one-time Expanded Access to Broadband
- $10 million one-time Enhancement for At-Risk Students Programs (EARS)
- $12 million one-time over three years for an intensive services pilot program
- $4 million one-time for the LEA financial systems funding systems project
Other budget presentations shared during the subcommittee meeting included (click for the presentations):
UEA Policy Ambassador Message – January 21, 2021
Eleven educators were selected to become 2021 UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA legislative activities, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here is an excerpt from a new submission...
As a Teacher, Your Job is Political
Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Hunter Clapsadl, sixth-grade teacher at Diamond Ridge Elementary School in Granite School District
Time and time again it seems teachers hear the following statement: “Keep politics out of the classroom!” Many outside of our profession expect us to hold a neutral position on all things political, and believe that politics and teaching do not go hand in hand. Some of us may agree with that sentiment, others may strongly oppose.
Enter the 2020-2021 school year. As we have all seen, this year has been one of the most politically charged, dividing times we have experienced as educators. We’ve seen COVID completely change the structure of our school and social communities, watched and stood with those demanding equality in our country and even witnessed an attack on our nation’s capital. As an adult I have struggled to process these events and how they affect me.
Our students are engaged in the same media that we are and are, in turn, grappling with the same resulting anxiety and stress. I have found myself, like many other educators, wondering how to best talk about these sensitive political topics with my students. Should I say nothing at all and hope it blows over? What if I take an oppositional stance? Will this topic lead to angry parent emails?
My biggest takeaway is this: not talking and caring about politics in our classrooms is a direct disservice to our students…
In State of the State speech, Governor says teachers deserve respect and a raise – January 21, 2021
Utah Governor Spencer Cox called for changes in the way public education is funded during a short State of the State address in front of the Utah Legislature. A House committed forwarded three UEA-tracked education bills to the full House.
House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Today the committee met for its first meeting of the 2021 Legislative Session. Three bills tracked by UEA were on the agenda. Rep. Dan Johnson presented two bills. HB124: Civics Engagement Pilot Program Amendments simply changes the start date for a civics engagement pilot program created in last year’s legislative session from 2020-21 to 2021-22. It passed the committee on a vote of 13-1. HB181: Personalized Competency-based Learning updates language and definitions regarding personalized, competency-based learning. It passed on a vote of 10-1. Finally, HB134: Notice of Public Education Reporting Requirement was presented by Rep. Susan Pulsipher. This bill requires that the legislature indicate whether a bill will impact reporting requirements for school districts and charters. It passed the committee unanimously.
State of the Union (reported by Mike Kelley): Touting it as “the shortest State of the State speech in Utah history,” newly elected Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox addressed a joint session of the Utah Legislature Jan. 21. A large portion of that speech was dedicated to education.
After sharing information about that state’s response to the pandemic and sacrifices made by “healthcare professionals, public health servants, first responders, businesses, workers, seniors and children,” he turned to teachers.
“Never in the history of our state have we felt (teachers’) influence or needed you more than right now. You have pivoted on a dime and figured out ways to do what seemed impossible,” he said. “(Teachers) deserve our respect. And they deserve a raise. I’m grateful to you legislators who agree and have pledged historic education funding this year, including $112 million dollars in bonuses for our teachers. In addition, I have proposed a nearly 6% increase in our state’s education funding — more than $400 million in all. And while I just referred to these investments as ‘historic,’ I’m looking forward to them becoming routine.”
Gov. Cox also proposed a change in the way education is funded. “Education has always been called the great equalizer, but it can’t be that way if our kids are not treated equally. Ladies and gentlemen, I truly believe that this concept of educational equity is at the heart of so much of the pain and division in our country right now. A high-quality education can change everything.”
“Over the past year we have had some critical conversations around race and justice. And if I can be so bold, putting up a sign or joining a rally isn’t enough. The best way we can bring to life the American promise — of liberty and justice for all — is to make sure that every single child, brown or Black, rural or urban has the same opportunity as every other child.” He suggested a way to ensure those opportunities is to ensure “every child in this state deserves a great education from a high-quality, well-compensated teacher.”
Gov. Cox said his agenda also includes providing an $80 million tax cut targeted at senior citizens and Utah families, while “investing in transportation, water, recreation and broadband infrastructure that will benefit every Utahn on and off the Wasatch Front for generations to come.”
