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2012 Week Six: Feb 27-March 2

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UEA Report on the 2012 Utah Legislature General Session


WEEK SIX:

2012 LEGISLATURE WEEK SIX SUMMARY: February 27-March 2

Public Education Budget

Utah legislative leaders have finalized a budget proposal that will go before lawmakers during the final week of the 2012 Legislature. While the proposal is not yet public, legislative leaders have said the budget provides $40 million to cover the cost of 12,000 new students entering public education and an increase to the WPU of slightly more than 1 percent. There are still many budget requests yet to be reviewed.

Educator Day on the Hill

On the last Friday of the Session, 35 educators and a number of UniServ directors from Jordon, Granite, Davis, Alpine, Nebo, Weber and Salt Lake participated in Educator Day on the Hill. Participating teachers helped with the Cat in the Hat celebrations and refreshments provided for legislators by the UEA in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday. The refreshments were served in the House and Senate break rooms. Teachers were also interviewed by KSL-TV for an upcoming news segment. The reporter asked teachers about the legislative session, the implications of Senate Bill 64 and the pressing needs of education in Utah.

Special Presentations Sen. Karen Morgan was joined by UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh and the Cat in the Hat when she announced that March 2 is not only the birthday of beloved children’s book author Dr. Seuss, but also the 15th anniversary of the National Education Association’s “Read Across America” celebration. In the House, Rep. Becky Edwards made a similar introduction as Gallagher-Fishbaugh and the Cat in the Hat were welcomed on the floor.

