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UEA Report on the 2021 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK THREE: 

WEEK IN REVIEW: February 1-5, 2021

Never has Utah public education seen a funding increase signed into law by WEEK THREE of the legislative session. It happened on Friday when the Governor signed a Public Education Base Budget that increases the WPU by 6% and provides educator bonuses. The 48 education-related bills currently tracked by UEA remains low compared to recent years. Bills moving through the process included measures to provide state tax credits for Social Security income, clarify the school employee dismissal and appeals process, evaluate public education funding and change the public initiative and referendum process.

Governor meets with the UEA and signs historic ed funding bill


Members of the UEA Legislative Team met virtually
with Gov. Spencer Cox and Senior Advisor for Education
Brittney Cummins on Feb. 2.
Governor Spencer Cox signed all the 2021 Base Budget bills passed by the legislature on Feb. 5, including the Public Education Base Budget. This year’s Public Education Base Budget sets a new precedence as it includes growth and inflation. It also adds 6% to the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) and bonuses of $1,500 for licensed educators and $1,000 for most classified employees. (See more about the public education budget.)

Gov. Cox conveyed his appreciation for teachers during a meeting with the UEA Legislative Team on Feb. 2, saying he knows ‘actions speak louder than words.’ He expressed hope his actions will show the state’s gratitude. During the meeting, which also included Senior Advisor for Education Brittney Cummins, the UEA Team shared legislative priorities and funding needs.

Public ed funding committee hears funding requests exceeding available revenue

UEA Government Relations Director Sara Jones
and President Heidi Matthews met virtually with
Sen. Jerry Stevenson, co-chair of the Executive
Appropriations Committee to discuss education funding.
With the heavy lifting of a public education budget increase completed through the Base Budget, the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee continued to hear requests for additional new funding to be included in the final budget. The subcommittee heard dozens of requests during WEEK THREE, including a request from the UEA to restore the MOST(USTAR) and the rural school district funding cut from last year. See a summary of the appropriation requests and potential draft funding motions prepared by the Legislative Fiscal Analyst’s office.

Any additional budget increases are recommended by the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee to the Executive Appropriations Committee and voted on by the full legislature later in the session (see How the Public Education Budget is Set).

UEA-initiated bill to clarify school employee appeals process clears committee unanimously

The UEA brought a bill to the legislature to clarify the dismissal and appeals process for a school district employee. HB182: Educator Hearings Amendments clarifies existing statute to identify the appropriate court of appeals for an educator who appeals a termination by a school district. The bill cleared its first hurdle, passing the House Education Committee unanimously. It now goes to the full House for consideration.

Other education bills on the move during WEEK THREE included the following:

  • HB81: Mental Health Days for Students includes mental health as a reason that a parent can excuse an absence for a student. The UEA believes this bill in unnecessary. It passed the House on a vote of 60-5.
  • HB86: Social Security Tax Amendments enacts a tax credit for Social Security benefits included in federal adjusted gross income. The bill passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