Bill targeting Salt Lake City School District moves forward – January 20, 2021
A bill passed by a committee today would take funding from any district or charter school that “does not provide a broad-based in-person learning option for all students” and transfer it to a private, charter or other district school. In another committee, the UEA praised the public education Base Budget but opposed language that could exclude some educators from a receiving stipend.
Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): Today was the first meeting of the committee for the 2021 session with new members present. The committee introduced themselves and shared a presentation on the Public Education budget. Then they did a deep dive into the public education Base Budget. SB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments is the bill.
In public comment, UEA President Heidi Matthews gave praise and appreciation to the legislature for the great funding in the Base Budget. She added that the weighted pupil unit (WPU) is the best mechanism for funding because it allows for the most local control. The structure we now have in place allows for progress, growth and stabilization of public education funding, she said.
While there is much to celebrate in the Base Budget as proposed, Matthews expressed concern about language in the bill that could potentially exclude Salt Lake City School District educators from receiving the school employee stipend outlined in the bill. “I hate to see the goodwill and progress (from additional funding) usurped by unnecessary language that alienates important educators and undercuts the local control of school boards. It was so disappointing in December when this Base Budget was revealed and the very worthy celebrations were thwarted with exclusionary language. It is so important to recognize the efforts of all teachers, all educators all school staff – as well as respect for the local control of school districts.”
Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Today the committee met for the first time in the 2021 Legislative Session. SB107: In-Person Instruction Prioritization was presented by Sen. Todd Weiler. The bill states that any district or charter school that “does not provide a broad-based in-person learning option for all students in kindergarten through grade 12 by February 8, 2021” will face funding consequences including requiring the district to pay up to 75% of the cost of private school tuition for families wanting in-person instruction. The bill targets the Salt Lake City School District, the only district that does not currently have an in-person learning option for students. There was extensive committee discussion with Senate President Adams saying there is “nothing punitive about this bill.”
UEA President Heidi Matthews spoke against the bill stating that SB107 is simply the legislature “flexing its muscles” and threatens the kind of collaborative efforts that achieved the historic funding proposals seen this year.
The bill passed on a vote of 5-2 with Senators Katheen Riebe and Derek Kitchen opposing. It now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB11: Retirement Income Tax Amendments creates an individual income tax credit for certain social security benefits and an individual income tax credit for military retirement pay. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House for consideration.
Upcoming Legislation to Watch
The following bills will be discussed in the House Education Committee at 2 p.m. Jan. 21:
Senate President thanks teachers, jabs at SLC School District during opening remarks – January 19, 2021
House Floor (reported by Jay Blain): The general theme for Speaker Brad Wilson’s opening address to the House was, ‘Great moments are born from great opportunity.’ He indicated that the legislature needs to broaden the state’s economic success by finishing the $80 million in tax relief that they started in the 2019 session. They also must do a legislative review of regulation reform. He added that we need to maintain our commitment to infrastructure, connecting people and goods by roads and rails. He included outdoor recreation as well, noting that state parks are a great resource and have infrastructure needs.
He noted that there are three areas to build on for equality in the state, education, housing and healthcare. Specifically, in education he mentioned critical thinking, financial literacy and civics as being necessary in every classroom. He promoted the college adviser program. Another program he wants to develop that will benefit education is a comprehensive approach to mental health treatment.
As far as bills, opening day is typically for bills previously recommended by interim committees. The following education-related bills passed the full House:
HCR7: Concurrent Resolution Recognizing the Public Service of Representative Lawanna “Lou” Shurtliff passed both the House and Senate unanimously and now goes to the governor for signature. Rep. Shurtliff was serving as a sitting member of the Utah house serving Ogden’s District 10 when she passed away earlier in January. She was a school teacher and previously served as president of the Ogden Education Association president and a Board member of National Education Association representing Utah.
HB42: Education Agency Report Process Amendments came from the Education interim committee. It removes some existing reports and requires the Utah State Board of Education to establish a policy or procedures to evaluate the impact any report required in a rule proposed by the state board may have on reporting requirements for a local education agency. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House on a vote of 72-1 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): In his opening comments to the Utah Senate, Senate President Stuart Adams introduced five new senators: John D. Johnson (District 19), Michael S. Kennedy (District 14), Michael K. McKell (District 7), Derrin R. Owens (District 24) and Chris H. Wilson (District 25).
