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2012 Week Seven: March 5-8

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UEA Report on the 2012 Utah Legislature General Session

WEEK SEVEN:

2012 LEGISLATURE WEEK SEVEN SUMMARY: March 5-8

Public Education Budget

The Legislature approved a public education budget that includes about $41 million to cover new-student growth and a 1.16 percent increase in the WPU. This increase should be adequate to cover increased costs in Social Security and retirement, but is unlikely to fund any employee salary or health care cost increases.

The Legislature also approved $5 million for teacher supply money, the same amount and distribution formula as this year and $2 million to continue the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts Program, a reduction of $2 million from this year.

Educator Day on the Hill

Monday, March 5, was the final Educator Day on the Hill for the 2012 Legislative session. There were five teachers from the Davis Education Association who took a personal day to talk to their Davis County Legislators and others about several bills. In all, more than 200 teachers participated in Educator Day on the Hill activities, making 2012 the largest attendance year on record.

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

  • HB3: Appropriations Adjustments (also called “The Bill of Bills” because it is the primary budget bill) passed the Senate and House. This bill provides budget increases and decreases for the use and support of state agencies and education; and provides funds for the bills with fiscal impact passed in the 2012 session of the Utah Legislature.
  • HB15: Statewide Adaptive Testing passed the Senate. The bill requires school districts and charter schools to administer computer adaptive tests aligned with Utah’s common core beginning with the 2014-15 school year.
  • HB115: Peer Assistance and Review Pilot Program passed the Senate. It appropriates $300,000 in one-time money for school districts to pilot programs that utilize peer assistance and review (PAR) in evaluating certain teachers.
  • HB123 (1st sub.): Education Savings Accounts would allocate a dollar amount to high school students which they could “spend” on credit classes in public schools. Originally proposed as a statewide program, an amendment would make it a pilot program with 500 students who opt in. It failed in the House 26-46.
  • HB148: Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study passed the Senate 20-6. This bill requires the U.S. to “extinguish title” to public lands and transfer title to those public lands to the state and provides that 5 percent of the net proceeds of the sales of public lands will be deposited into the “permanent State School Fund.”
  • HB197: Grants for Math Teacher Training, which appropriates $500,000 for math teacher training programs, passed the Senate.
  • HB206 (2nd sub.): Curriculum Options for Secondary School Students passed the Senate. The bill modifies the Minimum School Program Act regarding funding for a secondary school student who attends a campus of the Utah College of Applied Technology.
  • HB250: Tax Credit for Dependent with a Disability passed the Senate on a 17-11 vote. The bill allows a tax credit for a dependent adult with a disability or dependent child with a disability. It could reduce revenue in the Education Fund by $765,000 in FY2013 and by $781,000 in FY2014.
  • HB311: Electronic Meeting for Charter Schools passed the Senate. The bill authorizes a charter school board to conduct and convene an electronic meeting in writing on a website.
  • HB350: Payroll Deduction Amendments originally would have prohibited the payroll deduction of dues. It was changed to allow employees belonging to any professional or trade organization to be added to payroll deduction. The bill passed the House, but was not heard in the Senate before the session ended.
  • HB363: Health Education Amendments passed on a 19-10 vote in Senate. Under the bill, if a school board decides to provide sex education instruction, “it may not include instruction in, the advocacy of, or the discussion of: The intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation, or erotic behavior; homosexuality; contraception methods or devices; or sexual activity outside of marriage.”
  • HB389: Student Education Occupation Plan Amendments passed the Senate. This bill defines a student education/occupation plan (SEOP) as a plan to be initiated early in the student’s secondary education to guide a student in course selection and prepare a student for post-secondary options.
  • HB397: Charter School Start-up Amendments provides $2.5 million in grants to charter schools for expenses for planning and implementation of a charter school. The Senate passed the bill.
  • HB430: Classified School Employee Amendments passed the House, but was not heard in the Senate before the session ended. It would have required that all classified employees receive benefits provided by their employer in order to also be eligible for retirement benefits.
  • HB392: Charter School Funding Revisions passed the House unanimously. This bill provides transparency on property taxes to let homeowners know how much of their money goes to both public and charter schools.
  • HB420: Parent Education Initiative passed the Senate. This legislation requires school districts to offer an annual seminar to parents, with information on substance abuse, youth violence, mental health, and Internet safety.
  • HB433: Expanded Uses of School District Property Tax Revenue allows districts to use certain property tax revenues for maintenance and operations instead of capital expenses. The bill passé the House but was not heard in the Senate prior to the end of the session.
  • HB441 (1st sub.): Charter School Enrollment Amendments passed the Senate. This bill allows a charter school whose mission is to enhance learning opportunities for refugees, or children of refugee families, to give an enrollment preference to refugees or children of refugee families.
  • HB454: Open Enrollment Amendments passed the Senate. This bill amends the early enrollment period application date for admission for the next school year to a school that is not a student’s school of residence if the school district is doing a district wide grade reconfiguration of its elementary, middle, junior, and senior high schools; and the grade configuration will be implemented in the next school year.
