Page Title

UEA Report on the 2012 Utah Legislature General Session

Page Content


WEEK TWO:

2012 LEGISLATURE WEEK TWO SUMMARY: January 30-February 3

Public Education Budget: The Legislature passed the 2012-13 “base” budget. For public education, this essentially means a baseline in the same dollar amounts as the current year. Any new money available in the budget will be added to the “base” in coming weeks.

Legislators are discussing several ways to spend any additional dollars, with many indicating a desire to fund the State Board of Education priorities of computer adaptive testing and new student growth, as proposed in the Governor’s budget.

The Public Education Appropriations Committee discussed the Professional Outreach Programs in Schools (POPS), which takes arts into the schools, funding start-up grants for charter schools to replace federal start-up money that has been discontinued, computer adaptive testing and Sen. Karen Morgan’s class size bill. They also discussed the “Professional Staff Cost Factor,” which helps districts fund steps and lanes, but doesn’t completely fund them. Some legislators suggested that maybe money from this line item should be directed toward performance pay.

Educator Day on the Hill (Reported by Mike Kelley): More than 20 educators representing schools from Smithfield to St. George participated in Educator Day on the Hill. In addition to having the opportunity to visit with their own representatives, the UEA sponsored breaks in both the Senate and House. This meant participating teachers could mingle with all the legislators in the kitchen areas where rules prohibit registered lobbyists. “(Sponsoring the breaks) was definitely worthwhile,” said one teacher. “We were able to meet with dozens of representatives in a relaxed, casual setting. Many wanted to discuss education with us, so we were able to share our opinions.” See the Educator Day on the Hill page for a schedule of future times and meeting locations.

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

 

Day Six - January 30, 2012

Public Education Appropriations Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): Budget discussions continued in today’s Public Education Appropriations Committee. Sen. Lyle Hillyard pointed out that fully fund growth in education is something different than just funding the WPU growth.

The Committee’s fiscal analyst, Ben Leishman,reviewed the Professional Staff Cost Factor with the Committee. This is the money that helps districts fund steps and lanes, but doesn’t completely fund it. Rep. Merlynn Newbold stated that maybe money from this line item should be directed toward performance pay. Sen. Howard Stephenson reiterated his argument that there is no accountability for the money allocates for class-size reduction. He said the Professional Staff Cost Factor money could fund pay for performance, but “there might be some objection to this from districts,” he said. He added that teachers are treated like second-class citizens in at least two ways…by being laid off for part of the year and not being able to transfer from one district to another without losing years of experience. “We are not treating them as true professionals,” said Stephenson. He suggested the legislature should direct districts to give year-for-year credit when teachers transfer if the Cost Factor money is continued.

There was much discussion about Sen. Karen Morgan’s class size bill and USOE class size data. Some questioned the appropriateness of mandating from the state what local school districts should do regarding class size. It was pointed out that 36 other states mandate class sizes statewide. Sen. Stuart Adams said he would like to look at a performance-based pay and suggested larger class sizes with technology to help out.

Data was presented on the funding levels of post-retirement benefits for employees of the state’s school districts. Many have closed their programs because of the rules imposed by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board that were put into place in the early 2000’s. Some districts fund post-retirement benefits on a pay-as-you-go basis, some have fully funded programs, and some have closed programs with unfunded liabilities. Twenty–two districts still have open programs. At this point in time, it appears the legislature will take no action on this item.


Day Seven - January 31, 2012

House Education Committee (Reported by Sara Jones): Rep. John Dougallpresented HB206: Curriculum Options for Secondary Students. This bill allows a secondary student or parent to determine whether a student’s education goals would be better served at an Applied Technology Center (ATC). When asked how this bill would potentially affect funding, Rep Dougall said he viewed this bill as a “policy statement,” clarifying that parents and students, not districts, should be making decisions about school choice and that funding was not the issue being addressed. Rep. Mathis amended to bill to require that students and parents (not students or parents) make the decision about a student attending a technical program. The bill passed unanimously.