Regarding education, Pres. Adams said opening the economy has led to budget surpluses that will benefit students. “Last summer, we funded a 1.8% increase in the WPU for teachers, the only state in the nation to increase education spending during a pandemic. In December, we went a step further. The Executive Appropriations Committee recommended the full reinstatement of the 6% increase in the WPU. We allocated $95 million to fund growth and inflation in the public education base budget and provided educators with a one-time COVID stipend, a bonus. Because our state took a balanced approach for protecting lives and livelihoods, and kept our economy open, we were able to fund education and we are now in a position to fund and reduce taxes.”
“I am especially proud of our teachers,” said Pres. Adams. “I am grateful for the efforts of those who have made the classroom clean and safe so that our children and grandchildren can get the best in-person education possible under the circumstances. They are the unsung heroes of 2020. I appreciate all educators and staff for their dedication.”
Pres. Adams then directed comments to the current situation in Salt Lake City School District. “Teachers have done an amazing job with the resources they’ve been given. But parents should have the option to have their kids in the classroom. We are seeing alarming reports in the Salt Lake City School District where there is not option for in-person learning. There is a 600% increase in students failing all classes, despite teachers’ best efforts. We can’t let that happen in Utah. Our kids’ future is at risk. With teachers now having vaccine priority, Salt Lake City School District needs to start face-to-face instruction now and give each student the best opportunities to learn.”
As he concluded, Pres. Adams said “education and education funding will always be our top priority. We will continue to demonstrate this by increasing education funding, even during a pandemic. We also need to explore more equitable education funding distribution and parents need to be given more control.”
Upcoming Legislation to Watch
Staying connected during the 2021 General Legislative Session – January 13, 2021
Like many other things during COVID-19, the 2021 Utah Legislative Session will look very different than in previous years. While there are no planned in-person Educator Day on the Hill activities at the Capitol, there are still plenty of opportunities to stay informed and for your voice to be heard, including several new activities for 2021:
Join the UEA Legislative Team for a UEA Capitol Insights Zoom briefing each Thursday at 4:30 p.m. during the legislative session. You’ll hear the latest updates on important education issues and have the chance to ask questions of the UEA lobby team. Register here (register once and you can use the link to join each week).
Receive regular email updates during 2021 Legislative Session by registering as a UEA activist. Sign up to be a UEA activist and receive the UEA Capitol Insights e-newsletter here.
Live Video Updates
Watch for regular Facebook Live updates from your UEA Legislative Team at the Capitol. Follow the UEA on Facebook at facebook.com/UtahEducationAssociation.
Lobbying Training Videos
Watch UEA videos on effective virtual lobbying during the 2021 Legislative Session.
Gov. Cox recommends significant education investments in his first budget - January 11, 2021
The UEA expressed support for the first budget recommendation unveiled Jan. 11 by Governor Spencer Cox. The Governor’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget calls for a public education budget increase of nearly $431 million in ongoing funding and $180 in one-time funding.
The Governor’s budget priorities align very closely with the UEA’s 2021 Legislative Priorities and the budget proposal approved by the Executive Appropriations Committee in December.
“We applaud the public education budget proposed today by Governor Spencer Cox in his first budget recommendation to the Utah Legislature,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews in a media statement. “(The Governor’s) recommendation combined with a similar budget vote by the Executive Appropriations Committee in December signify a significant commitment by both the governor and the legislature to invest in the students of Utah.”
In a typical year, the Base Budget enacted by the legislature at the beginning of the legislative session is set at or near the previous year’s budget. Any new expenditures are debated later. This year, the legislature is proposing the Base Budget that includes significant public education funding increase. “When enacted, not only would this budget represent one of the highest levels of funding for Utah education in recent years, the significant step of establishing much of the increase in the Base Budget, as proposed by the Executive Appropriations Committee, makes this truly remarkable,” said Matthews.