  • HB500: Education Reporting Efficiency Amendments passed the Senate. This bill directs the Utah State Board of Education to determine how to modify or eliminate reporting requirements to reduce the time school district and charter school personnel spend in completing reports.
  • HB501 (1st sub.): Youth Suicide Prevention passed the Senate. The bill requires the Utah State Board of Education to provide suicide training for licensed employees.
  • HB513 (1st sub.): Early Intervention Program passed the House (57-15) and the Senate (22-3). The bill creates an early intervention program, targeted to at-risk students, delivered through a voluntary enhanced kindergarten and first grade program at school districts and charter schools that choose to offer the program.
  • HB514 (1st sub.): Public and Higher Education Technology Amendments provides for an educational program on the use of information technology within the public and higher education systems. It passed both Houses.
  • House HB515: Upstart Amendments would give all students identifying numbers. The bill passed the House unanimously, but was not heard in the Senate before the session ended.
  • HJR1 (2nd sub.): Sustainable Schools Joint Resolution passed the Senate. This resolution encourages the Utah State Board of Education and Utah's school districts to consider ways to establish schools in the state of Utah that promote a healthy environment for students, as well as being energy efficient in their operation and development.
  • SB10: College and Career Readiness would have eliminated the UBSCT test and required all high school students to take a post-secondary assessment such as the ACT or ASVAB. The bill passed the Senate, but was not heard in the House before the session ended, even though funding for the program was approved.
  • SB64 (1st sub.): Public Education Employment Reform passed the House nearly unanimously, 73-1. It now goes to the Governor for signature. See more about SB64 here.
  • SB67 (1st sub.): Teacher Effectiveness and Outcomes Based Compensation would have mandated that, after several years of transition, eventually 100 percent of a teacher’s salary would be based on a performance evaluation. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee, but was not heard in the Senate before the session ended.
  • SB81: Paraeducator Funding provides $300,000 to bring paraeducators into Title I schools that haven’t met AYP for two years. The bill passed the House.
  • SB82: Equal Access for Education Employee Associations Amendments would have required school districts and principals to pay fines for not allowing equal access to education associations. After a lengthy debate and multiple amendments the bill ultimately failed 18-51.
  • SB151 (2nd sub.): Students At Risk of Academic Failure Study was originally a statewide voucher program that would have let taxpayers claim an income tax credit for donations they make to “scholarship organizations” providing scholarships for qualifying students to attend a private school. The bill that ultimately passed the House, on a vote of 51-20, calls for a study of the issue over the next year.
  • SB152: Charter School Financing establishes a charter school reserve account to allow charter schools to use the state’s bond rating so they can reduce their debt service expenses. It passed the House.
  • Senate SB196: Software for Special Needs Children passed the House. This bill requires the Utah State Board of Education to contract with a provider to provide computer software and activity manuals to improve social skills and student achievement for students with autism and other special needs in pre-school through grade two. The price tag was reduced from $3 million to $300,000.
  • SB216: Digital Safety for Utah Secondary Schools would appropriate $450,000 to contract with a vendor to provide online tools, hardware, software, training resources, and incident management processes to secondary school students. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee and the full Senate, but was not heard in the House before the session ended.
  • SB217: Math Materials Access Improvement Grant would appropriate $500,000 for the development of new math materials that meet the new core curriculum standards and would include interactive print and online materials. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee and the full Senate, but was not heard in the House before the session ended.
  • SB248 (1st sub.): Smart School Technology Act would appropriate $6 million to fund 10 schools in a three-year pilot project to develop and implement an integrated schoolwide technology plan. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee, the Senate and the House.
  • SB261: Charter School Revisions provides a budget for the administrative costs of providing charter school accreditation. It passed the House 56-11.
  • SB284 (1st sub.): Concurrent Enrollment Amendments authorizes a fee up to $30 per credit hour for high school students taking concurrent enrollment classes. It passed the Senate and the House.
  • SB285: Education Contribution on Tax Returns amends the Individual Income Tax Contributions Act to provide the opportunity for an individual income tax contribution for education. Contributions are not tax deductible. The bill passed the Senate, but was not heard in the House before the session ended.
  • SB286: College Readiness Assessment passed both the House and Senate unanimously. The bill requires the Utah State Board of Regents to provide for a college readiness assessment.
  • SB287: Core Curriculum Standards Amendments says the state “may exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum to any other entity for any reason.” It passed both houses.
  • SB289: K-3 Reading Program Technology passed the Senate, but was not heard in the House. The bill would have provided $3 million in funding for a computer software program for literacy for students in kindergarten through third grade.
  • SB290 (1st sub.): Utah Futures Program provides $500,000 in funding for and enhances the Utah Futures Program.
  • SCR13 (2nd sub.): Concurrent Resolution on Common Core Standards passed the Senate, but was not heard in the House. The resolution urges the Utah State Board of Education to “reconsider” the Board’s decision to adopt the Common Core standards.
  • SJR3: Joint Resolution – Master Study, which identifies items to be studied during 2012 legislative interim meetings, passed both houses. Education items to be studied include, but are not limited to, academic achievement gaps, charter school replacement funding, concurrent enrollment, K-3 class size reduction, and public education funding.

