Page Title

2012 Week Three: February 6-10

Page Content

UEA Report on the 2012 Utah Legislature General Session


WEEK THREE:

2012 LEGISLATURE WEEK THREE SUMMARY: February 6-10


Public Education Budget: The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee held discussions on the Utah State Office of Education budget. Supt. Larry Shumway made an important point that all of the data and accountability that has been required is not free. There was a presentation on computer adaptive testing and discussion about how a 1 percent increase in the WPU does not equate to a 1 percent salary increase because of increases in health insurance costs and retirement contribution costs. Also how funding just new student WPU’s does not fund all of the growth costs as well. Several bills with fiscal notes were presented by their respective sponsors. Subcommittee members will be finalizing their recommendations over the next two weeks.

Honors: Utah’s Teacher of the Year, Lee Vandenakker – an educator at East High School – was recognized in both the House and the Senate. The House and Senate also recognized 14 Utah public school educators who achieved National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) status.

Educator Day on the Hill: More than 20 educators from eight school districts gathered on Capitol Hill to meet with legislators to discuss issues and tell them about what is happening in their classrooms. At a debrief, participants shared experiences that demonstrated the importance of relationships in working with our elected officials. Everyone is encouraged to attend one of the remaining Educator Day on the Hill activities.

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

  • HB12: Corrections Education Amendments passed the Senate by a vote of 29-0. The bill removes the State Board of Regents’ responsibility for the education of those in the custody of the Utah Department of Corrections.
  • HB15: Statewide Adaptive Testing, a bill that had previously passed the House Education Committee, passed the Senate Education Committee. UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh testified in support of the bill saying that while funding growth is the top priority “adaptive testing informs instruction….[and is] absolutely critical to student learning and a teacher’s instruction.”
  • HB62: Provisions Regarding School Supplies allows an elementary school or teacher to provide a student’s parents or guardian a suggested list of supplies for use during the regular school day for informational purposes and voluntary contributions. The bill passed the House unanimously.
  • HB62: Provisions Regarding School Supplies would allow K-8 teachers to request, but not require, that parents who are able to provide school supplies be allowed to do so. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.
  • HB65: College and Career Counseling for High School Students failed on the House floor 31-42. The bill would have created the College and Career Counseling Pilot Program to increase the number of and better prepare students pursuing post-secondary education. The bill called for $800,000 to be provided to the Utah State Board of Education for a pilot program to award grants to local education or consortiums of LEAs to employ interns to provide college and career counseling.
  • HB115: Peer Assistance and Review Pilot Program would provide $300,000 for competitive grants for school districts to create creates a pilot program for peer assistance, where educators assist other educators in improving teaching practice. The bill passed out of the House Education Committee with a favorable recommendation on an 11-3 vote.
  • HB210 (1st sub.): Severance Tax Amendments was debated on the House floor. This bill would remove just over $19 million from the State’s General Budget and place it in the State’s Severance Trust Fund. Several legislators argued that we needed to set aside money for the future. The bill was defeated 36-39. This issue will still be brought up via a joint resolution (HJR6: Joint Resolution on Severance Tax) that would propose a constitutional amendment to do the same thing but would have to go to a vote of the general population.
  • HB218: Local School Board Business Administrator prohibits a local school board from appointing a business administrator during an interim vacancy period and from entering into a contract that contains an automatic renewal provision. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.
  • HB230: Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind Amendments was amended to ensure that the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind Advisory Council includes two members who are blind, two members who are deaf and two members who are deaf blind or parents of a deaf blind child. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.
  • HB261: Dividing of School District Amendments, which previously passed the House Education Committee, revises legislation from last year by removing a “means test” for school districts that split. This change will remove the provision that requires property tax levies to be shared for five years only if the higher value side of the district votes to split. The bill passed both the full House and the Senate Education Committee unanimously.
  • HB285: Repeal of Higher Education Tuition Assistance Program passed the House Education Committee unanimously.
  • HB363: Health Education Amendments restricts school sexuality instruction programs to “abstinence only” and would forbid the discussion of certain activities. The bill passed the House Education Committee on a close 8-7 vote, but only after being amended by Rep. Kraig Powell to forbid only the “advocacy of” those activities.
  • SB31: Classroom Size Amendments focuses on grades Kindergarten through third, phasing class-size requirements in year by year with a cap of 20 students in the first year on Kindergarten classes, 22 students in the first grade the second year, 22 students in the second grade the third year and 24 students in the third grade the fourth year. It allows for flexibility in that an LEA may hire paraprofessionals in lieu of licensed educators. The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 19-9.
  • SB44 (1st sub.): GI Bill Tuition Gap Coverage would allocate $250,000 from the general fund in the form of grants to higher education institutions to continue helping veterans to pay for post-secondary education once federal benefits have expired. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.
  • SB48: Mission of Public Education updates the current Mission of Public Education. These changes include a vision for public education among other additions. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.
  • SCR5: Concurrent Resolution Encouraging Parental Engagement in the Education of Children encourages greater parental involvement in their child’s education. The bill passed the Senate Education unanimously.