Gov. Cox’s budget proposal, which will be considered by the Legislature during its General Session beginning Jan. 19, includes a 5.82% increase in the weighted pupil unit (WPU), the primary funding mechanism for Utah K-12 schools. Cox said the extra money for education would help fund enrollment growth and allow districts to provide “meaningful pay increases to teachers.”
“I cannot overemphasize how essential teachers are to our state’s long-term success as they educate the young Utahns that literally are our future,” Cox said. “Let’s give them our support as a state.”
Great news for education! Huge funding increase, teacher bonuses receive preliminary approval – December 17, 2020
The Legislative Executive Appropriations Committee passed a recommendation to include an unprecedented $400 million investment in public education in the Base Budget. The Base Budget is typically approved in the very early days of the Legislative Session. In a typical year, budget increases are not voted on until near the end of a session.
“This is indeed reason for celebration! As a member of the UEA, YOU did this! WE did this,” wrote UEA President Heidi Matthews in a message to UEA members. “Our UEA pushed hard for legislators to keep the promise made during the 2020 legislature, the necessity of supporting our educators now, and for alleviating any further stress and anxiety by having these funds committed at the beginning of a session.”
Here’s what’s included in the recommendation:
- The remainder of the promised of 6% on the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) from March 2020 ($141 million)*
- Student enrollment growth ($33 million) **
- Inflation ($62 million)**
- Fluctuations in enrollment due to the pandemic ($43 million over two years)
- Supplemental Educator COVID Stipend ($121 million)…enough to provide a BONUS of $1,500 for every licensed educator and $1,000 for most other school employees.
- Public Education Stabilization fund ($128 million)
“Not only is this one of the highest levels of funding we have received in years (equivalent of 6% WPU increase plus a bonus!) the significant step of establishing the increase as the starting point for education funding makes this truly remarkable,” said Matthews. “While the end product appears in the press, so much more happens behind the scenes…in rooms where we are included because of our collective power and influence. YOU made this happen as a member of the UEA. And, yes, as stated in a Salt Lake Tribune article, I am ‘ebullient’.”
The news was soured somewhat by the inclusion of legislative intent language that would potentially exclude Salt Lake City School District employees from the bonus.
“What should have been a day of united celebration quickly soured with the legislative efforts to overturn local control so inconsistently and conveniently applied,” said Matthews. “Our UEA stands in solidarity with our Salt Lake Education Association members. No Utah educator should be denied the bonus, especially based on a decision out of their control. We believe #AnInjusticeToOneIsAnInjusticeToAll. There is still time, since the final vote will not happen until after the legislature begins its General Session on January 19.”
2021 UEA Legislative Priorities
For the 2021 General Session, the UEA asks the legislature to reverse the overwhelming workload and support Utah educators during the COVID pandemic crisis by strictly limiting education-related bills to essential legislation that must be accomplished during the 2021 General Session. The 2021 UEA legislative priorities call on legislatures to fully restore $140 million in WPU funding cut during 2020 interim special sessions; fully fund student enrollment growth; include a WPU inflation adjustment in the Base Budget; and support long-term education economic stabilization through a working fund.
The UEA also asks the legislature to reinstate other cuts made during 2020 interim special sessions, to hold all schools harmless for enrollment fluctuations during the 2020-21 school year due to COVID, and to allocate $40 million in one-time funding for COVID-related expenses. The UEA continues to oppose schemes (such as vouchers or tax credits) that funnel public education money to personal student accounts or privately-run entities where taxpayer accountability is lost.
UEA prods legislature to restore USDB funding, teacher prep scholarships, National Board stipend – August 20, 2020
Sixth Special Session (reported by Jay Blain): The Utah Legislature called themselves into special August 20, 2020, to deal with a whole host of issues, mainly related to COVID-19 matters. Three bills with relevance to public education and funding passed during the session. The bills included several items that likely would not have received funding without UEA lobbying efforts, including funding for Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB) teacher salary increases, teacher preparation scholarships and stipends for National Board certification.
HB6002: Supplemental Budget Balancing and Coronavirus Relief Appropriations is a huge funding bill that contains two items for which UEA had strongly advocated:
- $250,000 for teacher preparation scholarships and
- $1,145,000 for USDB teacher steps, lanes and salaries. This was necessary because those increases are not included as part of the WPU, which was increased by 1.8% in June.
