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2019 WEEK THREE IN REVIEW: February 11-15


Salt Lake teachers meet with Rep. Sandra Hollins

A bill to create a new education funding distribution mechanism, in addition to the WPU, passed a committee this week despite concerns expressed by the UEA about its being redundant and prescriptive on school districts. Bills to eliminate grading of schools and to allow the use of test scores for grades both passed the full House. The subcommittee charged with recommending a public education budget heard dozens of funding requests during the week. Final recommendations are expected on Feb. 19. The number ofeducation-related bills being tracked by UEA was just 66 compared to 77 by the end of WEEK THREE last year.

UEA wary of TSSA alternate funding plan tied to test scores

SB149: Teacher and Student Success Act, presented in the Senate Education Committee on Feb. 13, adds an entirely new public education funding distribution method to several existing systems. The bill establishes the Teacher and Student Success Account (TSSA) to fund the new distribution system and requires each school to create an “outcome-based program plan,” tied heavily to test scores, to access the money.

Sara Jones, speaking on behalf of the UEA at the Committee meeting, raised concerns about the need to create a complex new distribution method when there is not a significant new source of revenue to fund the program. She also stated that the $65 million allocated last year could continue to be distributed through the flexible allocation line item or, preferably, through the WPU which is the most flexible account for local districts. The bill passed unanimously and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

House passes bills to eliminate grading of schools and to allow the use of test scores for grades

Two UEA-supported bills dealing with grades passed the House and now go to the Senate for consideration. HB198: Education Accountability Amendments removes the requirement for the State Board of Education to use a letter grade when assigning a school an overall rating. It passed on a vote of 68-2. This bill will face a much tougher test in the Senate. HB118: Incentives for Statewide Assessment Performance allows a teacher to use a student’s score on certain assessments to improve the student’s academic grade or demonstrate the student’s competency. It passed on a vote of 58-14.

 
An apple for the teacher.,,Sen. Jerry
Stevenson and Heidi Matthews 
share a light moment at the Capitol
Other bills of interest on the move this week included:

  • HB188: T.H. Bell Program Amendmentswould convert the current T.H. Bell Teaching Incentive Loan Program to a scholarship program for students pursuing teacher preparation in college, with a priority given to first-generation college students. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full House for consideration.
  • HB130 (1st sub.): Public Education Exit Survey directs the Utah State Board of Education to create standards for an educator “exit survey” to be administered when a teacher leaves employment to collect data to better understand causes of the teacher shortage. The UEA supports the bill. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
  • HJR13: Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - State Board of Education was presented in the House Education Committee. This resolution would pave the way for to enact a companion bill, HB242: State Board of Education Revisions, which would shrink the number of State Board of Education members from 15 to nine and instead of being elected by voters the Board would be appointed by the Governor. No action was taken on the bill during the meeting. The bill’s sponsor indicated she would be presenting a substitute bill at a later date to create a task force to study State Board governance and make recommendations for the next legislative session.

Public Ed budget recommendations expected Feb. 19

The “base” funding bill for public education passed both Houses unanimously and was sent to the Governor for signing this week, but the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee has yet to make a formal proposal for increased public education funding. That proposal is expected on Feb. 19. Meanwhile, the Subcommittee continued to hear dozens of new education funding requests.

Huge turnout for Educator Day on the Hill


More than 100 teachers and school professionals
participated in UEA Educator Day on the Hill Feb. 15
Good weather combined with recess for several school districts led to a near-record attendance at UEA Educator Day on the Hill. More than 100 teachers and education support professionals gathered, including a large contingent from Salt Lake Education Association that made up about a third of the group. Also represented were Davis, Alpine, Granite, Box Elder, Provo, Ogden and Grand School Districts, as well as UEA Retired, Utah School Employees Association and the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind.