Day Thirty - March 5, 2012

Educator Day on the Hill (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): March 5 was the final Educator Day on the Hill for the 2012 Legislative session. There were five teachers from the Davis Education Association who took a personal day to talk to their Davis County Legislators and others about Senate Bills 64, 67 and 82. They also watched in the galleries of the Senate and House on the final day each body could talk about their own bills. One educator, Jessica Dunn, brought her fifth-grade son who was exited to meet his legislators and see where laws were made that affected his education.

As a final note about Educator Day on the Hill, we had more than 200 teachers this year come and participate, making 2012 our largest attendance year on record. There are still three days left until the session is over on March 8 at midnight. There are still bills in progress that could help or hurt education and our profession. We still need to have teachers write, email or call their legislators about their concerns.

Senate Education Committee (Reported by Sara Jones): Although committee meetings formally ended last Wednesday, the Senate convened a special Education Committee meeting today in order to hear a few bills that have a fiscal note.

Sen. Aaron Osmond presented two bills, saying “we realize that these bills may or may not be funded” but felt that they were both significant bills to be heard. The first, SB216: Digital Safety for Utah Secondary Schools, would appropriate $450,000 to contract with a vendor to provide online tools, hardware, software, training resources, and incident management processes to secondary school students. A representative from Generation Safe, which is already operating in many Utah middle schools, discussed their program that trains teachers to be cyber aware and detect and respond to digital safety issues in schools. Sen. Osmond said the bill is not written to be prescriptive for a particular vendor and that USOE will be responsible for evaluating possible programs. State Supt. Larry Shumway asked that language on this and the next two bills on the agenda be as broad as possible so that USOE can compete for the best possible vendor. The bill passed unanimously.

Sen. Osmond then presented SB217: Math Materials Access Improvement Grant. This bill would appropriate $500,000 for the development of new math materials that meet the new core curriculum standards and would include interactive print and online materials. The materials would be jointly developed by mathematicians at higher education institutions and expert mathematics teachers from the public schools. The content would be owned by the state. The bill passed unanimously.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson presented SB248 (1st sub.): Smart School Technology Act. This bill would appropriate $6 million to fund 10 schools in a three-year pilot project to develop and implement an integrated schoolwide technology plan in public schools. Currently, the bill shows that the money would come from the Education Fund but Sen. Stevenson said that GOED has agreed to fund the pilot so the bill will be amended to reflect the change. UEA Director Kory Holdaway testified against these three bills because of the fiscal notes saying that “we see a trend going on” regarding an increased emphasis on vendor bills and this is a concern because “we have not funded professional development for teachers” for a number of years and class sizes remain too large yet money is found for programs like these. The bill passed unanimously.

State Supt. Shumway then presented two letters to members of the Committee. He said these letters were in response to two pieces of legislation, SCR13 and SB287, brought forward last week regarding concerns with the Common Core standards. The first letter was addressed to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and clarified the rights of USBE to add to or subtract from the core standards, withdraw from the SBAC (Common Core) consortium if desired, and their control over Utah curriculum standards. The second letter was addressed to members of the Senate Education Committee stating that the Utah State Board of Education intends to hold a public forum to address concerns discussed during the legislative session and hear input from the public regarding the Common Core. This item was informational and no action was taken.

Senate Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): The Senate was extremely busy dealing with multiple public education bills.

Sen. Osmond made a motion to return his SB226: High Quality Preschool Project to the Rules Committee, with a recommendation that it be included with interim study items. Priced at $5 million, this bill would have created a pilot program to provide grants to education agencies to implement high quality preschool programs.

By a vote of 22-5, the Senate advanced to the third reading calendar, SB284: Concurrent Enrollment Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Stephen Urquhart. This legislation makes changes to the concurrent enrollment program and its funding. “We are doing wonderful things in the state with concurrent enrollment,” Sen. Urquhart said. He noted, however, that at the current time funding is an issue. He said a lot of concurrent enrollment is being subsidized by existing college students and “the legislature is not adequately funding it.”