  • HB93: Youth Suicide Prevention Programs Amendments
    requires school districts and charter schools to ensure coordination between youth suicide prevention programs and certain other prevention programs. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House Health and Human Services Committee on a vote of 9-1.
  • HB116: Student Attendance Amendments prohibits school districts and charter schools from requiring a doctor’s note to excuse an absence. The UEA believes this is better handled as a local issue. The bill passed the House on a vote of 48-22.
  • HB136: Initiative and Referenda Modifications is another attempt by the legislature to make it more difficult for the public to participate directly in the legislative process. The UEA opposes this bill. It passed the House Government Operations Committee on a vote of 8-3.
  • HB181: Personalized Competency-based Learning makes technical changes to update language and definitions regarding personalized, competency-based learning. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.
  • HB222: School Land Trust Program Amendments makes technical changes to reporting and the website of the School Land Trust Program. The changes are all supported by the Utah State Board of Education and many other education stakeholders, including the UEA. The bill passed the House unanimously.
  • HCR8: Concurrent Resolution on Education reaffirms existing code about flexibility and school choice options for families. UEA Government Relations Director Sara Jones spoke against the bill stating that to reaffirm school choice without also reaffirming the need for consistent high educational standards and taxpayer accountability for every publicly funded education program is a concern. It passed the House Education Committee on a vote of 10-4.
  • SB72: Open and Public Meetings Amendments prohibits a vote in a closed meeting, except to end the closed portion of the meeting and provides that a motion to end the closed portion of a meeting may be approved by a majority vote. The bill passed the both the full Senate and the House Government Operations Committee unanimously. It now goes to the full House.
  • SB125: Open and Public Meetings Act Amendments requires a public body convening an electronic meeting to provide facilities at an anchor location for the public to attend the meeting. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House.
  • SB131: Public Education Buildings Standards and Process changes requirements for creating a facilities plan regarding new construction, maintenance and renovation of school buildings. The bill was substituted in the Senate Education Committee and passed on a vote of 3-1.
  • SB142: Public Education Funding Amendments requires the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee to complete an evaluation of public education funding and to make recommendations for future legislation. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.
  • SB145: Military Family Education Amendments clarifies and eases enrollment requirements for children of military families moving into and out of the state. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously. UEA supports the bill.
  • SB154: Teacher Salary Supplement Program Amendments adds educators with a deaf education license to the TSSP. This would be a small adjustment, affecting seven educators employed at USDB. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously. UEA supports the bill.
  • SCR1: Concurrent Resolution on Holocaust Education highlights the importance of Holocaust and genocide education and encourages the State Board of Education and local education agencies to emphasize the importance of this course of study. It passed the Senate unanimously. The UEA supports this resolution.

Education ‘Policy Ambassadors’ Share Lobbying Experiences

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 are a few excerpts from this week’s submissions (click the title to read the full article)...

  • BIPOC Educators: United We Can – by Ana Alcala, Spanish teacher at Hidden Valley Middle School in Jordan School District
    Teaching middle school comes with its challenges and rewards. This year as I introduced myself to my online and in-person classes, a student approached to introduce herself. I was surprised as my student felt comfortable sharing her likes, dislikes and family background. Towards the end of our conversation, she said, “I have never had a teacher that looks like me.” Her words stayed with me and I realized why it’s important to have diverse representation in our schools. We share similar identities, backgrounds and are first generation Latina American…
  • As a Teacher, You Have Something to Say…This is the Time to Say It – by Sarah Nichols, resource teacher at Highland High School in Salt Lake City School District
    When I first began teaching, I was given two excellent pieces of advice: “don’t speak unless the students are listening” and “don’t speak unless you have something to say.” The first one was about classroom management—if a teacher is in the habit of trying to lecture over the voices of noisy, distracted students, she won’t be heard. This is why attention signals and the infamous “teacher look” were invented. After a little bit of practice, I was really good at waiting to speak until the students were listening. The second piece of advice can be trickier. If you’re like me, you may not be skilled at picking concise and precise ways to express yourself. Like me, you might stumble over words or excitedly overshare. Like me, you may not make every monologue meaningful. But like me, you do have something to say…

Read all the 2021 UEA Policy Ambassador messages

Weekly Legislative Briefing

The UEA Legislative Team provides a weekly Capitol Insights virtual update to UEA members each Thursday at 4:30 p.m.


Governor signs bill to provide educator bonuses this year, 6% WPU increase next year – February 5, 2021

Governor Spencer Cox signed all the 2021 Base Budget bills passed by the legislature, including the historic Public Education Base Budget. This year’s Public Education Base Budget sets a new precedence as it includes growth and inflation. It also includes a 6% increase on the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) and bonuses of $1,500 for licensed educators and $1,000 for most classified employees. (See more about the public education budget.)

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): The subcommittee heard a summary of public education appropriation requests and potential draft motions from the Legislative Fiscal Analyst’s office. A representative from the Utah State Board of Education presented requests for residential treatment center monitoring fees and for a data analyst. Several legislators also presented bills for funding prioritization.

UEA Research Director Jay Blain presented the UEA’s funding requests, including restoring the MOST(USTAR) and the rural school district funding cut from last year. He explained how devastating the cut was to our rural districts. In addition, he made a request for intent language in a final budget bill to allow LEA’s use up to $1 million of federal COVID-19 funding Base Budget for COVID-19 related leave. This would be a great assistance to help maintain face-to-face instruction and help retain teachers, he said.