Education ‘Policy Ambassadors’ Share Lobbying Experiences

UEA Policy Ambassador Isac Ernest (left) participated
in UEA Educator Day on the Hill Feb. 8
This year, seven teachers volunteered to become UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA Educator Day on the Hill, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here are this week’s articles submitted by these teacher ambassadors:

Have I Done Enough? - by UEA Policy Ambassador Isac Ernest, teacher at Ogden High School in Ogden School District

“Every time the school bell rings to excuse classes for the day, the same question goes through my mind. That question has always been "Have I done enough for my students?" I am not confident that I will ever receive a complete answer to this question, but I believe that I must keep trying everything possible to gain a piece of mind when I answer that question after every school day…” - read the full article by Isac Ernest

Hear Me Roar! - by UEA Policy Ambassador Bianca Mittendorf, teacher at North Davis Jr. High School in Davis School District

“Friday, February 8, marked the second time I was able to participate in UEA’s Educator Day on the Hill. Though I had experienced the event previously, I still felt the same sense of accomplishment and empowerment as I walked under the Capitol Rotunda. It was awe inspiring to know that I was being given an opportunity to advocate for public education. As usual, I felt a little trepidation as I considered what I would say when I had a chance to speak with my lawmakers: Should I reference an upcoming bill that I really know nothing about? Will they be able to sense how nervous I am and therefore not listen to me? What if I say the wrong thing?...” - read the full article by Bianca Mittendorf


2019 WEEK TWO IN REVIEW: February 4-8

 
About three dozen educators participated
in UEA Educator Day on the Hill Feb. 8.
By the end of WEEK TWO, number of education bills tracked by the UEA jumped to 62, with more being filed nearly every day. Education bills publicly discussed this week included measures to address school safety, to eliminate school grades and to allow information about contraceptives to be included in health education instruction. The only UEA-tracked bill to pass both the House and Senate so far is SB1, the public education base budget. It essentially sets the next year’s budget before any new money is considered. Any increases to the “base budget” will be considered in separate supplemental budget bills near the end of the session.

A Dozen Districts Represented at EDOH

Early Friday, Feb. 4, about three dozen teachers and education professionals from all over Utah gathered for Educator Day on the Hill at the State Capitol. Educators met with their legislators and voiced concerns on education issues. Participants came from Ogden, Weber, Canyons, Alpine, Granite, Davis, Tooele, Jordan, Box Elder, Wasatch, Salt Lake and Iron School Districts, as well as UEA-Retired and the Utah School Employees Association.

Rep. Mike Winder stopped by in the morning to explain his bill to allow teachers to use student standardized test scores in as part of an academic grade (HB118). At lunchtime, Reps. Joel Briscoe and Susan Pulsipher, along with Sen. Kathleen Riebe, stopped by to share information about bills. Many attendees reported on their interactions with legislators and their experiences.

Bills to address school safety and eliminate school grades move forward, sex ed bill fails


UEA President Heidi Matthews testified Feb. 4 in
favor of a bill to eliminate the grading of schools. 
The House Education Committee unanimously passed HB120: Student and School Safety Assessment. The bill creates a student safety and support team program and requests nearly $100 million for school safety measures. The UEA Legislative Team worked extensively with the bill’s sponsor for several months to make specific improvements to the legislation and continues to emphasize the need for adequate resources to develop positive school climates and integrate restorative practices into school discipline procedures rather than simply hardening school facilities.

A bill to eliminate letter grades for schools cleared its first hurdle by unanimously passing the House Education Committee. HB198: Education Accountability Amendments is supported by the UEA and most education stakeholders, including the Utah State PTA.

A bill to clarify sex education provisions failed in the House Education Committee on a vote of 6-6HB71: Health Education Amendments provides that health education instruction may include information about the medical characteristics, effectiveness and limitations of contraceptive methods or devices.

Other bills of interest moving this week included HB118: Incentives for Statewide Assessment Performance, which allows a teacher to use a student’s score on certain assessments to be used to improve the student’s academic grade or demonstrate the student’s competency. It passed the House Education Committee.

HB130: Public Education Exit Survey directs the Utah State Board of Education to create standards for an educator “exit survey” to be administered when a teacher leaves employment to collect data to better understand causes of the teacher shortage. The UEA supports the bill. It passed the House on a vote of 48-24 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Ed Budget Committee Hears Reports, Requests

Legislators continued to meet in appropriations subcommittee meetings to hear reports and consider appropriations requests received from various entities before making their budget recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee. A few key requests/reports heard by the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee this week included:

Expect budget discussions to escalate as legislators seek ways to fund a massive tax cut proposed by the Governor and Speaker of the House.