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

  • HB41 (1st sub.): Property Taxation of Business Personal Property, which adjusts a property tax exemption for business personal property, passed the House. The bill says the taxable tangible personal property of a taxpayer is exempt from taxation if the property has a total aggregate fair market value of $15,000 or less. (Currently, the aggregate market value ceiling is $3,500 or less.)
  • HB128: School Community Council Revisions passed the Senate and now goes to the Governor for signature. The legislation modifies deadlines for providing notice of open SCC positions and holding elections; requires a SCC to conduct deliberations and take action openly; establishes requirements for the notice, agenda, and minutes of a SCC meeting; and exempts a SCC from the Open and Public Meetings Act.
  • HB149: Online Education Survey provides for the establishment of a pilot online school survey system in which students, parents, and teachers evaluate schools. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee with a unanimous vote.
  • HB156: Public Education Program Amendments was amended to add a challenge test for the Financial Literacy class and keep it as a graduation requirement. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously.
  • HB158: Student-based Budgeting would push a large chunk of funding down to the school level, about 85 percent. It was sent to interim study by the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.
  • HB213: School Community Council Member Qualifications passed the Senate. This bill allows a parent who is a teacher in a school district to serve on a school community council (SCC), but not the SCC in the school where they are employed. An amendment would allow only one district employee parent on a SCC.
  • HB230: Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind Amendments passed the Senate and now goes to the Governor for signature. The bill requires the Utah State Board of Education to make rules regarding the qualifications, terms of employment, and duties for the superintendent of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB); and the operation of the USDB Advisory Council. The USDB Advisory Council shall include at least two members who are blind, two members who are deaf, and two members who are deaf-blind or parents of a deaf-blind child.
  • HB256 (3rd sub.) Retirement Modifications passed the House and Senate and now goes to the governor for signature. The UEA supports this bill.
  • HB336: Electronic High School Amendments would limit the classes offered by the Electronic High School to those required to graduate either for students needing remediation or acceleration. The bill passed the House 51-18 and moves to the Senate for consideration.
  • HB350 (3rd sub.): Payroll Deduction Amendments, modifies a statute related to employer deductions from employee wages. Passage of this bill does not prohibit payroll deduction for organizations like the Utah Education Association. Rep. Bradley Daw said his bill simply tries to “level the playing field” and allows members of a professional or trade association to have dues or fees deducted from their paychecks – a benefit currently available only to unions. The bill passed the House and now goes to the Senate.
  • HB364: School District Reporting Amendments requires reporting of expenditures and revenues at the school level back to district and then back to the state to post on the transparency website. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.
  • HB389: Student Education Occupation Plan Amendments codifies current practice of SEOP’s and makes sure the plans begin in seventh grade. PTA spoke in favor of the bill. Utah Eagle Forum spoke against it saying that SEOP pigeonholes the students. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.
  • HB392: Charter School Funding Revisions set the rate for school districts for the local replacement money sent to charter schools at the average rate creating some winners and some losers among the various districts. It also required that a line item be added to property tax statements showing how much money is sent to charter schools for transparency. An amendment removed the rate requirement. The bill passed the House Education Committee with just the transparency requirement.
  • HB398: Allocation of School Trust Lands Funds would treat a group of seven charter school as a district for the purpose of trust land distributions. Concerns about funding led the House Education Committee to recommend the idea for interim study.
  • HB417 (1st sub.): Education on Process for Electing Public Officials failed in the House on a 28-40 vote. The bill would have required schools to teach about the caucus process.
  • HB500: Education Reporting Efficiency Amendments passed the full House unanimously. The 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.
  • HB507: School Allocations Measured by Property Tax would allow charter schools and school districts to file a claim to get a refund for the property taxes paid on any property tax for properties that they lease. This would primarily help charter schools since some of them lease their buildings. A motion to send the bill to interim study passed the House Revenue and Taxation Committee unanimously.
  • SB31: Classroom Size Amendments, which had already passed the full Senate, was tabled by the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on an 8-4 vote. The bill would have decreased class sizes in grades K-3.
  • SB64 (1st sub.): Public Education Employment Reform, which is supported by the UEA and other education stakeholders, faced a hostile amendment in the Senate from Sen. Stuart Adams. The amendment failed on a 17-11 vote then the bill passed 26-2 on a final vote with only Sens. David Hinkins and Mark Madsen opposing. The bill now moves to the House for consideration. (See more about SB64 here)
  • SB81: Paraeducator Funding appropriates $500,000 to provide money for eligible schools to hire paraeducators to provide additional instructional aid in the classroom, assist students in achieving academic success, and assist the school in exiting Title 1 school improvement status. It passed the Senate and now moves to the House.
  • Senate Floor Saying “I am sad to have to bring this bill,” opened the debate on SB82: Equal Access for Education Employee Association Amendments. The bill requires the State Board of Education to establish an education employee association registry, and institutes penalties for schools and districts that don’t allow equal access to education employee associations to distribute information, attend employee orientations, and solicit membership. Madsen argued that the Madsen said because the bill the Legislature passed five years earlier has been disregarded, “I am back now with a bill that adds enforcement mechanisms.” Sen. Karen Morgan took issue with the penalties, calling them “excessive” for principals, charters, and districts. Sen. Ross Romero agreed, saying he hadn’t heard a single complaint about “access.” “It’s beyond doubt this is happening,” Madsen said. He said he couldn’t tell the teachers who testified [in Senate Education Committee] that they “are liars. The bill passed 19-9 on second reading. It is now on the third reading calendar.
  • SB82: Equal Access for Education Employee Association Amendments passed the Senate 19-9. The sponsor, Sen. Mark Madsen, said NEA’s “Utah affiliate” is “singled out” for privileges not given to other organizations, like the American Federation of Teachers and the Association of American Educators (AAE). A principal failing to provide equal access faces a $1,000 fine and a district or charter school could face fines of $10,000 for the same violation under the bill.
  • SB175: School Grading Amendments extends the implementation of the school grading program for one year. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full Senate.
  • SB178 (1st sub.): Statewide Online Education Program Amendments modifies provisions related to the Statewide Online Education Program it passed the Senate and now moves to the House.
  • SB213: Charter School Enrollment, which modifies provisions regarding the enrollment capacity of charter schools, passed the Senate.
  • SB223: Pledge of Allegiance Amendments requires that the Pledge of Allegiance shall be recited once at the beginning of each day in each public school classroom in the state, and led by a student in the classroom – as assigned by the classroom teacher on a rotating basis. The bill passed Senate unanimously and now goes to the House.
  • SB226: High Quality Preschool Project creates a pilot program in which grants are given to qualifying education agencies to implement preschool programs. The Senate Education Committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the floor.
  • SB284: Concurrent Enrollment Amendments was approved by the Senate Education Committee. This bill 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.
  • SB285: Education Contribution on Tax Returns allows a voluntary income tax contribution for education. The legislation passed the Senate Education Committee with a favorable recommendation.
  • SB286: College Readiness Assessment passed the Senate Education Committee. The bill directs the State Board of Regents to develop, or contract with an outside provider to develop an assessment tool that will assess a student’s readiness for higher education, and helps students identify weaknesses to remediate. The bill appropriates $500,000 from the Education Fund.
  • 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.” The bill passed the Senate Education Committee.
  • SCR13 (1st sub.): Concurrent Resolution on Common Core Standards is a resolution of the Legislature and Governor that urges the Utah State Board of Education to continually monitor the Board’s implementation of the Common Core. The Senate Education Committee forwarded the bill to the Senate Floor for a full debate.