Also of interest in this bill was this section: “The Legislature intends that the State Board of Education use $3.9 million of the $19.0 million Coronavirus relief funding distributed to the Board to pay for personal protective equipment and other allowable expenses for schools. The Legislature further intends that the Board use $3.9 million from federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to support the expansion of students in online charter schools.” It passed the House 72-3 and the Senate 28-0.
HB6004: School Emergency Drills Amendments requires schools to provide monthly age-appropriate fire evacuation instruction in lieu of emergency evacuation drills for a portion of the 2020-21 school year (before March 1, 2021) and a monthly emergency evacuation drill for the remainder of the school year. The reasoning being that students wouldn’t be social distancing in congregating during these drills. The bill passed the House 71-3 and the Senate 29-0
HB6012: Public Education Funding and Enrollment Amendments does several things:
- Permits the State Board of Education (state board) to use a different date or dates for counting average daily membership when calculating the growth factor for the 2020-2021 school year. Gives LEA’s (districts and charters flexibility). Refer to the Board rules for more details.
- Amends the distribution of small district base funding for necessarily existent small schools, this bill basically helps one district, Piute.
- Creates a salary supplement for teachers who hold a certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; $2000 in a Title 1 school, $1000 otherwise. This was cut in a previous special session.
- Appropriates money to the state board to allocate to local education agencies to pay for software licenses for English language learner student instruction;
- Allows a charter school to give enrollment preference for the 2021-2022 school year to a student who withdrew from the charter school to attend an online school or home school in the 2020-2021 school year due to the COVID-19 emergency; and
- Allows the state board to use federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency funds and non-lapsing Minimum School Program funds for charter school local replacement funding in the 2020-2021 school year.
HB6012 passed both the House and the Senate unanimously.
Victory for education! Legislators increase public education budget by 2.2% thanks to UEA – June 19, 2020
After all the doom and gloom about cuts up to 10%, the legislature voted during a Special Session to grow the public education budget by 2.2% over the current year, including a 1.8% increase in the per-student Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) and full funding of student enrollment growth. While not the 6% WPU increase passed during the General Session, the growth is significant in a post-COVID-19 environment.
“This was not an easy win…far from it,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews in an email to UEA leaders. “Even legislators in leadership are saying this increase would not have happened without the UEA. The groundwork laid by UEA members participating at Educator Day on the Hill during the General Session was critical, along with a lot of long hours and hard work by our UEA Legislative Team.”
In addition to the budget increase for the upcoming school year, the legislature previously added statutory guarantees to automatically fund student enrollment growth and inflation in all future years, guarantees we’ve never had before. During the Special Session, legislators also included a make-up increase (HB5011), designating 10% of all new Education Fund revenue to the WPU before any other budget items are considered. These guarantees are conditional on voter approval this November of a Constitutional amendment allowing Income Tax to be used for certain Social Services programs, primarily to benefit children.
The news from the Special Session was not all good for education. There were cuts to the Flexible Allocation Line item (-$7.8 million), Administrative Cost Factor of Small Districts and Charter Schools (-$13.3 million) and the Math and Science Opportunities for Students and Teachers program (MOST - formerly USTAR, -$6.2 million). The UEA indicated they are still working with the legislature to restore some of these. In speaking to HB5011 on the House floor, Rep. Mike Shultz said, “As we have been working on this with education stakeholders and the UEA, there’s been a lot of concerns brought up. A lot of those are valid concerns with some of the cuts that have been made. I have made my commitment to work with (the UEA) and the Legislature and other stakeholders to try to fix some of those cuts that still need to be addressed.”
View the full budget cuts and additions adopted during the Special Session here (Public Education budget is on page 9).
2020 UEA Legislative Summary
Schools to see biggest funding bump in more than a decade
Utah public schools can expect the largest funding increase since 2006, thanks in large part to engagement by Utah educators on Capitol Hill. Teachers played a huge role in legislative efforts this year. About 500 teachers representing nearly every Utah school district volunteered their time to meet with legislators and share stories about their classroom during UEA Educator Day on the Hill events held each Friday. An estimated 2,000 participated in the UEA 'Education Day of Action' and the 'Walk for Students' sponsored by the Salt Lake Education Association on February 28.