Urquhart said he is trying to “proceed with great care and caution. We want to make sure we don’t damage [concurrent enrollment].” The bill authorizes a fee up to $30 per credit hour for high school students taking concurrent enrollment classes. “It is still a significant discount,” Urquhart said. An amendment, which says students participating in free and reduced lunch don’t have to pay, passed the Senate. The bill is up for final passage in the Senate.

SB285: Education Contribution on Tax Returns passed the Senate on a 24-5 vote and will be forwarded to the House for consideration. This bill amends the Individual Income Tax Contributions Act to provide the opportunity for an individual income tax contribution for education. Contributions are not tax deductible.

SB286: College Readiness Assessment passed unanimously. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Urquhart, has a $500,000 price tag and requires the Utah State Board of Regents to provide for a college readiness assessment. Urquhart said one of the biggest problems we have in higher education is that students are showing up for college unprepared. He shared that a student who needs to take a remedial course to start college has only a 20 percent change of completing college. He compared completion rates for Brigham Young University – at 78 percent – with those in the state system of higher education, which he said ranged in the low to mid-30 percent range.

Under Urquhart’s proposal, higher education will develop an online tool that will allow potential students to see if they are college ready. If they are not, coursework – designed to help them catch up – is provided. Urquhart said the bill is the higher education community’s number one priority.

Saying there is concern over the federal government’s involvement in education, Sen. Margaret Dayton debated the merits of her SB287: Core Curriculum Standards Amendments. The bill says the state “may exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum to any other entity for any reason.”

“I want us to maintain our sovereignty,” Dayton said. The Senate passed the bill on a 21-7 vote. It now moves to the House for consideration.

Sen. Stuart AdamsSB289: K-3 Reading Program Technology passed the Senate on a 27-0 vote. The bill provides $3 million in funding for a computer software program for literacy for students in kindergarten through third grade.

By a vote of 29-0, the Senate also passed SB290: Utah Futures Program, sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson. This bill provides $3 million in funding for and enhances the Utah Futures Program.

SB216: Digital Safety for Utah Secondary Schools, sponsored by Sen. Osmond, passed unanimously and moves to the House. This bill enacts language regarding digital safety in secondary schools. The $450,000 price tag includes online tools, hardware, software, training resources, and incident management. Sen. Osmond said the technology has already been used in some Utah schools.

The Senate also passed SB217: Math Materials Access Improvement Grant, sponsored by Sen. Osmond. This bill requires the Utah State Board of Education to develop a new set of mathematics curricula consistent with the Utah Common Core standards for public school students. It also requires the Board to select a provider to produce and publish materials, including online materials, consistent with the new mathematics curricula.

SB248 (1st sub.): Smart School Technology Act passed on a 24-0 vote. This bill allows money in the Industrial Assistance Account to be provided to an entity that offers an economic opportunity and implements technology innovation in public schools.

House Floor (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): HB513: Early Intervention Program passed on a vote of 57-15. This bill creates an early intervention program, targeted to at-risk students, delivered through a voluntary enhanced kindergarten program at school districts and charter schools that choose to offer the program.

HB514: Public and Higher Education Technology Amendments was circled, uncircled an hour later and then substituted. The bill would ask the State Board of Education to seek RFPs for technology online program for teacher development and student technology certification. The bill passed 60-12.

HB515: Upstart Amendments would give all students identifying numbers. Rep. Craig Frank expressed concern about the process and funding line items without proper standing committee input. He said he does not like putting intent language into a bill and doing it on the fly. Rep. Tim Cosgrove was concerned about who had access to numbers. Rep. Merlynn Newbold said the numbers would be private. Rep. Cosgrove was also concerned the bill had no fiscal note. Rep. Newbold said it could be accomplished. The bill passed unanimously.

HB392: Charter School Funding Revisions also passed the House unanimously. This bill provides transparency on property taxes to let homeowners know how much of their money goes to both public and charter schools.

HB123 (1st sub.): Education Savings Accounts would allocate a dollar amount to high school students which they could “spend” on credit classes in public schools. Originally proposed as a statewide program, an amendment would make it a pilot program with 500 students who opt in. Rep. Kraig Powell spoke in strong opposition to the bill saying no matter how many students are in a pilot, it would be an excessive burden to determine the value of individual courses. We should not ask our public schools and universities to do this, he said. Rep. Christine Watkins asked where the money was going to come from. Bill sponsor Rep. John Dougall said it would come from the WPU. She then asked if he has talked to superintendents and he said yes, very many since 2008. She then asked what organizations support the bill and he said Parents for Choice in Education and the Sutherland Institute. Rep. Watkins then said she was against this bill and it hurts schools that need the funding. Rep. Ken Sumsion said he supported the bill because it is a pilot program and he felt if we attached money to education, parents would be more involved. The bill failed 26-46.