Education ‘Policy Ambassadors’ Share Lobbying Experiences

UEA Policy Ambassadors Sam Dixon (center)
and Warren Brodhead (right) shared stories
about their lobbying experiences.
This year, seven teachers volunteered to become UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA Educator Day on the Hill, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here are the first two articles submitted by these teacher ambassadors:

Not Feeling Small Anymore, by UEA Policy Ambassador Sam Dixon, teacher at Fairfield Jr. High School in Davis School District

“A couple of years ago, some events in our country had me questioning my role in our democracy and my efficacy within a system that doesn’t always seem to respond to the needs of the people. Shortly after that, I saw the email for UEA Educator Day on the Hill pop up in my inbox and I thought this might be a good way for me to get involved. I am a teacher and I have expertise in the field, so advocating…” - read the full article by Sam Dixon

Where the Money Is, by UEA Policy Ambassador Warren Brodhead, retired Salt Lake City School District social studies teacher

“When notorious 1920s bank robber Willy Sutton was asked why he liked to rob banks, he famously replied, "Because that's where the money is." When it comes to funding for public schools, Utah educators, perhaps inspired by Willy's keen insight, know perfectly well where the money is. It's in the tax code, and income taxes are…” - read the full article by Warren Brodhead


2019 WEEK ONE IN REVIEW: January 28-February 1

 
A record number of educators joined this
year's Week One UEA Educator Day
Several budget volleys were fired during WEEK ONE of the legislative session. First, the State Board of Education held a press conference calling on the legislature to provide $95 million for ‘safe and healthy schools’ and to increase the WPU by 5.5 percent to allow “for the greatest spending flexibility for districts and charter schools." On Monday evening, Speaker of the House Brad Wilson then called for ‘the largest single tax cut in Utah state history, followed by a similar request by Gov. Gary Herbert in his State of the State address on Wednesday.

The week concluded with UEA President Heidi Matthews reiterating the need for education investments and reminding legislators that during lean economic times our students were promised that as the economy improved, major investments in education would follow. “Rather than calling for the largest tax cut in Utah history, we believe now is the time to talk about the largest education investment in Utah history,” she said.

Record Number of Educator Voices on the Hill

More than 60 educators, representing schools in Logan, Grand, Ogden, Granite, Weber, Jordan, Nebo, Iron, Davis, Box Elder, Sevier, Uintah and Alpine School Districts – along with several UEA-Retired members – joined the UEA Legislative Team on Utah’s Capitol Hill for the year’s first UEA Educator Day on the Hill. This was the largest group ever to participate in a Week One Educator Day event.

“I was kind of intimidated at several points during the day, but every step of the way there were people there to help,” said one first-time participant. “It was a great experience. I really learned a lot and I feel like I made a difference for my students.”

As a result of a survey conducted by UEA in January, each of the 104 legislators on Capitol Hill will receive comments provided by educators who work in school districts they represent.

Seeking ‘the Largest Education Investment in Utah’s History’

 
 UEA Executive Director Brad Bartels outlined
budget requests for the 2019 Legislative Session
Responding to calls by the Speaker of the House and the Governor for the largest tax cut in Utah history, the Utah Education Association suggested at a press conference Friday that it is time for the “largest education investment in Utah history.” (View the press conference here.)

“The growing Utah economy provides an ideal opportunity for lawmakers to invest in the promise of a quality public education for every Utah student,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “We look forward to engaging with legislators and our education partners to modernize our flawed tax system and address critical student needs. Now is the time to keep the promises made to Utah’s students, teachers, and our future. Our students are counting on us,” she concluded. (See more about the public education budget.)

Matthews also introduced Brad Bartels at the press conference. Bartels started as UEA Executive Director on January 1.