Day Eleven - February 6, 2012

House Floor (Reported by Jay Blain): HB210 (1st sub.): Severance Tax Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Jim Nielson, was debated on the House floor. This bill would remove just over $19 million from the State’s General Budget and place it in the State’s Severance Trust Fund. Several legislators argued that we needed to set aside money for the future. Others responded that money already goes into this fund and we have needs that have gone unmet for several years during the economic downturn. Rep. Brian King noted that the current General Budget is 22 percent less than it was in 2007. Rep. Roger Barrus, noted for his work in natural resources, said that we have time to phase this in and it is too soon to do it now. Rep. Joel Briscoe suggested circling the bill and waiting for a substitute that was coming from Rep. King. The motion to circle failed. The bill was then brought to a vote and was defeated 36-39. This issue will still be brought up via a joint resolution (HJR6: Joint Resolution on Severance Tax) that would propose a constitutional amendment to do the same thing but would have to go to a vote of the general population.

Senate Floor (Mark Mickelsen): By a vote of 29-0, the Utah State Senate today passed HB12: Corrections Education Amendments which removes the State Board of Regents’ responsibility for the education of those in the custody of the Utah Department of Corrections. The Utah State Board of Education and Corrections are now solely responsible for these education programs. Sen. Howard Stephenson said this bill validates current practice.

House Education Committee (Reported by Sara Jones): In the House Education Committee, Rep. Dan McKay presented HB218: Local School Board Business Administrator. This bill prohibits a local school board from appointing a business administrator during an interim vacancy period and from entering into a contract that contains an automatic renewal provision. There was no discussion from the Committee and no comments from the public. The bill passed unanimously.

Rep. Steve Eliason presented HB285: Repeal of Higher Education Tuition Assistance Program. He stated that this scholarship program has never been adequately funded and the recommendation is to consolidate the current funding (about $36,000) with another larger scholarship program to more efficiently administer a single program. There were no questions from the Committee and no comments from the public. The bill passed unanimously.

Rep. Jennifer Seelig presented HB230: Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind Amendments. The presentation stated that the USBE has seen a need for more support of and oversight and accountability of USDB and this bill is intended to do that. The bill was amended to ensure that the Advisory Council includes two members who are blind, two members who are deaf and two members who are deaf blind or parents of a deaf blind child. There was significant discussion from the Committee about the USDB program and appropriate oversight. Several members of the deaf community spoke against the bill and asked that there be greater involvement of the deaf community in making appropriate revisions. The bill passed unanimously.

Senate Education Committee (Reported by Sara Jones): In the Senate Education Committee, Rep. Kenneth Sumsion presented HB261: Dividing of School District Amendments, which previously passed the House Education Committee. The bill revises legislation from last year by removing a “means test” for school districts that split. This change will remove the provision that requires property tax levies to be shared for five years only if the higher value side of the district votes to split. The bill passed unanimously.

Sen. Howard Stephenson presented HB15: Statewide Adaptive Testing, a bill that had previously passed the House Education Committee. UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh testified in support of the bill saying that while funding growth is the top priority “adaptive testing informs instruction….[and is] absolutely critical to student learning and a teacher’s instruction.” The bill passed unanimously.

Sen. Pat Jones presented SB48: Mission of Public Education, which updates the current Mission of Public Education. These changes include a vision for public education among other additions. The bill passed unanimously.

Sen. Jones also presented SCR5: Concurrent Resolution Encouraging Parental Engagement in the Education of Children to encourage greater parental involvement in their child’s education. The bill passed unanimously.


Day Twelve - February 7, 2012

House Floor (Reported by Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh): HB62: Provisions Regarding School Supplies, sponsored by Rep. Kraig Powell, allows an elementary school or teacher to provide a student’s parents or guardian a suggested list of supplies for use during the regular school day for informational purposes and voluntary contributions. The bill passed the House unanimously.

Public Education Appropriations (Reported by Jay Blain): In the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee there was further discussion on the Utah State Office of Education budget. Supt. Larry Shumway made an important point that all of the data and accountability that has been required is not free.

There was a presentation on computer adaptive testing. It was noted that Rep. Greg Hughes’ bill (HB15: Statewide Adaptive Testing) and Sen. Aaron Osmond’s bill (SB97: Grants for Online Testing) have passed with overwhelming support and the Appropriations Committee was encouraged to support the bills with funding. Rep. Jim Nielson expressed concerns about the questions being asked on the computer adaptive tests in relation to Utah values. Supt. Shumway assured the Committee that the only goal is to assess standards and there is a review process to vet questions for bias and sensitivity.