HB430: Classified School Employee Amendments would require that all classified employees must receive benefits provided by their employer in order to also be eligible for retirement benefits. Currently, school districts may choose to not accommodate employees when they ask for more hours because they do not want to assume the additional retirement cost. The Utah School Employees Association is opposed to this bill. Rep. Neal Hendrickson said this proposal affects bus drivers a lot if they are hourly and not on contract. He spoke against the bill because of the problem between hourly and contracted employees. Bill sponsor Rep. Brad Last said it would not affect current employees but only those hired after July 1, 2012. The bill passed 55-18.

HB433: Expanded Uses of School District Property Tax Revenue allows districts to use certain property tax revenues for maintenance and operations instead of capital expenses. Rep. Mike Noel asked if there were differences between this bill and the bill last year. Rep. Kay McCiff said last year’s bill had a time limit in it and concerns were addressed when this bill was combined with another earlier in the session. The bill passed 42-32.


Day Thirty-One - March 6, 2012

Senate Bill 64 is on its way to the Governor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen and Sara Jones): The House of Representatives debated Sen. Aaron Osmond’s SB64 (1st sub.): Public Education Employment Reform. House sponsor Rep. Francis Gibson said that this was a “pretty big piece of legislation” regarding education employment reform and represented “historic collaboration.” Rep. Gibson said that administrators and teachers would be held more accountable and that both student progress and instructional quality would be used to measure effectiveness. He said the focus on instructional quality was important because basing evaluations on test scores “misses the mark.”

Rep. Brian King, speaking in support of the bill, said that he was “very impressed with the information I see in SB64” because it addresses pressing needs but also takes into account the concerns of all stakeholders. Rep. Dan McCay said that the bill “goes a long way to mend…a contentious relationship” between educators and policymakers. Rep. Jim Nielson tried to amend the bill to require that the USOE report annually to the Education Interim Committee on implementation of the evaluation and compensation issues in the bill, but the amendment was defeated. Rep. LaVar Christensen successfully amended the bill to state the State Board of Education and superintendent will develop statewide education strategy. The bill passed nearly unanimously, 73-1.

Before adjourning for the day, the Senate worked on the Concurrence calendar, approving the House amendment to SB64. There was no opposition to the amendment in the Senate and SB64 passed 26-1. It now moves to the Governor’s office for a signature.

See more about SB64 here.

Senate Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): Senators voted 24-0 to place HB311: Electronic Meetings for Charter Schools on the third reading calendar. Senate sponsor Stephen Urquhart called the bill “exciting” and “neat.” The legislation authorizes a charter school board to conduct and convene an electronic meeting in writing on a website.

The Senate debated HB148: Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study, sponsored by Rep. Ken Ivory. The bill requires the U.S. federal government to “extinguish title” to public lands and transfer title to those public lands to the state on or before December 31, 2014. The legislation also provides that 5 percent of the net proceeds of the sales of public lands will be deposited into the “permanent State School Fund.”

An amendment, which would exclude lands within the boundaries of national parks and monuments, and wilderness areas, was introduced and passed. Sen. Lyle Hillyard asked what happens if the legislature passes the bill. Senate sponsor Wayne Niederhauser said “there is a peaceful way to do this.” The bill calls on the Constitutional Defense Council to study or draft legislation related to the transfer, management, and taxation of public lands.

“We are putting in a hard deadline so that we are not studying something, but studying something to a deadline,” Sen. Niederhauser said. “This bill likely is unconstitutional and it will engage us in a legal battle with the federal government,” said Sen. Ross Romero. “Inviting a lawsuit…just to lose is not the best policy,” he told colleagues. By a vote of 22-7, the bill was placed on the third reading calendar.

There was considerable debate on HB363: Health Education Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Bill Wright. The bill allows a local school board or charter school governing board to provide, or not provide, human sexuality instruction or instructional programs. If the board decides to provide this instruction, the legislation says “it may not include instruction in, the advocacy of, or the discussion of:

  • The intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation, or erotic behavior;
  • Homosexuality;
  • Contraception methods or devices; or
  • Sexual activity outside of marriage.”

The bill also emphasizes abstinence-only instruction.

Senate sponsor Margaret Dayton opened the lively discussion on the bill by saying Utah has “a compelling interest” to keep students healthy. She refused to answer questions on the bill. Sen. Pat Jones said she would have asked Sen. Dayton if those states that do have abstinence-only policies see a reduced incidence of sexually transmitted diseases. Jones said she has data showing they do not.

Sen. Romero suggested an amendment to establish that education will be about the facts, and that professional educators can provide students with scientific facts. He said the community “should get honest, accurate information.” The amendment failed.

Sen. Luz Robles argued that “our current system is working” and it empowers parents to have conversations with their children. She said the states that support abstinence-only policies have the highest rates of teen pregnancy. Sen. Robles asked colleagues why are we “the big government,” telling people how to act? She said it is insulting to tell teachers we don’t trust what they are teaching our children.

