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2011 Week Three: February 7-11

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UEA Report on the 2011 Utah Legislature General Session

WEEK THREE:

LEGISLATURE WEEK THREE SUMMARY: February 7-11, 2011

Public Education Appropriations Committee: The Public Education Appropriations Committee continued its evaluation of funding for 64 education programs, including adult education, Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, Regional Service Centers, and K-3 reading programs. It also heard testimony about the goals of Gov. Gary Herbert’s Education Excellence Commission, the importance of supporting National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT), and the need to fund pupil transportation statewide.

Representatives from the business community, public and higher education outlined the goals of the governor’s 32-member Education Excellence Commission, whose members include UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh and former UEA President Kim Campbell. Several individuals argued passionately about the need for the Legislature to continue funding student transportation. Rising fuel and maintenance costs are causing many districts to discontinue bus routes.

Rep. Tim Cosgrove raised concerns about the funding (or lack of funding) to cover school district expenses related to Social Security and Retirement. Due to budget reductions over time, school districts have had to look elsewhere for money to cover these costs. State Superintendent Larry Shumway said the current value of the WPU is $2,577, but the value will be reduced by $296 if the current budget proposals are approved.

Educator Day on the Hill: Nineteen educators and Association staff from Davis, Granite, Weber, and Nebo became "citizen lobbyists" Feb. 11 as a part of the weekly UEA Educator Day on the Hill program. Participants met with lawmakers to talk about the importance of investing in public education, especially student growth (Utah will have an additional 14,700 students in the system in 2011-12 and have not funded growth for two years).

National Board Certified Teachers: The Utah National Board Coalition (UNBC) sponsored its annual Day on the Hill to honor newly certified National Board teachers. This year 21 teachers earned their certification, bringing the number of National Board teachers in Utah to more than 200. Teachers were presented to both the House and the Senate.

Bills on the move this week
(For the current status on all bills of interest see the UEA Legislative Tracking Sheet)

  • HB51 (1st sub.): School and Institutional Trust Lands passed the on a vote of 72-0. The UEA supports this bill which clarifies some SITLA provisions.
  • HB87: School Finance Amendments would each year add to a local district’s voted leeway state guarantee cap. This will help some school districts that can’t raise money on their own. It does not raise taxes. It passed out of the House Education Committee favorably.
  • HB92: Public Education Regional Service Centers allows school districts to create regional service centers to provide education-related services. The bill passed the House Education Committee with a favorable recommendation on a vote of 12-2.
  • HB98: Capital Outlay Funding Modifications would expand the permitted uses of proceeds from a capital outlay levy imposed by a local school board. It passed the Committee on a 8-4 vote.
  • HB111: Full-day Kindergarten allows a school district to apply for funding to enroll a kindergarten student in two part-time kindergarten classes for the same day and prohibits districts from using certain money to fund extended-day kindergarten. The bill was held to discuss later.
  • HB218: Clubs in Public Schools passed the Senate by a vote of 25-0. The bill modifies the Student Clubs Act regarding a club’s access to school facilities, including playing fields.
  • HB264: State Board of Education Member Election Process Amendments would change the state school board election to a direct, nonpartisan election. The bill passed out of the House Education Committee. The UEA supports direct, nonpartisan school board elections.
  • HJR3 (1st sub.): Joint Resolution Promoting Healthy and Energy Efficient Schools encourages the State Board of Education and local school districts to promote more healthy and energy efficient schools. It was held in Committee.
  • HJR8: Joint Resolution Regarding School Supplies unanimously passed the House Education Committee. It would amend the Utah Constitution to allow schools the ability to ask students to voluntarily provide school supplies for the student’s own use.
  • SB63: K-3 Reading Improvement Program Accountability would require that schools provide greater accountability and transparency for the $30 million program which funds focused reading remediation. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.
  • SB65: Statewide Online Education Program would fund expanded opportunities for online learning through paid, private, online providers and charter schools funded through money from local school districts. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.
  • SB115: School Performance Reporting would correct an inadvertent error that was created when UBSCT testing was suspended last year because the result was to also suspend reporting of ongoing assessments. This bill would reinstate reporting for ongoing assessments. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.
  • SB235: Charter School Students’ Participation in Extracurricular Activities provides that a charter school student is eligible to participate in an extracurricular activity at a public school other than the student’s charter school if the student’s charter school is located on the campus of the public school. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee with a favorable recommendation. 

February 7, 2011

Senate Education Standing Committee: (Reported by Sara Jones) The Senate Education Committee today heard Sen. Karen Morgan’s bill SB63: K-3 Reading Improvement Program Accountability. The bill would require that schools provide greater accountability and transparency for the $30 million program which funds focused reading remediation.