Rep. LaVar Christensen asked about professional development and specifically the $2 million line item in the budget. Asst. Supt. Brenda Hales described the activities carried out this past summer in regards to the new common core. Rep. Francis Gibson made some very good comments about restoring the cut professional development days. Sen. Howard Stephenson also expressed his opinion that quality professional development like Asst. Supt. Hales described should be counted towards lane changes.

There was also a discussion about the funding for science outreach (iSEE). Committee members were overwhelmingly favorable in their comments towards this program and appear inclined to continue the $2 million line item to fund it. Some even suggested increasing it.


Day Thirteen - February 8, 2012

Senate Floor (Reported by Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh): SB31: Classroom Size Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Karen Morgan, focuses on grades Kindergarten through third, phasing class-size requirements in year by year with a cap of 20 students in the first year on Kindergarten classes, 22 students in the first grade the second year, 22 students in the second grade the third year and 24 students in the third grade the fourth year. It allows for flexibility in that an LEA may hire paraprofessionals in lieu of licensed educators.

Sen. Aaron Osmond asked for confirmation regarding an amendment and accountability requirements for these funds.

Sen. Curt Bramble said that his constituents expressed concerns about this being a line item that is earmarked specifically for class size reductions. He suggested sending this money to LEAs and let them decide how to use this money rather than a mandate. He expressed that this bill would hurt our rural schools and our urban schools because the money is specified for class reduction. He spoke in favor of local control.

Sen. Howard Stephenson asked how the current class-size reduction monies are in compliance with the use of these dollars. He expressed concern about turning this money loose without any parameters for accountability. In its current condition there are thresholds that can’t be exceeded. He asked if USBA, UEA, and Superintendents still supported this with his amendments. Sen. Morgan stated that she has not heard any concerns from these entities in regard to the standards he is suggesting in his amendments.

He continued to say that without standards this money should be taken away from schools. He feels this is a very conservative bill but gives LEAs the flexibility to hire paraprofessionals. He supports the bill.

Senators Robles, Valentine, Okerlund and Jones spoke in favor of the bill.

The bill passed on a vote of 19-9 with the following Senators voting against the bill: Anderson, Christensen, Dayton, Hinkins, Jenkins, Madsen, Thatcher, Urquhart and Bramble.

House Education Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): Speaking about HB115: Peer Assistance and Review Pilot Program, Rep. Carol Moss said low pay and poor working conditions are the main reasons that teachers are leaving the teaching profession. It is easier to remedy the second one, she said. This bill will help. It will also help address the issue of continuing to employ teachers who are underperforming. It will take some of the burden off of administrators and put it on peers.

Veteran, successful teachers will be released from the classroom for 2-3 or 3-5 years to assist novice or underperforming teachers. This has been an example of labor and management collaborating around the country. It will provide $300,000 for competitive grants.

Dr. Sydnee Dickson of the Utah State Office of Education, explained that this aligns with the Utah Educator Effectiveness Project.

Patti Harrington of the Utah State School Boards Association spoke in favor of the bill, as did Elizabeth Weight of AFT.

Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, UEA President, shared that in programs like this around the country, dismissals have actually increased and the responsibility for teacher evaluation has become a shared and collaborative responsibility between districts and associations.

Representatives Poulson, Eliason, and McIff all spoke in favor.

The bill passed out of Committee with a favorable recommendation on an 11-3 vote.


Day Fourteen - February 9, 2012

Public Education Appropriations Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): Today in the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting there was discussion about how a 1 percent increase in the WPU does not equate to a 1 percent salary increase because of increases in health insurance costs and retirement contribution costs. Also how funding just new student WPU’s does not fund all of the growth costs as well.

There also was a discussion about the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind and changes made to ensure that they don’t overspend their budget and reductions made to stay within their current budget.

Christine Kearl, the Governor’s education deputy, presented Governor Herbert’s budget priorities for education. Rep. Steve Eliason asked about unfunded liabilities that districts have in regards to their post-retirement benefits. Kearl responded that those decisions should be made at the local level.

Several bills with fiscal notes were presented by their respective sponsors.

One of particular interest was Rep. Carol Moss presenting on HB115: Peer Assistance and Review. See yesterday’s report from the House Education Committee for more information.

Senate Education Committee (Reported by Sara Jones): Sen. Luz Robles presented SB44 (1st sub.): GI Bill Tuition Gap Coverage. This bill would allocate $250,000 from the general fund in the form of grants to higher education institutions to continue helping veterans to pay for post-secondary education once federal benefits have expired. The bill passed unanimously.

Rep. Kraig Powell presented HB62: Provisions Regarding School Supplies. This bill would allow K-8 teachers to request, but not require, that parents who are able to provide school supplies be allowed to do so. The bill passed unanimously.