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Three UEA-tracked bills were discussed in the committee:

SB131: Public Education Buildings Standards and Process was presented by Sen. Wayne Harper. The bill changes requirements for creating a facilities plan regarding new construction, maintenance and renovation of school buildings. There was significant public comment, with several representatives of school boards and school districts opposing the bill because it would increase costs. The bill was substituted in the committee and passed on a vote of 3-1. UEA has not taken a position on the substitute bill.

SB145: Military Family Education Amendments was presented by Sen. Ann Milner. The bill clarifies and eases enrollment requirements for children of military families moving into and out of the state. The bill passed unanimously. UEA supports the bill.

SB154: Teacher Salary Supplement Program Amendments was presented by Sen. Scott Sandall. The bill adds educators with a deaf education license to the TSSP. This would be a small adjustment, affecting seven educators employed at USDB. The bill passed unanimously. UEA supports the bill.

House Government Operations Committee (reported by Chase Clyde): One UEA-tracked bill was on the agenda for this committee. SB72: Open and Public Meetings Amendments prohibits a vote in a closed meeting, except to end the closed portion of the meeting and provides that a motion to end the closed portion of a meeting may be approved by a majority vote.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): Three UEA-tracked bills passed the House and now go to the Senate for consideration.

HB81: Mental Health Days for Students includes mental health as a reason that a parent can excuse an absence for a student. The UEA believes this bill in unnecessary. It passed on a vote of 60-5.

HB116: Student Attendance Amendments prohibits school districts and charter schools from requiring a doctor’s note to excuse an absence. The UEA believes this is better handled as a local issue. The bill passed on a vote of 48-22.

HB222: School Land Trust Program Amendments makes technical changes to reporting and the website of the School Land Trust Program. The changes are all supported by the Utah State Board of Education and many other education stakeholders, including the UEA. The bill passed unanimously.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB125: Open and Public Meetings Act Amendments requires a public body convening an electronic meeting to provide facilities at an anchor location for the public to attend the meeting. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House.


    Tax credits for Social Security income passes the House – February 4, 2021

    A bill that would provide a state tax credit for Social Security income passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Senate. Three UEA-tracked bills are on the Senate Education Committee agenda tomorrow.

    House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB86: Social Security Tax Amendments enacts a tax credit for Social Security benefits included in federal adjusted gross income. The bill passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

    Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB181: Personalized Competency-based Learning makes technical changes to update language and definitions regarding personalized, competency-based learning. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.


      UEA-initiated bill to clarify school employee dismissal and appeals process passes committee – February 3, 2021

      The UEA brought a bill to the legislature to clarify the dismissal and appeals process for a school district employee. The bill cleared its first hurdle, passing a House committee unanimously. A resolution also passed in committee that would clear the way for vouchers by stating the legislature “recognizes the importance of flexibility in education schedules and systems and commits to support options for parents and children.” The UEA opposes this resolution as it expresses support for parental choice but ignores education standards and taxpayer accountability.

      UEA Government Relations Director Sara Jones
      and President Heidi Matthews met virtually with
      Sen. Jerry Stevenson, co-chair of the Executive
      Appropriations Committee to discuss education funding.
      House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): The House Education Committee heard two UEA-tracked bills. HB182: Educator Hearings Amendments was presented by Rep. Craig Hall. The bill clarifies existing statute to identify the appropriate court of appeals for an educator who appeals a termination by a school district. UEA brought this issue to the attention of Rep. Hall and worked with him to develop the legislation. The bill passed unanimously.

      HCR8: Concurrent Resolution on Education was presented by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee. The resolution is non-binding and reaffirms existing code about flexibility and school choice options for families. UEA Government Relations Director Sara Jones spoke against the bill stating that to reaffirm school choice without also reaffirming the need for consistent high educational standards and taxpayer accountability for every publicly funded education program is a concern. It passed the committee on a vote of 10-4.

      In addition, the committee spent several hours debating a bill related to changing the name of Dixie State University. UEA is not tracking that higher education bill.

      House Health and Human Services Committee (reported by Sara Jones): A UEA-tracked bill was heard in this committee. HB93: Youth Suicide Prevention Programs Amendments requires school districts and charter schools to ensure coordination between youth suicide prevention programs and certain other prevention programs. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the committee on a vote of 9-1.

      Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): The subcommittee continued to hear reports and funding requests. Presentations included:

      Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SCR1: Concurrent Resolution on Holocaust Education highlights the importance of Holocaust and genocide education and encourages the State Board of Education and local education agencies to emphasize the importance of this course of study. It passed the Senate unanimously. The UEA supports this resolution.