When asked about the need for the changes Sen. Morgan stated that the current language is seen as too broad by some legislators and these legislators have suggested eliminating funding for this program. The changes are an effort to clarify language to ensure that the money is being spent as intended in order to preserve funding.

There was a lengthy discussion about the impact of the current program. State Supt. Larry Shumway stated that the program has made "significant improvements" in reading proficiency and that all LEAs currently must submit plans for the use of the money. Sen. Howard Stephenson made a number of comments questioning whether the money was subject to appropriate accountability and suggested that the Education Appropriations Subcommittee would un-fund this program without significant changes, including changes like requiring that 25 percent of the money be used on reading technology.

UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh spoke to the importance of reading interventions by sharing a story of one student in her second-grade classroom. The ELL student had been in the U.S. only one year and needed a great deal of extra help to read on grade level. With an overcrowded classroom, the opportunity to have a reading specialist work with this student 45 minutes each day was essential in helping the student succeed.

The bill passed out of Committee unanimously.

House Education Standing Committee: (Reported by Sara Jones) The House Education Committee considered several bills today.

In presenting his HJR8: Joint Resolution Regarding School Supplies, Rep. Kraig Powell stated that current education policy does not allow elementary teachers or elementary schools to ask students to provide their own school supplies although this is a common practice in other states. This resolution would allow elementary teachers and schools to invite, but not require, students to provide school supplies. The resolution passed unanimously.

Sen. Howard Stephenson stated that his SB115: School Performance Reporting would correct an inadvertent error that was created when UBSCT testing was suspended last year because the result was to also suspend reporting of ongoing assessments. This bill would reinstate reporting for ongoing assessments. UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh spoke in support of the bill. The bill passed unanimously.

HB264: State Board of Education Member Election Process Amendments would change the state school board election to a direct, nonpartisan election. Sponsor Rep. Carol Moss stated that this bill would increase accountability and better involve the community in the election of school board members, free from party platforms. She stated that the current process takes away the voice of the people by having state school board candidates selected by a selection committee and approved by the Governor before being placed on the ballot and that this bill would improve the process. There was considerable public comment on the proposed bill. Sara Jones, UEA Director, spoke in support of the bill and the efforts to improve transparency of the process and accountability of elected officials to their local communities and schools. The bill passed out of Committee.

HB87: School Finance Amendments would each year add to a local district’s voted leeway state guarantee cap. This will help some school districts that can’t raise money on their own. It does not raise taxes. It passed out favorably.

HJR3 (1st sub.): Joint Resolution Promoting Healthy and Energy Efficient Schools encourages the State Board of Education and local school districts to promote more healthy and energy efficient schools. It was held in Committee.

HJR8: Joint Resolution Regarding School Supplies unanimously passed the Committee. It would amend the Utah Constitution to allow schools the ability to ask students to voluntarily provide school supplies for the student’s own use.

HB98: Capital Outlay Funding Modifications would expand the permitted uses of proceeds from a capital outlay levy imposed by a local school board. It passed the Committee on a 8-4 vote.

House Floor: (Reported by Jay Blain) Just one bill on the UEA’s watch list was heard on the floor of the House today. HB51 (1st sub.): School and Institutional Trust Lands passed the on a vote of 72-0. The UEA supports this bill which clarifies some SITLA provisions.


February 8, 2011

Senate Education Standing Committee: (Reported by Sara Jones) The Senate Education Committee heard one bill today, SB65: Statewide Online Education Program. The bill would fund expanded opportunities for online learning through paid, private, online providers and charter schools funded through money from local school districts. Sen. Howard Stephenson said this bill is an effort to expand opportunities for online learning to accommodate different learning needs of students.

There was extensive public comment on the bill, including parents, students, teachers and representatives of several organizations. A teacher from the Electronic High School stated the one key to success in their online courses is the cooperation the EHS has with local districts including proctoring exams, sharing curriculum, working with counselors to help students, etc. She stated that competition of online providers would reduce that cooperation and also could threaten the rigorous standards EHS currently holds because paid providers would be motivated by profit and not high standards for students.

UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh expressed concern for expanding a program that would include giving money to private online providers in a year when the legislature is threatening extensive cuts to public education. She also questioned that the bill specifically prohibits limiting the number of students in an online class, and potentially sending tax dollars out of state to private online providers.

Several people stated that they felt this bill was simply a voucher proposal. The bill passed unanimously.

Public Education Appropriations Committee: (Reported by Mark Mickelsen) The Public Education Appropriations Committee today continued its evaluation of funding for 64 education programs, including adult education, Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, Regional Service Centers, and K-3 reading programs.

