Thoughts on the 2013 Utah Legislative Session
By UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh
As I reflect on the 45 days of the 2013 Legislative Session, I am pleased not only by what was accomplished, but also by the tremendous support expressed for public schools by my fellow educators and others.
Coming into this session our No. 1 issue was the budget and funding for education. Public education was the big winner in terms of funding. We ended the session with full funding for student growth and a 2 percent increase on the WPU. In all, more than $300 million new dollars were dedicated to public education (see more about the FY2013-14 budget).
As with every session, there were some wins and some losses. We faced a number of “vendor bills,” which divert education funding toward a specific vendor or project, coming from the Senate. We were successful in stopping several of those bills from passing. Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the lack of funding for professional development days.
Public education stakeholders came together on March 11 in the Capitol Rotunda to express thanks for the 2 percent WPU increase AND to call upon the legislature for a long-term funding solution for public education (see more about the rally). In less than three weeks’ time, more than 6,000 petitions were signed by Utah citizens, calling for the legislature to address these concerns.
The citizens of Utah recognize that we need a substantive increase in the WPU in order to positively impact our ability to provide an excellent public school for every child. We have the business community echoing this message. Our work on this issue continues as we engage with the Governor and our public education partners to address the needs of our schools.
More than 200 educators participated in Educator Day on the Hill. The legislative team loved Fridays as that was the day our teachers were with us helping with our work. These dedicated teachers shared their classroom stories with members of the legislative body. The presence of these professionals reminded me why our work on Capitol Hill was so important. You are the reason we are on Capitol Hill every day. UEA is the only group which represents the teacher’s voice on issues affecting public education.
On a separate note, I am humbled that you have reelected me to serve as your UEA President. I will strive to be worthy of this responsibility and to continue to uphold the trust you have placed in me. I am so very proud to work on behalf of the dedicated teachers of Utah. Thank you!
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