In voting no, Sen. Gene Davis argued that for a child to ask a question and get the right answer requires great parenting and instruction. This “is a mandate against reality,” Sen. Jones said when she voted against the bill. Sen. Karen Mayne also voted no, saying her constituents raised the question: “We have a choice, so why are you taking a choice from us?” Sen. Romero said there are kids in our communities who don’t have the luxury of someone to provide guidance. To suggest that our children are only going to learn about sexuality from us “is naïve,” he said.

Sen. John Valentine, who voted for the bill, said if districts or charters choose to provide instruction on human sexuality, they cannot instruct about intercourse, homosexuality, contraceptive devices, or sex outside of marriage. “These are the things we don’t want taught in the schools,” he said. The bill passed on a 19-10 vote.

The Senate moved to the third reading calendar HB454: Open Enrollment Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Derek Brown. This bill amends the early enrollment period application date for admission for the next school year to a school that is not a student’s school of residence if the school district is doing a districtwide grade reconfiguration of its elementary, middle, junior and senior high schools; and the grade configuration will be implemented in the next school year.

HB420: Parent Education Initiative, sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason, was forwarded to the third reading calendar on a 21-3 vote. This legislation requires school districts to offer an annual seminar to parents, with information on substance abuse, bullying, mental health and Internet safety. The school district can develop its own curriculum or use existing curriculum.


Day Thirty-Two - March 7, 2012

House Gives Resounding Defeat to Association Access Bill (Reported by Sara Jones): This morning the House of Representatives spent about 90 minutes discussing and debating SB82: Equal Access for Education Employee Associations Amendments. House sponsor Rep. Greg Hughes presented the bill as a “clean up bill” to SB56 which passed in 2007 and required all education associations to have equal access in schools and districts. He said that since that time some have complained that this law has not been enforced. After reading of list of apparent violations Hughes said that “these [claims] may be anecdotal, they may be completely legitimate” but absent of some enforcement mechanism there will be problems. He said the purpose of the bill is to provide penalties when equal access is not provided.

Rep. Marie Poulson spoke against the bill saying that legislators “should not pass legislation [based] on unsubstantiated allegations” and wondered how the legislature has so much time as to be able to delve in to such “trivial matters.”

Rep. Kraig Powell spoke against the bill saying that he had talked with the districts in his area and they had no complaints. He surmised this is a “tyranny of the minority” bill that was being brought in response to a few complaints and he asked that those who have a problem in their own district solve it locally and “please keep your fights out of my district.” He also said he felt this bill would create more problems than it would solve and called it “draconian, punitive and mean-spirited.”

Rep. Christine Watkins asked that after the House had “worked so hard on the bill we passed yesterday,” (referring to SB64 which brought all interested stakeholders to the table to collaborate on education reform),” let’s not undo all the good work” that has been accomplished between the education community and the Legislature.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss introduced an amendment to pro-rate association dues rebates, rather than force associations to give up a full year of revenues when the fault was with the school district for not following the law. Rep. Eric Hutchings then proposed a substitute amendment to delete sections that would require an association to make a refund of dues at any time that a member ends their membership. He was concerned this would set an “interesting precedent” for the refund of membership dues that could impact other types of associations and said that the original proposal “makes no sense.” The substitute amendment passed.

Further amendments to the bill were made by Rep. Merlynn Newbold. The changes eliminated the $1,000 fine paid by principals, reduced the $10,000 fine paid by districts to $1,000, and required associations to register with their local school board rather than the state school board.

Rep. Joel Briscoe told colleagues SB82 might have "a chilling effect" on association relationships at the school district level. He cautioned that districts may look at the new restrictions and decide to meet with no one. The UEA had long argued that SB82 might actually silence the voice of teachers, or severely limit their opportunity to work side by side with the school district administration.

After all the lengthy debate and multiple amendments the bill ultimately failed 18-51.

House Floor (Reported by Sara Jones): The House debated SB287: Core Curriculum Standards Amendments. House sponsor Rep. Keith Grover stated that the purpose of the legislation is to ensure local control of curriculum standards by allowing the state to choose to withdraw from the common core if necessary.

Rep. Poulson spoke to clarify “misunderstandings” about the core that have led to this legislation and said the initiative was state-led and not a federal initiative, that the core represents standards and “not values” and that this will help make assessments more meaningful by allowing comparison to other states. Rep. Moss said that the legislation is unnecessary because adoption of the standards was voluntary so withdrawal is also already an option.

Rep. Briscoe asked questions of the sponsor to highlight strengths of the core standards and then said that “one of the things that frustrates teachers is watching us change course every two years” and the time and money spent on implementing these high-quality standards is well spent. Rep. Ken Sumsion argued that the primary concern was not the common core itself but that federal money is being tied to the adoption of the standards. Rep. Jack Draxler opposed the legislation saying that “we finally get some substantive reform…and we cry conspiracy.” He felt that those who were making claims about the core really don’t understand the common core. After a lengthy debate the legislation passed 50-23.