Pamela Atkinson, a community advocate and senior adviser for Gov. Gary Herbert, testified that adult education is an essential program for the state. "I work with many of the recipients and I see their lives turned around," Atkinson said. She said many of the participants who are 16 years and older had to drop out of school to support their families, but return later to finish their education. Every dollar invested "returns two dollars to the economy [each year]," Atkinson told committee members.  

The state's 35,000 refugees, many of whom have had no opportunity for an education, are also benefiting from the program, Atkinson said, noting that, currently, 114 languages are spoken in Utah. "[Adult Education] truly is statewide and has impacted hundreds of lives," Atkinson said.

Sen. Howard Stephenson questioned whether public schools should be providing Adult Education services. He said private entities provide the same type of curriculum. "I don't think school districts should have a second opportunity," Stephenson said.

Steve Noyce, superintendent of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB), told committee members he was shocked that the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) considered the concept of having school districts, alone, provide services to deaf and blind students. While many USDB students return to their neighborhood schools after a period of time, there are 30 percent who cannot be mainstreamed "and desperately need the services provided by USDB," said Sen. Karen Morgan. "I hope we fully understand the services that are being provided that never go to the districts," Morgan said. Rep. Steve Eliason said his family has been helped by USDB and was also shocked by the USBE discussion. "I want to thank you personally for the programs you offered [to my family]," Eliason said. 

Several rural Utah superintendents spoke about the value of Regional Service Centers. Without the program, which consolidates services for small districts with limited resources—one official said they would be unable to provide such important services as professional development for educators. Kirk Sitterud, the superintendent of Emery County School District, said, "A student's education should not be impacted by where they live." He added that we should be looking at expanding the role of Regional Service Centers  as we deal with tough economic times.

Representatives from the Cache County School District provided data on how state monies have helped them improve reading scores. In 2004, 90 percent of students K-3 were reading on grade level, but the scores dropped off at grade four. Today, thanks to K-3 Reading Initiative money, 90 percent of K-8 students are reading at grade level, Cache officials told the Committee.

There was limited discussion about whether or not to continue performance-based compensation programs. Currently, pilots are underway in five elementary schools. State Supt. Larry Shumway said the USBE is committed to performance-based compensation. He told the Committee it would be disheartening to get one year into the pilots, then abandon them. “It would be a missed opportunity," he said. Sen. Stephenson said, "It would be unfortunate if we discontinued this before we get results."


February 9, 2011

House Education Standing Committee: (Reported by Jay Blain) The House Education Committee heard two bills today:

HB92: Public Education Regional Service Centers allows school districts to create regional service centers to provide education-related services. Regional service centers provide vital resources to rural districts, allowing small districts to pool together to provide resources. The bill was brought forward as a result of a service centers wanting to enter into a real estate contract last year and the question arose if they were a legal entity. This bill would legitimize them, most likely through inter-local agreements between the local districts and charter schools. Many regional service center directors provided positive testimony. In addition, some technical directors and superintendents from rural districts spoke to the benefits of the centers. The bill passed with a favorable recommendation on a vote of 12-2.

HB111: Full-day Kindergarten allows a school district to apply for funding to enroll a kindergarten student in two part-time kindergarten classes for the same day and prohibits districts from using certain money to fund extended-day kindergarten. Many individuals testified against this bill, including UEA Government Relations Director Kory Holdaway. Holdaway thanked bill sponsor Rep. Johnny Anderson for recognizing the benefit of early intervention. However, he said granting flexibility to the school districts is a key to the program and a better approach. While some districts may elect to operate a full-day kindergarten in this manner, the state should not mandate it be done this way. The bill was held to discuss later.

HB183: School District Leave Policies, which would eliminate paid leave for association presidents on district business, was on the schedule but not heard today.


February 10, 2011

Public Education Appropriations: (Reported by Mark Mickelsen) The Public Education Appropriations Committee today heard testimony about the goals of Gov. Gary Herbert’s Education Excellence Commission, the importance of supporting National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT), and the need to fund pupil transportation statewide.

Representatives from the business community, public and higher education outlined the goals of the governor’s 32-member Education Excellence Commission, whose members include UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh and former UEA President Kim Campbell. Debra Roberts, Utah State Board of Education, explained the goals pertaining to public education – optional extended-day kindergarten, reading and literacy proficiency, common core state standards, and assessment improvements. She complimented the governor on his efforts. “I have never seen a governor who has tried to understand education issues like Gov. Herbert,” Roberts said, noting that the Utah State Board of Education has accepted the goals of the Commission. “I like the direction,” Sen. Buttars said of the governor’s plan.

