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UEA Report on the 2019 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK TWO: 


2019 WEEK 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 6-6. HB71: 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


Legislators report to teachers on the Hill – February 8, 2019

Educator Day on the Hill (reported by Mike Kelley): About three dozen education professionals joined members of the UEA Legislative Team early Friday morning forEducator Day on the Hill at the State Capitol. Participants came from Ogden, Weber, Canyons, Alpine, Granite, Davis, Tooele, Jordan, Box Elder, Iron, Wasatch and Iron School Districts, as well as UEA-Retired and the Utah School Employees Association.

Meetings began early with instructions on how to speak to legislators, a discussion of current education issues and a visit by Rep. Mike Winder, who explained his bill to allow teachers to use student standardized test scores in as part of an academic grade (HB118). Attendees then participated in a morning meeting of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

Floor time in the House and Senate is typically the time to meet with legislators. This morning, however, was unusual in that the House debated Medicaid expansion. Representatives did not leave the floor during debate, but it created an opportunity to hear a lively discussion.

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.

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): The Subcommittee heard several reports:

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB129: Campaign Amendments permits a candidate for public office to use campaign funds to pay childcare expenses while the candidate is engaged in campaign activity. The UEA supports this bill because it creates options for working people, including educators, who run for office. It passed unanimously and now goes back to the House to concur with amendments.


School safety bill passes committee unanimously – February 7, 2019

House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Rep. Ray Ward presented HB120: Student and School Safety Assessment. The bill creates a student safety and support team program. The committee discussed the bill for more than an hour and there was extensive public comment both in support of the bill and raising significant concerns.

The bill requests nearly $100 million for school safety measures: about $500,000 for new personnel at Utah State Board of Education office for a “school safety center” to coordinate with school districts and charter schools; about $30 million ongoing money to hire personnel like school counselors, social workers, psychologists or resource officers; and about $67 million one-time money for schools to improve physical facilities. Because of the large fiscal note the committee asked several questions about the ability to implement the school safety program if the bill passes but funding is less than requested. Rep. Ward said that the program is scalable but that the “most important part is (school) personnel related to school safety.”

The bill also requires schools to have school safety teams that have two primary functions: 1) identify potential threats against a member of the school community and report to law enforcement, as appropriate, and 2) identify potential threats of harm by a student against themselves and refer to mental health or other supportive services, as appropriate.

The UEA Legislative Team worked extensively with Rep. Ward for several months to make specific improvements to the legislation. The UEA 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. The UEA has not yet taken a position on the bill. It passed unanimously and now goes to the full House for consideration.


Bill to clarify sex ed provisions fails in committee – February 6, 2019

House Education Committee (reported by Mike Kelley): Three bills on the UEA Tracking Sheet were heard in this committee:

SB37: Interventions for Reading Difficulties Sunset Amendments renames the Interventions for Reading Difficulties Pilot Program as the Interventions for Reading Difficulties Program and repeals outdated provisions. It also extends the sunset date for the program from July 1, 2019, to July 1, 2024. The UEA supports this bill. It passed unanimously.

HB237: Personal Electronic Device Use in Public Schools requires a public school to develop a policy regarding the use of personal electronic devices on school premises and to provide that policy to parents, students, and employees. It passed unanimously

HB71: Health Education Amendments is a controversial bill. It provides that health education instruction may include information about the medical characteristics, effectiveness, and limitations of contraceptive methods or devices. In presenting the bill, Rep. Ray Ward said he introduced it to help teachers better understand and clarify what health teachers can and cannot teach about contraceptive devices. After considerable discussion, including a supporting statement from health teacher and UEA member Chelsie Acosta, the bill failed on avote of 6-6.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendmentsprovides the bulk of funding for public education. It appropriates about $5.2 billion to public education, setting the initial WPU at $3,395 for about 869,000 WPUs, which is the same as the current fiscal year. The legislature will address funding student enrollment growth and any increases in a separate bill later in the session. The bill also appropriates $65 million in one-time money from the Teacher and Student Success Account (TSSA) for which legislators have yet to determine the funding distribution rules. The bill passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.