In total, more than 500 educators participated in the six
Educator Day on the Hill events held in 2020.
“Education funding increases approved by the legislature this year are a clear win for all the educators who shared stories of how the budget impacts their students and their schools,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “Educators talked with legislators, attended town hall meetings, participated in Educator Day on the Hill events, marched for students, signed our funding petition and much more. It all made a difference!”
The UEA tracked 92 education-related bills moving through the process, including bills to create a new voucher-like private school income tax credit, to expand early learning programs (OEK), to suspend school grades for two years and to add first-, second- and third-grade teachers to an existing salary bonus program.
|An estimated 2,000 educators, parents, students and public education supporters gathered at
the State Capitol on February 28 as part of Salt Lake Education Association's 'Walk for Students.'
Here are a few results from this legislative session:
Public Education Budget—
Legislators approved a 9.7% overall increase for public schools starting next fiscal year or about $331 million in new funding. Budget highlights include:
Activities at Education Day of Action included a
photo booth for sharing on social media.
- A 6% increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU);
- $50.6 million to fully fund student enrollment growth;
- $20.6 million added to the Teacher and Student Success Account to fund the Teacher and Student Success Program started in 2019;
- $200,000 increase in the T.H. Bell teacher scholarship program to attract new teachers; and
- $30 million one-time money to “meet school level priorities, first to address one-time student and school safety priorities and second to meet other one-time school level priorities.”
In addition, a few individual bills passed that impact district budgets. Among those are House Bill 107, which expands to grades 1-3 and increases the amount of the test-based Effective Teachers in High Poverty Schools Incentive Program and Senate Bill 104, which increases the guarantee for local property tax levies that certain districts receive.
Education Funding Reform—
On March 11, the UEA joined legislative leadership, the governor and other education stakeholders at a press event announcing an historic education funding agreement. The agreement includes moving forward with a bill to assure student-enrollment growth and inflation are included in future public education funding and a vote to include services for children and the disabled in income tax funding.
UEA President Heidi Matthews joined the governor, legislative
leadership and other education stakeholders at a March 11
press event announcing a new education funding agreement.
As a show of good faith, the legislature also committed to a 6% increase in the WPU this year (see Budget above). One news outlet said of the agreement, “As far as politics goes, this (is) one of the great coming together/compromises in recent legislative history -- and that is not an exaggeration.”
Two bills are at the heart of the education funding reform:
Senate Joint Resolution 9 allows income tax revenue to be used to provide services for children and the disabled in addition to education.
House Bill 357 statutorily obligates legislators to invest in public education and provides a safety net to protect education funding from situations such as the recession in 2008 when there was not enough revenue to even fund student enrollment growth.
“All along we’ve said that a guarantee of FUNDING is much more beneficial than a guarantee of REVENUE,” wrote Matthews in an email to all UEA members prior to the announcement. “The constitutional guarantee that all income tax goes to education assures revenue, but not funding. Under the compromise reached, we get both…the constitutional revenue guarantee remains AND the legislature has committed to a guarantee of public education funding…House Bill 357 is a step in that direction and, I believe, will change the conversation around education funding for the foreseeable future,” she wrote.
Other Bills of Note—
OEK Expansion: House Bill 99 provides opportunities for more at-risk students to participate in optional extended-day kindergarten (OEK) programs. It adds $10 million to existing OEK funds and, while less than the initial $18 million request that would have provided for every at-risk kindergartener, the bill goes a long way toward enhancing student equity and access to quality education.
Grading Schools: Rep. Marie Poulson fought hard for a third straight year to eliminate single-letter school grades. House Bill 175 passed the House unanimously but never had a vote in the Senate. Senate Bill 119, however, did pass. This bill halts school letter grades for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years as a result of the testing fiasco from last spring. Single letter grades will return in 2020-21 unless the Legislature passes new legislation.
Private School Scholarships: After the statewide rejection of vouchers in 2007, several proposals have surfaced attempting to divert public money to private schools. This year it was House Bill 332. It creates a scholarship program where companies and individuals can receive tax credits for contributions up to $6 million. Students with Individual Education Plans (IEP) would then qualify to receive a scholarship, generally equal to the value of 2 WPU’s, to be used for private school tuition, private tutoring and therapies, and other expenses. Parents must acknowledge they are signing away their rights under federal special education law when they accept the scholarship.