Rep. Kraig Powell presented HB258: Education Funding Amendments. He said that legislation in 2011 reversed a long-standing practice that allowed a high school student attending an ATC to be counted in the average daily membership at their home school. By changing that practice, the estimated impact of last year’s legislation was a loss of $5.3 million to high schools around the state. Rep. Powell argued that the dollars spent in fostering partnerships between regional ATCs and high schools, especially in rural areas, is far more valuable than the cost savings of $5 million from last year’s legislation. This bill would restore the funding lost last year by allowing high school students attending an ATC to be counted in the average daily membership of their home school. The bill passed 9-4.


Day Eight - February 1

Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee(Reported by Jay Blain): The Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee heard HB250: Tax Credit for Dependent with a Disabilitythat gives a tax break for disabled adult dependents. There was a lot of debate about the need for this credit and whether it would be an appropriate credit to reinstate. It was lost with the flat tax reform. Sen. Ben McAdams expressed reservations about the growing number of bills that are taking money from the Education Fund. Those reservations were echoed by Royce Van Tassel of the Utah Taxpayers Association. Initially the bill was voted down. At the end of the meeting, the bill was reconsidered with the idea that they will look at moving money from the General Fund (sales tax) to the Education Fund (income tax) that this bill would take away. The bill then passed favorably out of the Committee. The bill passed the House on Jan. 27.

House Floor: (Reported by Jay Blain): Rep. Jim Bird's HB24 (2nd Sub.): Health Insurance for Schools was defeated on the house floor, even after a second substitute. The bill requires public and higher education to re-bid employee health insurance at a minimum of five years. There is talk about tweaking it and bringing it back.

House and Senate Education Committee meetings originally scheduled for today were cancelled.


Day Nine - February 2, 2012

Public Education Appropriations Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): In the Public Education Appropriations Committee there was a lot of discussion on the Professional Outreach Programs in Schools (POPS). This program takes arts into the schools. Sen. Lyle Hillyard asked a question about how new groups might get into the program. There used to be an RFP process but it was discontinued three years ago. Representatives from POPS would like to see it reinstated. Sen. Karen Morgan expressed appreciation for the program and said that it is some of the best money spent in the education budget. It helps educate the entire child, she said.

Rep. Greg Hughes described the benefits of the computer adaptive testing that is being supported in his bill. The main benefit is the immediate feedback nature of the tests. It is not a matter if this is going to happen but when, he said.

Rep. Brad Dee spoke regarding his bill about start-up grants for charter schools. This is to replace the federal start-up money that has been discontinued. The amount is about $2.5 million. The Governor included about $2 million in his budget for this.

Sen. Aaron Osmond then explained his bill to provide grants for matching funds for hardware for computer adaptive testing. The bill provides for $15 million in one-time funding and $5 million in on-going funding. The money can be used for training and IT support as well. Sen. Osmond requested that the Committee look at the funding strategy of the Electronic High School in a future meeting.


Day Ten - February 3, 2012

Educator Day on the Hill (Reported by Mike Kelley): More than 20 educators representing schools from Smithfield to St. George participated in Educator Day on the Hill. In addition to having the opportunity to visit with their own representatives, the UEA sponsored breaks in both the Senate and House. This meant participating teachers could mingle with all the legislators in the kitchen areas where rules prohibit registered lobbyists. “(Sponsoring the breaks) was definitely worthwhile,” said one teacher. “We were able to meet with dozens of representatives in a relaxed, casual setting. Many wanted to discuss education with us, so we were able to share our opinions.” See the Educator Day on the Hill page for a schedule of future times and meeting locations.

Senate Floor (Reported by Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh): Sen. Lyle Hillyard suggested recalling HB35: Extension of Recycling Market Development Zone Tax Credits, which had previously passed the Senate, as it would take money away from the Education Fund. Sen. Hillyard stated that this was brought to his attention by Sen. Ben McAdams and that if indeed that is the case, the Senate should revisit the bill. The vote to suspend the rules and recall HB35 passed unanimously. The bill will be placed on the Senate’s third reading calendar.

Sen. Todd Weiler requested the opportunity to open a bill file for the purpose of dealing with the Electronic High School. The request passed unanimously.