Day Twenty-Five - February 27, 2012

Senate Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): SB223: Pledge of Allegiance Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Osmond, was debated on the Senate floor and passed by a vote of 26-0 on second reading. The bill requires that the Pledge of Allegiance shall be recited once at the beginning of each day in each public school classroom in the state, and led by a student in the classroom – as assigned by the classroom teacher on a rotating basis.

Sen. Osmond said during his school visits throughout the state, “the respect for our flag and country was not demonstrated.” He noted that while the Pledge is recited in most elementary schools each day, this is not the case in middle and high schools. Students may opt out of reciting the pledge if they choose.

Saying “I am sad to have to bring this bill,” Sen. Mark Madsen opened the debate on SB82: Equal Access for Education Employee Association Amendments. The bill requires the State Board of Education to establish an education employee association registry, and institutes penalties for schools and districts that don’t allow equal access to education employee associations to distribute information, attend employee orientations, and solicit membership.

Madsen argued that the National Education Association’s “Utah affiliate” (the Utah Education Association) is “singled out” for privileges not given to other organizations, like the American Federation of Teachers and the Association of American Educators (AAE). Madsen said because the bill the Legislature passed five years earlier has been disregarded, “I am back now with a bill that adds enforcement mechanisms.” A principal failing to provide equal access faces a $1,000 fine. A district or charter school could face fines of $10,000 for the same violation.

Sen. Karen Morgan took issue with the penalties, calling them “excessive” for principals, charters, and districts. Sen. Ross Romero agreed, saying he hadn’t heard a single complaint about “access.” “It’s beyond doubt this is happening,” Madsen said. He said he couldn’t tell the teachers who testified [in Senate Education Committee] that they “are liars. The bill passed 19-9 on second reading. It is now on the third reading calendar.

Following a press conference, in which everyone from the governor’s office to the UEA spoke in favor of his SB64 (1st sub.): Public Education Employment Reform, sponsor Sen. Osmond spoke on the Senate floor about why he pursued the landmark legislation. “This bill has been in discussion and debate behind the scenes,” Osmond said. He said there are significant differences between his bill and SB67 (Adams) and felt both needed separate and distinct debate. The UEA supports only SB64 as substituted.

Osmond said SB64 represents “a significant amount of collaborative effort with all education stakeholders.” The Senator talked about the hours he spent traveling the state, talking to teachers, administrators, and other education community members. He said SB64 “represents what Aaron Osmond believes should be done with public education employment reform.” He noted, however, that he has the support of the business community, Utah State Board of Education, and many others (including the UEA) in the education community.

He then outlined the key components of the bill, which include:

  • Annual evaluation of administrators.
  • Administrator evaluation criteria (four components, including: leadership skills, student progress indicators, competence and consistency in completing teacher evaluations, and other local district criteria).
  • Conversion to pay for performance for administrators (all future increases are converted to pay for performance until 15 percent of an administrator’s direct compensation is tied to their performance evaluation).
  • New employee evaluation levels (administrators shall evaluate and rank employees within four evaluation levels – one being lowest, four being highest – each year). The evaluation and structure and criteria will be established by the State Board of Education in partnership with local school districts.
  • Public disclosure of employee evaluation ratings (administrators shall report the number of employees who fall within each employee evaluation level each year to the district).
  • Employee remediation or termination timeline (administrators shall be given 120 school days – from notice of poor evaluation result – to remediate or to make decision to terminate a poor performing employee).
  • Termination for repeat poor performance (administration may terminate any employee who repeats the same poor performance issues within a three-year period from their last poor performance evaluation). The bill also restricts teachers with a poor performance rating from moving to new schools or districts.
  • Performance tie to employee salary increases (employees who are ranked in the lowest two employee evaluation rankings on their last evaluation shall not be eligible to receive annual salary increases – including steps and lanes).
  • Improvements to Orderly Termination language (there are multiple wording and process changes to the Orderly Termination statute to make the bill easier to understand).