Help for high-needs schools – February 5, 2019

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): First-year Senator and current UEA member educator Kathleen Riebe presented SB115: High-Needs Schools Amendments. The bill creates a matching grant program for districts to apply to hire a first-year educator in a high-needs elementary school, capping the teacher’s class size at 20 students. Sen. Riebe explained that goal of the bill is to make high-needs schools more competitive and attractive in hiring first year teachers by capping class size as well as helping to improve retention of new teachers. The bill passed unanimously.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments, the primary funding bill for public education, 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. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House.


UEA Policy Ambassadors – February 5, 2019

This year, the UEA is trying something new at the legislature. 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

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Sam Dixon, teacher at Fairfield Jr. High School in Davis School District

UEA Policy Ambassadors Sam Dixon (center)
and Warren Brodhead (right) joined about

60 teachers at Educator Day on the Hill Feb. 1
A couple of years ago, some events in our country had me questioning my roll 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 for myself, and my fellow teachers would be a great way for me to get my feet wet.

As I walked to the Copper Room inside the Senate building for EDOH, I felt like I was in the wrong place.

As soon as I turned the corner, I was warmly greeted at the door. I was given a couple of buttons, a packet containing a map of all the senators and representatives, an agenda for the day, and most importantly, a legislative tracking sheet. This itemizes all the different legislation the UEA is following, along with an easy-to-understand breakdown of the various positions of support, or opposition.

We were all given the chance to introduce ourselves. We were debriefed about the legislative process, our role in that process, and some of the highlighted legislation that would impact our profession. Several state senators and representatives popped in to say hello, to thank us, and to describe any legislation they were sponsoring.

I must admit, there was an intimidation factor on that first day as I walked inside the rotunda of the Utah State Capitol building. The history, the magnitude, the grandeur, this building was…read the full article by Sam Dixon

Where the Money Is

Submitted 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, constitutionally, our bread-and-butter.

I am a retired educator and taught Social Studies in the Salt Lake City School District. Although in my teaching I stressed economics, my math skills are rather truncated. The thickets of the tax code therefore represent a daunting obstacle for someone like me, requiring access to an actual expert, perhaps a funding wizard. Luckily, UEA has such a person in Jay Blain, our Association's point man on funding and taxes. So, the first stop on my ascent of the learning curve was a meeting with Jay.

Politely overlooking my neophyte status regarding funding and taxes, Jay gave me a helpful head start. The key to adequate funding is the Weighted Pupil Uni (WPU), he emphasized, which is primarily derived from the income tax. The legislature often likes to steer money elsewhere, in one-time allotments to specific line items. This can have the unfortunate consequence of depriving local school districts of the flexibility required to fund in adequate fashion their particular needs.

My next stop was the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee. From the audience I gazed in wonder as the Legislative Fiscal Analyst presented his short course on public school funding. Numbers blinked on and off the screen like subatomic particles in the quantum realm. But I got the gist: there's ongoing money and one-time money. Since 1997, public ed has had to share a good chunk of income tax revenues with higher ed, which in turn siphonsread the full article by Warren Brodhead


Bill to eliminate school grades passes first hurdle – February 4, 2019

House Education Committee (reported by Jay Blain): HB118: Incentives for Statewide Assessment Performance 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. The test score cannot be used for an extracurricular inducement. The bill was amended to keep grading decisions at the teacher level. During public comment, Sara Jones, representing the UEA, said if the state is going to require standardized testing, along with the right to opt out, teachers should be able to incentivize the students to do well. Several others spoke in favor of the bill, including representatives from the Utah School Boards Association, the Utah PTA and the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools. The bill passed the committee on a vote of 9-2.

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. Speaking in favor of the bill, UEA President Heidi Matthews said the letter grade has had a negative effect and blames and shames schools and teachers. “The dashboard provides multiple data points and pinpoints successes and areas of needs,” she said.

Representatives from the Utah State PTA, Canyons School District, Alpine School District and the Utah Association of Secondary School Principals spoke in favor of the bill. It passed the committee unanimously.

HB146: Concurrent Enrollment Amendments will allow ninth- and tenth-grade students to take concurrent enrollment credit. The bill passed unanimously.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): 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.

HB64: Lobbyist Expenditures Amendments puts in place the same lobbyist expenditure laws currently used by the Legislature and expands them to other elected bodies, including local school boards. The bill exempted several associations that are funded by tax-payer dollar dues. While the UEA is not exempted, we don’t expect this to impact our relationships with local school boards. It passed the House unanimously.