The Committee also heard a report on the Electronic High School. Sen. Aaron Osmond, Committee chair, said that the report was at the request of legislators who have received a lot of comments from people concerned about changes to online education and how this has affected EHS. The purpose of the report was to inform and educate the legislature on specifics about EHS. Brenda Hales from the USOE presented data and statistics regarding enrollment, completion rates, course offerings, teacher course load, accreditation, etc. She also clarified how last year’s online education bill, SB65, has impacted the EHS. Sen. Howard Stephenson said that as he brings forward legislation this session to make modifications to SB65 that he is “committed to make sure that EHS thrives under this law.”

House Education Committee (Reported by Kory Holdaway): The House Education Committee addressed HB363: Health Education Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Bill Wright. The bill restricts school sexuality instruction programs to “abstinence only” and would forbid the discussion of certain activities. The bill passed on a close 8-7 vote, but only after being amended by Rep. Kraig Powell to forbid only the “advocacy of” those activities.


Day Fifteen - February 10, 2012

House Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): Utah’s Teacher of the Year, Lee Vandenakker – an educator at East High School – was recognized and given a standing ovation by the House of Representatives. Rep. Carol Spackman Moss said Vandenakker teaches students who have been through difficult times, and who leave her class with a 75+ percent success rate. Rep. Moss also recognized Paul Sagers, Vandenakker’s principal, noting that teachers and administrators at East High School work together as a team. Rep. Moss said Vandenakker exemplifies the 26,000 full-time teachers who serve Utah every day.

The House also recognized 14 Utah public school educators who have achieved National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) status. “These are the master teachers in the State of Utah,” said Rep. Jim Bird. He noted that Utah currently has 223 NBCT educators. Achieving NBCT status normally takes about three years of study.

HB65: College and Career Counseling for High School Students failed 31-42. The bill would have created the College and Career Counseling Pilot Program to increase the number of and better prepare students pursuing post-secondary education. The bill called for $800,000 to be provided to the Utah State Board of Education for a pilot program to award grants to local education or consortiums of LEAs to employ interns – who are candidates for a master's degree in guidance counseling – to provide college and career counseling.

The sponsor, Rep. Patrice Arent, said on average Utah’s high school counselors serve 365 students. In many areas, assistance is needed to help students with college and career counseling, and to provide help locating scholarships. Arent said her pilot program would be especially helpful to rural areas because they often don’t have representatives from outside colleges visit their campuses.

Rep. David Butterfield spoke against the bill, noting that in Logan they can get this expertise at no cost. He said if we have additional money, “I would much rather see us put the money in the WPU” and allow local school districts determine how to spend the money. Rep. Greg Hughes – speaking in support of the bill – said the legislation would expose students in rural areas to opportunities and career paths they may not have considered. Rep. Christine Watkins said students in rural schools often don’t know how to navigate the maze of paperwork and become frustrated. “We have many, many students who need this [bill],” she said.

Senate Floor (Reported by Jay Blain): East High teacher and Salt Lake Teacher’s Association member Leigh VandenAkker was also honored before the Senate as the Utah Teacher of the Year. Sen. Pat Jones presented her and read a resolution honoring her. In her presentation, she mentioned how difficult it must be to choose from all the tremendous teachers in the state.

The most recent National Board Certified Teachers were also honored in the Senate.

HB261: Dividing of School District Amendments bill requires each district in a split to share in property taxes for 5 years after a split. The bill passed the House unanimously.

Educator Day on the Hill (Reported by Jay Blain): Today, more than 20 educators from eight school districts gathered on Capitol Hill to meet with legislators to discuss issues and tell them about what is happening in their classrooms. Today’s visits produced some interesting stories.

Mallory Meyer, a teacher from Sunset Ridge Jr. High in Jordan District, related how Rep. Greg Hughes recognized her from when she recently attended a town hall meeting of his where there were only six people in attendance. Because of her attendance at that meeting, he was very happy to talk to her today and wants to continue to hear from her in the future.

Sen. Pete Knudsen told Bob Gowans from Tooele District that this fall was the first time has ever been invited to visit schools. Due to his visits, he was more receptive to hearing from Bob and Rick Harrison as they visited with him today. This is a reminder to all of us to reach out and invite legislators to visit our classrooms.

Joann Hansen, from Stewart Elementary in Davis District, explained that being a delegate made her Representative and Senator very eager to speak with her about her issues. They readily responded to her notes to them and were quite accommodating. Remember the caucus meetings where you can become a delegate are fast approaching; March 13 for Democrats and March 15 for Republicans, both at 7 p.m.

These anecdotes and others we have heard show the importance of relationships in working with our elected officials. Please join us for one of our remaining Educator Days on the Hill if you possibly can.