Education Bills Beginning to Appear

When the session started, the UEA had a handful of bills on its Legislative Tracking Sheet. By the end of the week, that number had grown to nearly 50, with more introduced each day (see the current UEA Legislative Tracking Sheet). A few early bills to watch:

  • HB120: Student and School Safety Assessment directs the State Board of Education to create a ‘Threat Assessment and Student Support Team’ and requires the Board to develop model policies and procedures for threat assessment. The current version of the bill allocates $30 million ongoing and $66 million one-time to the program. It also requires each public school to establish a school safety team to conduct a school climate survey and a plan for “working with and responding to an individual who poses a threat of violence or harm to the individual, a school employee, or a student.” The UEA has not yet taken a position on this bill, but is concerned the current version places too much focus on physical elements of school safety and not enough on student mental health and prevention.
  • HB130: Public Education Exit Survey directs the Utah State Board of Education to create standards for an educator “exit survey” to be administered when a teacher leaves employment to collect data to better understand causes of the teacher shortage. The UEA supports the bill. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously this week.
  • HB188: T.H. Bell Program Amendments would convert the current T.H. Bell Teaching Incentive Loan Program to a scholarship program. The UEA supports this bill.
  • HB198: Education Accountability Amendments removes the requirement on the State Board of Education to use a letter grade when assigning a school an overall rating. The UEA supports this bill.

Public Education Budget

 

Budget negotiations are in very early stages with the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee hearing reports from various entities. The Subcommittee discussed SB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments, the primary funding bill for public education, which essentially sets the next year’s budget before any new money is considered. Any increases to the “base budget” are typically decided in a supplemental budget bill near the end of the session.

Early in the week, the State Board of Education held a press conference where they presented the Board’s goals for the 2019 General Session. Among the board's top asks are $35.6 million to fund student enrollment growth, $176 million to increase the value of the weighted pupil unit by 5.5 percent, and $30.6 million in ongoing funding and $65 million in one-time funding to promote "safe and healthy schools." Combined, this budget request is very similar to the UEA’s 2019 public education budget request of 6.5 percent increase in the WPU.

Looking Forward to Next Week

There was little public discussion on education bills the first week, but that should change quickly as the number of education bills grows each day. The UEA Legislative Team has its hands full reading and prioritizing each one, then working closely with sponsoring legislators to ensure they understand the needs of concerns of educators in crafting their bills.



2019 UEA Recommended Budget and Priorities

The UEA has proposed a long-term funding focus on four major areas: 1) Individualized Student Attention; 2) Address the Teacher Shortage; 3) Student Equity; and 4) Student Health and Safety. Full implementation of these goals will require a sustained funding effort over many years. TO BEGIN THIS EFFORT, the UEA recommends the 2019 Legislature:
  • Fully fund student enrollment growth, including all impacted line items (est. $37 million);
  • Provide a 6.5% increase on the WPU, allowing LEAs maximum flexibility in addressing the above-referenced goal areas (est. $206 million);
  • Implement a teacher preparation scholarship incentive (est. $2 million); and
  • Initiate “Educators Rising” to support K-12 Teaching CTE Pathway (est. $350,000).
The UEA is also asking the 2019 Legislature to:
  • Modernize Utah’s flawed tax structure by establishing sustainable, long-term revenue sources to address the chronic underfunding of public education;
  • Oppose schemes to funnel public education money to personal student accounts or privately-run entities where taxpayer accountability is lost;
  • Ensure each classroom has an effective teacher by funding strategies to identify and address the root causes of Utah’s critical teacher shortage;
  • Improve teacher retention through comprehensive educator induction and mentoring programs;
  • Create incentives to diversify the teacher workforce to reflect Utah’s changing demographics;
  • Invest in educator salaries to attract the best and the brightest to remain in the teaching profession;
  • Reduce class sizes to allow teachers the time needed to reach and inspire individual students;
  • Eliminate the misuse of student test scores to grade schools and impose consequences on schools; and
  • Support direct, non-partisan election of school board members. 
These and other issues are included in the UEA Public Education Funding request and the UEA Legislative Priorities for the 2019 Utah General Legislative Session.


2018 Election Results

Of the Utah candidates recommended by state and local education political action committees (PAC) for the 2018 General Election, more than 80 percent were successful. PAC committees recommend candidates they believe are most likely to have a positive impact on students and issues important to public education employees.


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