(See more about SB64 here)

“We need to focus on leadership within our schools,” Osmond said, noting that administrators need to be held accountable for student progress. On the issue of poor performing teachers, Osmond said as he traveled the state, some district administrators said there is no problem getting rid of employees with performance deficiencies. Still others said it is too difficult. “Somewhere in the middle is the truth,” Osmond said. “We are taking a major leap forward with this bill.”

Sen. John Valentine successfully amended the bill to require school districts to choose “valid and reliable” methods for evaluation.

Sen. Stuart Adams – whose SB67 is also up for debate in the Senate – said he, too, was willing to meet with all of the organizations to discuss his bill. He said the AAE would like to meet, and said others felt they “haven’t been invited to the table.” Adams asked if time and degrees for administrators (steps and lanes) would be impacted. Osmond told Adams that as we offer raises or increases, the money is automatically converted to performance pay for administrators under his bill.

Sen. Pat Jones spoke in support of the bill. “This is what happens when you ask the stakeholders for their input,” she said. Jones said the UEA has been “unfairly criticized” in the past for not getting rid of poor performing teachers. But, she said the Association was one of the leaders in this (SB64) effort.

Late in the debate, questions emerged regarding how charter schools will be impacted by SB64. Osmond said he was willing to work with any group on concerns.

The Senate voted 26-3 to place SB64 on the third reading calendar.

The Senate also passed SB81: Paraeducator Funding, which appropriates $500,000 to provide money for eligible schools to hire paraeducators to provide additional instructional aid in the classroom, assist students in achieving academic success, and assist the school in exiting Title 1 school improvement status.


Day Twenty-Six - February 28, 2012

House Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): The House passed HB41 (1st sub.): Property Taxation of Business Personal Property, which adjusts a property tax exemption for business personal property. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Patrick Painter, says the taxable tangible personal property of a taxpayer is exempt from taxation if the property has a total aggregate fair market value of $15,000 or less. (Currently, the aggregate market value ceiling is $3,500 or less.)

Speaking in support of the bill, Rep. Craig Frank said as a former small business owner, he spent six hours filling out information on his tax form to meet the current regulations. ” It was a huge waste of time,” he said. “Small business owners are creating jobs in Utah. We should not restrict their time…when the tax is so minimal.”

Reps. Joel Briscoe and Tim Cosgrove spoke against the bill, noting that the change will result in a tax shift that, in some areas, will negatively impact property owners. Rep. Painter confirmed in his testimony that the tax shift would be $2.9 million.

After concurring with Senate amendments, the House also passed HB256 (3rd sub.) Retirement Modifications sponsored by Rep. Don Ipson. The UEA supports this bill.

Senate Floor (Reported by Jay Blain): SB223: Pledge of Allegiance Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Osmond, has the Pledge of Allegiance recited daily in classrooms, not over a loudspeaker. It was amended to have a statement made once a year that students have the right to opt out and that should be respected. Sen. Osmond also clarified that there is no penalty for not saying the pledge. The bill then passed out of the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House.

SB82: Equal Access for Education Employee Association Amendments was heard in the Senate. Sen. Mark Madsen claimed that it simply places enforcement provisions on policies placed in effect 5 years ago. There was no discussion on the bill. The bill passed 19-9.

House Education Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): HB156: Public Education Program Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Merlynn Newbold, was amended to add a challenge test for the Financial Literacy class and keep it as a graduation requirement. Another amendment restored the line items for mentoring, Social Security and retirement, and the quality teaching block grant. It then passed unanimously with a favorable recommendation.

HB392: Charter School Funding Revisions by Rep. Steven Sandstrom sets the rate for school districts for the local replacement money sent to charter schools at the average rate. There will some winners and some losers among the various districts. It will also require that a line item be added to property tax statements showing how much money is sent to charter schools. The bill is supported by USBA and USSA, because of the transparency provision. Rep. Patrice Arent stated that she is concerned about the rate, but she likes the transparency, so she moved to amend out the rate change so it can be studied further. Her amendment passed and the bill passed Committee with just the transparency requirement.

