2011 Legislative Session Preview
The UEA Legislative Team is preparing to face several hot issues as the Utah State Legislature begins its work Jan. 24. While few details are available about any specific legislation, here are a few issues the team is tracking:
- State Budget—Gov. Gary Herbert presented a proposed 2011-12 budget that provides $63 million in new funding for public education. Legislative leadership balked at some portions the governor’s proposal, indicating they may seek to cut about 7 percent from the overall budget.
- Teacher Merit Pay—Past years have seen localized pilot programs, but no statewide pay-for-performance proposal has yet been seriously considered. The UEA opposes any plan that uses student test scores as the sole indicator of teacher effectiveness.
- School Property Tax Equalization—Attempts have been made during the past few years to equalize property tax funding among school districts statewide. Several proposals have surfaced this year, including one from the State School Board.
- Grading Schools—Legislators are discussing a plan to give a single letter grade (A,B,C,D,F) to public schools, modeled after similar legislation enacted in Florida.
- Retirement—There has been talk about modifying last year’s Senate Bill 43 to allow retirees to substitute teach. Changes to Utah Retirement System contribution rates may also be considered.
- Orderly Termination Act—Recent hype about the perceived inability of school districts to fire “bad teachers” has some legislators interested in making changes to the Utah Orderly School Termination Procedures Act. This Act provides a process for removing employees who have passed their probationary period and earned “career” status.
- Charter Schools—Legislators have discussed proposals for increased charter school funding and creating a process to convert a traditional public school to a charter school.
- Elections for State School Board Races—In a meeting with the UEA Board, Gov. Herbert called the current state school board election process “screwy” and in need of change. Some legislators have discussed making these elections partisan and subject to the party caucus process.
- Association Leave—There will likely be another attempt to eliminate school district pay for teachers who serve as association presidents, a change that would impact four school districts.
- “Backpack” Funding—The current WPU is a form of “backpack” funding where money follows a student to each school district. There have been discussions about pushing this funding to the individual school level.
- Optional Full-Day Kindergarten—The Governor’s proposed budget includes a $7.5 million line item to continue an optional full-day kindergarten program.
“Whether we like it or not, what happens on Utah’s Capitol Hill impacts what we do in the classroom,” said UEA Government Relations Director Kory Holdaway. “I encourage all UEA members to follow legislative issues impacting education and, more importantly, contact their representatives to let them know how they feel about those issues.”
The UEA has developed several ways for members to be informed and involved during the legislative session:
UEA ‘Under the Dome’
The "UEA Under the Dome" website is updated regularly with news and links to relevant information. Members of the Legislative Team will also provide regular updates and commentary.
Educator Day on the Hill
The UEA is continuing its successful "Educator Day on the Hill" activities each Friday during the 2011 legislative session (Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11, Feb. 18, Feb. 25, and March 4), with an additional day on Monday, March 7. Educators are invited to join the UEA Legislative Team these days.
UEA Action E-mail Newsletter
A summary of current happenings at the Utah Legislature will be shared with all members in each monthly issue of the new UEA Action e-newsletter during the Legislative session.
UEA Action Bulletin
The UEA will provide legislative e-mail updates on important breaking news through the new UEA Action Bulletin e-newsletter.
Take Action! is an online tool allowing easy communication with your elected representatives on important state and national issues. Different issues will be added to the Take Action! link as they surface.