Senate Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): SCR13 (2nd sub.): Concurrent Resolution on Common Core Standards passed the Senate on a 21-6 vote. The resolution urges the Utah State Board of Education to “reconsider” the Board’s decision to adopt the Common Core standards.

Bill sponsor Sen. Aaron Osmond outlined two primary concerns that led to the resolution, 1) the influence of the federal government and 2) the amount of money required for full implementation without federal dollars. He said he believes we need the resolution “to maintain sovereignty.”

Several Senators, including Sen. Ross Romero, spoke against the bill. Sen. Romero questioned why the state keeps changing the standards. He said “we need to take a deep breath,” recognize the standards are working, and make modifications as we move forward.

HB501 (1st sub.): Youth Suicide Prevention passed on a 27-1 vote. The bill requires the Utah State Board of Education to provide suicide training for licensed employees. According to Senate sponsor Sen. Karen Mayne, the two-hour training is designed to help teachers spot students with suicidal tendencies.

HB311: Electronic Meeting for Charter Schools passed 28-0. The bill authorizes a charter school board to conduct and convene an electronic meeting in writing on a website.

HB454: Open Enrollment Amendments passed 28-0. This bill amends the early enrollment period application date for admission for the next school year to a school that is not a student’s school of residence if the school district is doing a district wide grade reconfiguration of its elementary, middle, junior, and senior high schools; and the grade configuration will be implemented in the next school year.

HB441 (1st sub.): Charter School Enrollment Amendments passed 26-0. This bill allows a charter school whose mission is to enhance learning opportunities for refugees, or children of refugee families, to give an enrollment preference to refugees or children of refugee families; and allows a charter school whose mission is to enhance learning opportunities for English language learners to give an enrollment preference to English language learners.

HB148: Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study passed 20-6. This bill requires the U.S. to “extinguish title” to public lands and transfer title to those public lands to the state on or before December 31, 2014. The legislation also provides that 5 percent of the net proceeds of the sales of public lands will be deposited into the “permanent State School Fund.”

HB420: Parent Education Initiative passed 24-2. This legislation requires school districts to offer an annual seminar to parents, with information on substance abuse, youth violence, mental health, and Internet safety. The school district can develop its own curriculum or use existing curriculum.

HB500: Education Reporting Efficiency Amendments passed 22-0 on second reading. This bill directs the Utah State Board of Education to determine how to modify or eliminate reporting requirements to reduce the time school district and charter school personnel spend in completing reports.


Final Day - March 8, 2012

Senate Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): HB350: Payroll Deduction Amendments originally would have prohibited the payroll deduction of dues. It was changed to allow employees belonging to any professional or trade organization to be added to payroll deduction. The bill passed the House, but was not heard in the Senate before the session ended.

SB67 (1st sub.): Teacher Effectiveness and Outcomes Based Compensation would have mandated that, after several years of transition, eventually 100 percent of a teacher’s salary would be based on a performance evaluation. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee, but was not heard in the Senate before the session ended.

HB250: Tax Credit for Dependent with a Disability passed the Senate on a 17-11 vote. The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Dougall, allows a tax credit for a dependent adult with a disability or dependent child with a disability. Passage of this bill could reduce revenue in the Education Fund by $765,000 in FY2013 and by $781,000 in FY2014.

The Senate passed SJR3: Joint Resolution – Master Study, which identifies items to be studied during 2012 legislative interim meetings. Education items to be studied include, but are not limited to, academic achievement gaps, charter school replacement funding, concurrent enrollment, K-3 class size reduction, and public education funding.

By a vote of 25-0, the Senate approved an amended HB15: Statewide Adaptive Testing. The bill requires school districts and charter schools to administer computer adaptive tests aligned with Utah’s common core beginning with the 2014-15 school year. Sen. Howard Stephenson successfully amended the bill to include language requiring the Utah State Board of Education to establish a parent committee of 15 members to review computer adaptive test questions. Five members will be appointed by the chair of the Utah State Board of Education, five will be appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives, and five will be appointed by the president of the Senate.

Senators also passed HB115: Peer Assistance and Review Pilot Program, which appropriates $300,000 in one-time money for school districts to pilot programs that utilize peer assistance and review (PAR) in evaluating certain teachers. Senate sponsor Sen. Aaron Osmond said the bill enables a school district to provide mentor resources to teachers who are new in the system, or who have performance problems. He said these types of programs have worked well in Utah and other school districts around the country. The bill passed on a 21-6 vote.

By a vote of 24-1, the Senate passed HB197: Grants for Math Teacher Training, which appropriates $500,000 for math teacher training programs.