HB398: Allocation of School Trust Lands Funds by Rep. Chris Herrod treats a group of seven charter school as a district for the purpose of trust land distributions. Kim Frank of the Charter School Network spoke in favor of the bill. The claim was made that the average number of schools in small districts is seven. State Superintendent Larry Shumway said it is important that they receive a fair allocation. He suggested that the mechanism needs some more exploration to examine fairness and equity. Rep. Steve Eliason said he had numbers that show larger districts will lose money under this bill. Rep. Kay McIff suggested the proposal go to interim study. The state PTA spoke in favor of the concept, but said they have an issue with the disparity on the larger districts. They said the bill needs to hold everyone harmless. They prefer interim study of the issue as well. The Utah School Boards Association said they oppose the math of the bill but support the “base-plus” idea. They also supported the idea of interim study of the idea. Rep. Newbold moved to send the bill to interim study. The motion passed and it was moved to interim study.


Day Twenty-Seven - February 29, 2012

Senate Floor (Reported by Sara Jones): SB64 (1st sub.): Public Education Employment Reform was heard on a final vote in the Senate. Sen. Aaron Osmond reviewed the changes that his bill will implement to strengthen education reform and then presented an amendment to make a final change to the bill (UEA supported Osmond’s amendment).

Sen. Stuart Adams then presented a substitute amendment (UEA opposed Adams’ amendment). In response, Sen. Osmond said that he opposed Sen. Adams’ amendment because it “is inconsistent with the spirit and purpose” of the legislation, put at risk the step-and-lane salary model and made such serious changes that he would lose the support of many of the organizations that support his bill. Sen. Lyle Hillyard spoke against Sen. Adams’ amendment and praised Sen. Osmond because he has “reached out in ways that have helped the Legislature and public education.” Sen. Adams’ amendment failed on a 17-11 vote.

The Senate then voted on Sen. Osmond’s amendment which passed on a voice vote. The bill then passed 26-2 on a final vote with only Sens. David Hinkins and Mark Madsen opposing. The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

House Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): HB500: Education Reporting Efficiency Amendments passed the full House unanimously. The 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.

Senate Education Committee (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): In their last meeting of the session, the Senate Education Committee advanced seven bills that impact public and higher education.

Sen. Osmond’s SB226: High Quality Preschool Project creates a pilot program in which grants are given to qualifying education agencies to implement preschool programs. Sen. Osmond said he became interested in preschools for at-risk students after seeing the success of a high quality preschool program in the Granite School District.

The bill establishes a grant program that would be administrated by the Utah State Board of Education. Qualifying local education agencies would have to prove that they have some expertise in implementing a high quality preschool program. They would also have to engage parents and report annually on the progress they are making. Sen. Osmond said if we can address these specific populations, we will significantly reduce the costs related to special education programs.

Janis Dubno, representing Voices for Utah Children, said students from the Granite School District preschool program, who are now in third grade, are doing well in both Language Arts and Math. In fact, the data shows that after following 238 of the students over three years, only seven were referred for special education services.

Sen. Osmond said “we have the scientific evidence” that when at-risk students participate in a high quality preschool, “these are the kinds of results we can expect.” Elizabeth Garbe, representing United Way, said the data proves that a high quality preschool closes the achievement gap, improves academic outcomes, and reduces special education costs. Due to a $5 million fiscal note, Sen. Osmond said he was aware the legislation might not be prioritized. Still, he asked his Senate colleagues to weigh in on the concept.

Speaking in favor of the bill, UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh said during her 33 years in the classroom, she saw children who did not have a good home environment. “We need to look at individual cases and situations. Society can benefit by providing this kind of service,” she said.

Some audience members argued that these children would be better cared for at home. The Committee voted unanimously to send Sen. Osmond’s bill to the floor.

SB287: Core Curriculum Standards Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Margaret Dayton, also passed out of Committee. The bill modifies requirements pertaining to core curriculum standards adopted by the Utah State Board of Education. It 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.”

The Committee debated a similar bill, SCR13 (1st sub.): Concurrent Resolution on Common Core Standards, sponsored by Sen. Osmond. The substitute bill, which was approved by the Committee, is a resolution of the Legislature and Governor which urges the Utah State Board of Education to continually monitor the Board’s implementation of the Common Core. Sen. Osmond said there have been many questions about the Common Core and Utah’s responsibilities. He said each state “has a voice” and should be able to control the curriculum content and testing process. The Committee forwarded the bill to the Senate Floor for a full debate.

There was little debate on SB285: Education Contribution on Tax Returns, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Thatcher. This bill allows a voluntary income tax contribution for education. The legislation passed with a favorable recommendation.