      SB72: Open and Public Meetings Amendments prohibits a vote in a closed meeting, except to end the closed portion of the meeting. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House for consideration.


      UEA Policy Ambassador Message – February 3, 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...

      BIPOC Educators: United We Can

      Legislative report submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador
       Ana Alcala, Spanish teacher at Hidden Valley Middle School in Jordan School District

      Teaching middle school comes with its challenges and rewards. This year as I introduced myself to my online and in-person classes, a student approached to introduce herself. I was surprised as my student felt comfortable sharing her likes, dislikes and family background. Towards the end of our conversation, she said, “I have never had a teacher that looks like me.” Her words stayed with me and I realized why it’s important to have diverse representation in our schools. We share similar identities, backgrounds and are first generation Latina American…


      Governor asks UEA Team to let educators know 'how much they are appreciated' – February 2, 2021

      Gov. Spencer Cox asked the UEA Legislative Team to express his appreciation for our members and all the work they are doing. The UEA Team shared legislative priorities and funding needs. Legislative committees passed bills to evaluate public education funding and to change the public initiative and referendum process.


      Members of the UEA Legislative Team met virtually
      with Gov. Spencer Cox and Senior Advisor for Education
      Brittney Cummins on Feb. 2.
      Meeting with the Governor (reported by Jay Blain): Members of the UEA Legislative Team met virtually with Gov. Spencer Cox and Senior Advisor for Education Brittney Cummins to communicate educator needs for the legislative session. The Team shared UEA’s Legislative Priorities of restoring funding for the MOST program (formerly USTAR) and rural school district funding cut in 2020. The Team also discussed the need for equity funding for students at risk of academic failure. They expressed support for the governor’s budget requests in these areas. Gov. Cox conveyed his appreciation for teachers, saying he knows ‘actions speak louder than words.’ He expressed a hope that he could find the right actions to show the state’s gratitude. UEA Legislative Team members and the governor left with a mutual desire to maintain an open line of communication.

      Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): One UEA supported bill passed unanimously out of the committee. SB142: Public Education Funding Amendments was presented by Sen. Lincoln Fillmore. The bill requires the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee to complete an evaluation of public education funding and to make recommendations for future legislation. Sen. Fillmore said the bill represents “the first step of what we know will be multiple steps” to review and implement recommendations from an extensive funding study conducted by WestEd. Importantly, the bill moves the existing Enhancement for At-Risk Students funding from “below the line” to “above the line” by making it a WPU add-on. Sara Jones, UEA Government Relations Director, spoke in favor of the bill stating that the WPU add-on is a positive change and it is “especially critical to secure this method of funding given the disparate impact of the COVID pandemic.”

      House Government Operations Committee (reported by Chase Clyde): HB136: Initiative and Referenda Modifications is another attempt by the legislature to make it more difficult for the public to participate directly in the legislative process. The UEA opposes this bill. It passed the committee on a vote of 8-3.


        UEA Policy Ambassador Message – February 2, 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, You Have Something to Say…This is the Time to Say It

        Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Sarah Nichols, resource teacher at Highland High School in Salt Lake City School District

        When I first began teaching, I was given two excellent pieces of advice: “don’t speak unless the students are listening” and “don’t speak unless you have something to say.” The first one was about classroom management—if a teacher is in the habit of trying to lecture over the voices of noisy, distracted students, she won’t be heard. This is why attention signals and the infamous “teacher look” were invented. After a little bit of practice, I was really good at waiting to speak until the students were listening.

        The second piece of advice can be trickier. If you’re like me, you may not be skilled at picking concise and precise ways to express yourself. Like me, you might stumble over words or excitedly overshare. Like me, you may not make every monologue meaningful. But like me, you do have something to say…


        Relative quiet continues on the education front as bills slowly trickle in for public review  – February 1, 2021

        The UEA is currently tracking 42 numbered bills, but so far just a handful are on the calendar for public debate. With only three education committee meetings scheduled this week, one House and two Senate, time may be running to reach the typical 100+ education bills heard during a session. Perhaps legislators are heeding the UEA’s recommendation to “support Utah educators by strictly limiting education-related bills to essential legislation...”

        Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): Today, legislators on the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee heard more presentations and funding requests.