Lane Beattie, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, testified that education has a direct impact on the success of the business community. He said the Chamber’s “Prosperity 20/20” program emphasizes the need for at least two-thirds of employees to have a skilled trade certificate or academic degree by 2020. “Prosperity starts with education,” Beattie told lawmakers.

Rep. Steve Eliason made an appeal to the Appropriations Committee to provide $100,000 to support educators pursuing National Board Certification. “This is a program I feel strongly about,” Eliason said, noting that his request would restore a line item eliminated last year due to budget cuts. He said there are “measurable outcomes” associated with NBCT and the certification compares favorably to a master’s degree. There are currently 214 educators in Utah who are Board Certified. If the funding is approved, another 37 educators could receive support. The cost per teacher is $2,700.

Several individuals argued passionately about the need for the Legislature to continue funding student transportation. Rising fuel and maintenance costs are causing many districts to discontinue bus routes.

Sen. Wayne Niederhauser asked the committee to fund his “grading schools” bill (SB59), which he said will cost approximately $115,000.

Sen. Howard Stephenson asked for $2 million to pay for signing bonuses for math and science teachers – an appropriation that was not funded in the base budget.

In the final minutes of the meeting, Rep. Tim Cosgrove raised concerns about the funding (or lack of funding) to cover school district expenses related to Social Security and Retirement. Due to budget reductions over time, school districts have had to look elsewhere for money to cover these costs. State Superintendent Larry Shumway said the current value of the WPU is $2,577, but the value will be reduced by $296 if the current budget proposals are approved.

Senate Floor: (Reported by Mark Mickelsen) HB218: Clubs in Public Schools passed the Senate today by a vote of 25-0. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, modifies the Student Clubs Act regarding a club’s access to school facilities, including playing fields.

Senate Education Committee: (Reported by Mark Mickelsen) The Senate Education Committee today passed a measure dealing with charter school students and extracurricular activities.

Senate Bill 235: Charter School Students’ Participation in Extracurricular Activities provides that a charter school student is eligible to participate in an extracurricular activity at a public school other than the student’s charter school if the student’s charter school is located on the campus of the public school. Charter schools at Highland and Cottonwood High Schools were cited as examples.

Sponsor, Sen. Karen Mayne, described her legislation as a “fix” bill. She said when charter schools operate inside a regular public high school, charter students who want to be involved in athletics and other extracurricular activities must return to the school within their home boundaries. Under SB235, charter students can participate either within their home boundaries or at the charter school location.

Mayne said the bill is a benchmark, with entities "working together for the benefit of the student." Students who are impacted by the proposed legislation spoke to the committee. One said she could not have qualified for a good college without the help of both schools. Passing the bill, she said, will help students "be the best they can be."

 

February 11, 2011

Educator Day on the Hill: (Reported by Mark Mickelsen) Nineteen educators and Association staff from Davis, Granite, Weber, and Nebo became "citizen lobbyists" today as a part of the weekly UEA Educator Day on the Hill program.

Valerie Lindeman (Davis) and Holly Slade (Granite) brought over 100 letters from teachers in Utah public schools that were delivered to lawmakers.

Rep. Jim Bird told Educator Day participants that things on the Capitol Hill are a lot different this year. While the Legislature is more open and communication is improving, Bird said it will still be a fight for education. Speaking on the Florida-inspired "grading schools" bill, Bird said if lawmakers want Utah to be like Florida, we should do what Florida did – including lowering class size and paying teachers more. That prompted applause from the group.

Participants met with lawmakers to talk about the importance of investing in public education, especially student growth (Utah will have an additional 14,700 students in the system in 2011-12 and have not funded growth for two years). Currently, public education is facing an 11 percent budget cut.

National Board Certified Teachers: (Reported by Sara Jones) The Utah National Board Coalition (UNBC) sponsored its annual Day on the Hill to honor newly certified National Board teachers. This year 21 teachers earned their certification, bringing the number of National Board teachers in Utah to more than 200.

As a long-time member of the UNBC, the UEA sponsored a welcome breakfast and a legislative briefing for the new National Board teachers and the coalition executive board.

The teachers were then presented to both the House and the Senate. On the floor of the Senate, the name and school of each teacher was read and each was presented with a certificate of recognition from Sen. Pat Jones. Senate President Michael Waddoups also gave each teacher a bookmark as a symbol of their "making a mark" on their communities. On the floor of the House, Rep. Jim Bird spoke of the commitment and dedication required to achieve National Board certification and the House honored the teachers with a standing ovation.