HB149: Online Education Survey provides for the establishment of a pilot online school survey system in which students, parents, and teachers evaluate schools. During Committee testimony, Sponsor Rep. Steve Eliason said his legislation provides for “360 degrees of accountability.” He said the pilot will include a survey at least 5 percent of the state’s schools. Students can evaluate teachers. Teachers can evaluate schools and school administrators.

Sara Jones, UEA director of education excellence, spoke in support of the bill. She thanked the sponsor for ensuring that the measures used will be “valid and reliable.” The bill passed with a unanimous vote.

In addition, the Committee approved SB284: Concurrent Enrollment Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Stephen Urquhart. This bill 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. Sen. Urquhart said without the per credit hour charge, many colleges in the state will be unable to provide the courses.

Christine Kearl, education director for the Governor, spoke against the bill, saying the Governor’s Education Excellence Commission has set a goal to have 66 percent of the population with post-secondary degrees by 2020. She said the Commission sees high school students as a significant population [in accomplishing the goal]. Kearl also said the bill may be discriminatory because a child in poverty may not be able to access the same educational opportunities as another student. She suggested the Committee send the bill to interim study.

Dave Buhler, associate commissioner of higher education, said they are supportive of the bill. While there is a cost, “it is a bargain,” he said. Before voting to send the bill to the Senate floor, Sens. Osmond and Thatcher said they want to see some of the concerns addressed.

SB286: College Readiness Assessment, sponsored by Sen. Urquhart, also passed with a favorable recommendation. The bill directs the State Board of Regents to develop, or contract with an outside provider to develop an assessment tool that will assess a student’s readiness for higher education, and helps students identify weaknesses to remediate. The bill appropriates $500,000 from the Education Fund.

House Revenue and Taxation Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): Rep. John Dougall presented HB507: School Allocations Measured by Property Tax, which would allow charter schools and school districts to file a claim to get a refund for the property taxes paid on any property tax for properties that they lease. This would primarily help charter schools since some of them lease their buildings. Kory Holdaway spoke against the bill, pointing out that this would benefit only about 25 charters at the cost of about 2 million dollars. Rep. Butterfield moved to put the bill to interim study. Rep. Dougall said that the purpose of the bill was to the flag the issue and to bring to the people’s attention, so he was fine with it being sent to interim study. The motion to study the bill passed unanimously.

Sen. Karen Morgan presented SB31: Classroom Size Amendments. She said the with large class sizes, teaching turns too often turns into crowd control. It would phase in over four years and would have the flexibility of using paraeducators instead of using teachers. She pointed out the 36 other states have class size caps. Rep. Wayne Harper said that we need the accountability but questioned this being an unfunded mandate. Sen. Howard Stephenson, who was co-presenting with Sen. Morgan, replied that WPU growth on the class-size reduction line item would cover it. Rep. Francis Gibson commented that he was still really unsure about where the money was going to come from to cover it when districts are facing increases in other areas such as retirement.

Richard Rees, Murray School District business administrator, spoke on behalf of Utah School Boards, Superintendents, and Business Officers Associations. He pointed out that if one teacher were added per school it would cost $30 million. Kory Holdaway spoke in favor of the concept of the bill stating that improving the quality of the environment in the classroom for the teacher and the students is one of the most important things we can do. Holdaway also expressed concern about the ongoing funding for this initiative. Deon Turley, speaking on behalf of the Utah PTA, suggested removing the punitive sections of the bill if growth is not funded in future years. Rep. Harper moved to table the bill and his motion passed. 8-4.

Rep. David Butterfield presented his HB158: Student-based Budgeting, which would push a large chunk of funding down to the school level, about 85 percent. Much discussion ensued about the pros and cons to this bill. Some portrayed it as a backpack funding bill. It was sent to interim study.

House Education Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): HB364: School District Reporting Amendments requires reporting of expenditures and revenues at the school level back to district and then back to the state to post on the transparency website. Rep. Eliason asked about the fiscal note. Rep. Dougall, the bill’s sponsor, responded that it is about the modifications to the state transparency website necessary to report data. Rep. Patrice Arent also pointed out that there is also a cost per entity of $5,500. RIchard Rees, business administrator of the Murray School District, stated that currently this data is not generated and there will be an increased cost to do this and there may be an increased audit cost as well. Rep. Francis Gibson, asked, “is it safe to say that there are schools that do things more efficiently than others?” Mr. Rees responded that some schools have costs that others don’t. He added that Murray has three people in its finance office. Rep. LaVar Christensen asked if they can accomplish this new work with their current people. His response was, “that’s what we do, more work with less.” Matthew Piccolo, representing the Sutherland Institute, spoke in favor citing the transparency benefits of the bill. The bill passed unanimously and went to the House consent calendar.