Rep. Rex. Shipp meets with Iron Education Association
members outside the House of Representatives.
Reduced Graduation Standards: House Bill 355 would have reduced the graduation requirement that students must “exceed” three units of English Language Arts, and two units each of math and science, and instead required that students “meet or exceed” those requirements. Lowering the standard would create more opportunity for elective courses, according to the sponsor. The proposal passed the House Education Committee but failed on the House floor.
Civics Education: House Bill 152 would have eliminated the requirement that all students pass a civics test to graduate. The sponsor argued that a “bubble test” doesn’t teach authentic civics learning or engagement and can be a barrier to graduation. Currently, the civics test is the only statewide standardized test for which parents cannot opt-out their child because it is required for graduation. The bill passed the House Education Committee but failed on the House floor. However, another civics bill, House Bill 334, passed. This bill creates a “civics engagement” pilot program. Districts electing to participate will work with the State Board of Education for three years to determine the benefits of and methods for implementing a civic engagement “project” for students. If the pilot is successful, the Board may recommend such a project as a requirement for high school graduation.
Mental Health: House Bill 323 funds an optional program for districts to implement a “mental health screening tool” for students. Based on an existing program used by some districts, parents must choose to opt-in their child, the screening tool must be age appropriate and results must be shared with parents. The goal is to help identify student mental health needs that would benefit from intervention either in a school-based setting or through community resources.
Charter School Accountability: One major charter school bill passed this session. House Bill 242 was a response to the recent closure of schools and some mismanagement of funds. This bill creates an initial review period before a charter school receives ongoing approval and requires a charter school to use the same accounting methods as district schools.
State Board Governance: The Legislature again dealt with the issue of governance for the Utah State Board of Education. The UEA supports direct non-partisan elections for State Board members. In 2016, legislation was passed that transitioned these to partisan elections. The UEA was involved in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of partisan State Board elections. Unfortunately, the lawsuit was unsuccessful and the court validated partisan elections. House Joint Resolution 13 would have put a constitutional question to the voters to allow the Governor to appoint members of the State Board and eliminate the elections altogether. The bill was held in committee. This means Utah State Board of Education elections will be partisan in 2020. Expect this issue to be back at the Legislature next year.
School Breakfast: House Bill 222 requires public schools to participate in an alternative breakfast model if a certain percentage of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. The bill failed to pass in a Senate committee a few senator comments received considerable media attention. The bill was brought back a week later and passed the committee, then later passed the full Senate and House.
Vaping and E-cigarettes: Educators see and understand the negative effects of electronic cigarettes by minors in schools. These devices are addictive and a distraction from teaching and learning. House Bill 58 addresses these issues. UEA originally had concerns about the prescriptive nature of the language and the role educators might play in the confiscation and destruction of these devices. UEA worked with the sponsor to make several educator-friendly amendments. The improved bill requires each school to develop a plan to address the causes of student use of these electronic devices and provides for a stipend for a specialist to administer the plan.
Nineteen teachers volunteered to become 2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team, participated in UEA Educator Day on the Hill and engaged with their legislators. They then shared their experiences. These policy ambassadors are Lori Buhr, Tooele; Annette Croucher, Washington; Ashlyn Drew, Tooele; CJ Gebhardt, Granite; Carol Gregory, Nebo; Sarah Jones, Davis; Taylor Layton, Granite; Katharine McGinn, Park City; Courtney Miller, Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind; Beth Niederman, Granite; Alexis Redford, Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind; Lauren Rich, Davis; Jacob Rollins, Jordan; Megan Ruff, Jordan; Justin Shaw, Weber; Patricia Shay, Granite; Alexandra Smith, Weber; Hilary Ward, Salt Lake City; and Angela Wickel, Duchesne.
Nineteen educators volunteered as 2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors.
Legislation of Note in the 2020 Legislative Session
The UEA tracked nearly 100 bills dealing directly or indirectly with education during the 2020 Legislative Session.
Here are a few bills of note and their final status:
J = Outcome favorable to the UEA position K = Outcome neutral L = Outcome unfavorable
2020 Legislative Archives
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