HB397: Charter School Start-up Amendments provides $2.5 million in grants to charter schools for expenses for planning and implementation of a charter school. The Senate passed the bill on a 25-0 vote.

HB514 (1st sub.): Public and Higher Education Technology Amendments provides for an educational program on the use of information technology within the public and higher education systems. It passed the Senate 25-1. The bill was amended to provide one-time, rather than ongoing funding in the amount of $250,000 from the Education Fund and $50,000 from the General Fund. “I cannot overstate the value of this program,” Sen. Osmond said in supporting the bill. He said for $300,000, the state will receive a $10 million return on its investment.

HB206 (2nd sub.): Curriculum Options for Secondary School Students passed the Senate on a 27-0 vote. The bill modifies the Minimum School Program Act regarding funding for a secondary school student who attends a campus of the Utah College of Applied Technology.

HB513 (1st sub.): Early Intervention Program passed the Senate on a 22-3 vote. The bill creates an early intervention program, targeted to at-risk students, delivered through a voluntary enhanced kindergarten and first grade program at school districts and charter schools that choose to offer the program.

SB196: Software for Special Needs Children passed on a vote of 25-1. This bill requires the Utah State Board of Education to contract with a provider to provide computer software and activity manuals to improve social skills and student achievement for students with autism and other special needs in pre-school through grade two. The price tag was reduced from $3 million to $300,000.

HJR1 (2nd sub.): Sustainable Schools Joint Resolution passed 22-4. This joint resolution of the Legislature encourages the Utah State Board of Education and Utah's school districts to consider ways to establish schools in the state of Utah that promote a healthy environment for students, as well as being energy efficient in their operation and development.

HB389: Student Education Occupation Plan Amendments passed 24-1. This bill defines a student education/occupation plan (SEOP) as a plan to be initiated early in the student’s secondary education to guide a student in course selection and prepare a student for post-secondary options.

SB284 (1st sub.): Concurrent Enrollment Amendments passed 20-4. The bill went to conference committee and it was determined that if a concurrent enrollment course is taught through video conferencing, a state institution of higher education may only charge up to $15 per credit hour for the course for which the student receives credit.

HB3: Appropriations Adjustments (also called “The Bill of Bills” because it is the primary budget bill) passed 29-0. This bill provides budget increases and decreases for the use and support of state agencies and education; and provides funds for the bills with fiscal impact passed in the 2012 session of the Utah Legislature.

SB248 (2nd sub.): Smart School Technology Act passed 25-0. The bill creates a three-year pilot project to develop and implement whole-school technology deployment in public schools.

SB217 (1st sub.): Math Materials Access Improvement Grant passed 27-1. This legislation provides funding for the development and publication of public school mathematics textbooks.

House Floor (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): SB284 (1st sub.): Concurrent Enrollment Amendments authorizes a student to be charged up to a $30 per credit hour fee for higher education courses offered in public schools through concurrent enrollment. During a lengthy debate, Rep. Stephen Handy suggested the bill needed further study during the interim with representatives from public education participating in the discussions. Reps. Carol Moss and Christine Watkins expressed concern about this bill limiting students’ ability to get to college. Rep. Joel Briscoe said he liked changes made to the bill which make it less objectionable, but noted that the fiscal note is $5.2 million, which comes out of the pockets of students and parents. The bill passed on a vote of 52-21.

SB81: Paraeducator Funding provides $300,000 to bring paraeducators into Title I schools that haven’t met AYP for two years. The bill passed the House on a vote of 63-3.

SB286: College Readiness Assessment provides money for the Board of Regents to provide college readiness assessments. It passed unanimously.

SB261: Charter School Revisions provides a budget for the administrative costs of providing charter school accreditation. It passed 56-11.

SB151 (2nd sub.): Students At Risk of Academic Failure Study was originally a statewide voucher program that would have let taxpayers claim an income tax credit for donations they make to “scholarship organizations” providing scholarships for qualifying students to attend a private school. The bill that ultimately passed, on a vote of 51-20, calls for a study of the issue over the next year.

SB152: Charter School Financing establishes a charter school reserve account to allow charter schools to use the state’s bond rating so they can reduce their debt service expenses. This is not a debt obligation bond but a moral obligation bond giving charter schools access to credit at a reduced cost.

SB97: Grants for Online Testing appropriates $7.6 million to the State Office of Education for school district matching grants to implement online testing. After a lengthy discussion and several amendments, including one that said districts cannot raise taxes for the matching funds, the bill passed on a vote of 51-21.

SB10: College and Career Readiness would have eliminated the UBSCT test and required all high school students to take a post-secondary assessment such as the ACT or ASVAB. The bill passed the Senate, but was not heard in the House before the session ended, even though funding for the program was approved.