HB389: Student Education Occupation Plan Amendments codifies current practice of SEOP’s and makes sure the plans begin in seventh grade. PTA spoke in favor of the bill. Utah Eagle Forum spoke against it saying that SEOP pigeonholes the students. The bill passed out unanimously and was put on the consent agenda.

SB175: School Grading Amendments extends the implementation of the school grading program for one year. Sen. Wayne Niederhauser said that we need more time to get it right. The biggest question is still on the growth model, which he said is critical to the school grade. The grade is only as good as the assessment. Rep. Kraig Powell wondered how much this is really going to help; we already know who is going to grade high and who is going to grade low. Sen. Niederhauser’s response was that may be true but maybe that will be a way to rally support to help education and it will also be a baseline from which to grow. The bill passed unanimously and was put on the consent agenda.


Day Twenty-Eight - March 1, 2012

House Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): By a vote of 48-13, the House today passed HB350 (3rd sub.): Payroll Deduction Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Bradley Daw. The bill modifies a statute related to employer deductions from employee wages. Passage of this bill does not prohibit payroll deduction for organizations like the Utah Education Association.

Daw said his bill simply tries to “level the playing field” and allows members of a professional or trade association to have dues or fees deducted from their paychecks – a benefit currently available only to unions. The bill now goes to the Senate.


Day Twenty-Nine - March 2, 2012

Educator Day on the Hill (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): On the last Friday of the Session, 35 educators and a number of UniServ directors from Jordon, Granite, Davis, Alpine, Nebo, Weber and Salt Lake participated in Educator Day on the Hill. We also had a representative from the Utah School Employees Association and a couple of retired UEA members. Because committee meetings are over, teachers spent time in talking to their representatives and senators in the hall or watching the sessions from the gallery.

Some of the teachers helped with the Cat in the Hat celebrations or with the refreshments provided by the UEA to the legislators in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday. The refreshments were served in the House and Senate break rooms at breaks sponsored by the UEA. The Cat in the Hat along with UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh were presented on the House and Senate where a proclamation was read celebrating NEA’s Read Across America and Dr. Seuss (see below).

Teachers were also interviewed by KSL-TV for an upcoming news segment. The reporter asked teachers about the legislative session, the implications of Senate Bill 64 and the pressing needs of education in Utah. At lunch, the teachers shared with Kory Holdaway their conversations with legislators and gave him insight into the general feeling among legislators about various bills. Educators were also visited by Sens. Bramble, Osmond, and Romero, and Reps. Brisco, Watkins, and Moss. Educators then watched afternoon sessions of the House and Senate.

Special Presentations (Reported by Mike Kelley): Sen. Karen Morgan was joined by UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh and the Cat in the Hat when she announced that March 2 is not only the birthday of beloved children’s book author Dr. Seuss, but also the 15th anniversary of the National Education Association’s “Read Across America” celebration. Morgan thanked the UEA and its 18,000 members for educating students throughout the state. “I’ll bet there is not a soul on this floor who has not read your book,” said Senate President Michael Waddoups as the Cat in the Hat left the Senate Chamber. In the House, Rep. Becky Edwards made a similar introduction as Gallagher-Fishbaugh and the Cat in the Hat were welcomed on the floor.

Senate Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): The Senate today passed HB230: Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind Amendments. The bill requires the Utah State Board of Education to make rules regarding the qualifications, terms of employment, and duties for the superintendent of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB); and the operation of the USDB Advisory Council. The USDB Advisory Council shall include at least two members who are blind, two members who are deaf, and two members who are deaf-blind or parents of a deaf-blind child.

By a vote of 25-1, the Senate passed HB213: School Community Council Member Qualifications, sponsored by Rep. Lee Perry. This bill allows a parent who is a teacher in a school district to serve on a school community council (SCC), but not the SCC in the school where they are employed. The bill was amended on the floor to include language by Sen. Mark Madsen, which says: “Of the parent and guardian members on a school community council, no more than one parent and guardian member may be an educator employed by the school district in which the school is located.” (There was a 15-12 vote on the amendment.)

Another bill dealing with school community councils, HB128: School Community Council Revisions, also passed the Senate on a 24-1 vote. The legislation modifies deadlines for providing notice of open school community council (SCC) positions and holding a SCC election; requires a SCC to conduct deliberations and take action openly; establishes requirements for the notice, agenda, and minutes of a SCC meeting; and exempts a SCC from the Open and Public Meetings Act. Sponsor Sen. Margaret Dayton said the bill is a way to make SCC’s “parent friendly.”

The Senate also passed SB178 (1st sub.): Statewide Online Education Program Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson. The bill modifies provisions related to the Statewide Online Education Program.

By a vote of 24-1, the Senate also passed SB213: Charter School Enrollment, which modifies provisions regarding the enrollment capacity of charter schools.

The Senate debated SJR26: Joint Resolution on Engagement in Public Education System, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Osmond. The resolution expresses “a legislative desire to improve collaboration between the Legislature and the State Board of Education; encourages legislators and State Board of Education members to spend time directly in the classroom of the public education system and to report on the visits within seven days.” Legislators and State Board of Education members are encouraged to report on their classroom visits.

Sen. Osmond said he spent 40 hours in direct classroom observation in multiple schools , and observed great teachers and the challenges they face. Osmond said education employees often don’t have an opportunity to interact with the Legislature, and the messages they hear about the work done by the Legislature are sometimes incorrect. He said the Legislature has a responsibility to communicate what is happening in public education.

“We need to get back out into the classrooms and observe what is going on,” Osmond told his colleagues, noting that many school visits “are more of a tour” than a true observation of what is happening. The resolution calls on legislators to spend at least 16 hours during the legislative interim period each year directly observing student and teacher interaction – four hours each in elementary, middle, high schools, and charter schools.

“This is a contract with our public schools and our elected officials,” said Sen. John Valentine, who noted he has visited every one of the schools in his Senate district, “and it has been very worthwhile.” Sen. Pat Jones applauded Osmond’s work. She said teachers are “the first line of defense. We want them to know we support them.”

Sen. Madsen said he has responded to every invitation he has received to visit a classroom. He asked Osmond how classroom observation invitations might occur. “It’s our responsibility to reach out,” Osmond said. “I am happy to take my share of the burden,” Madsen said, “but it takes two to tango.” Sen. Ralph Okerlund said those in rural Utah need the education community to recognize that it is difficult to get to all the schools. Sen. Daniel Thatcher said in every instance when he has visited the schools, the principal has dropped everything, spoken to him, and encouraged him to visit classrooms.

The bill passed on second reading by a vote of 23-6. The legislation will be debated one final time next week. Amendments to the bill are pending, according to Osmond.

House Floor (Reported by Sara Jones): Rep. Steve Sandstrom presented HB336: Electronic High School Amendments. He said that the purpose of the bill is to continue the Electronic High School (EHS) because it is due to expire this year. The bill would limit the classes offered to those required to graduate either for students needing remediation or acceleration.

Rep. Eric Hutchings asked why the bill limits courses only to those offered for graduation since he felt that this change “completely redefines and redesigns what the Electronic High School has been”. Rep. Brad Daw then said that he understood the bill would remove the EHS from the Statewide Online Education Program so that EHS becomes a place for credit recovery or acceleration and “will not compete with” the SOEP which will offer a wide variety of programs. The bill passed 51-18 and moves to the Senate for consideration.

Rep. Stewart Barlow presented HB417 (1st sub.): Education on Process for Electing Public Officials. He said that the purpose of the bill is to require schools to teach about the caucus process so that students can become active participants in elections and that the idea for the bill was brought to him from a 17-year-old constituent. There was quite a bit of discussion about the proposal. Rep. Patrice Arent opposed the bill because “[the legislature is] not the school board, we are not educators….we should not be making decisions about what is taught.”

Rep. Ryan Wilcox said he supported the bill because “the government teachers are completely unaware of how the caucus systems works.” Rep. Joel Briscoe said he had mixed feelings about the bill because it seemed to be “telling history and social studies teachers how to do their job” and as a teacher he had always taught his students about the caucus system. Rep. Jim Bird questioned whether this legislation was necessary because it seemed to mandate “an opportunity that already exists in the core curriculum.” The bill failed on a 28-40 vote.