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UEA Report on the 2013 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK FIVE:

 

2013 LEGISLATURE WEEK FIVE SUMMARY: February 25-March 1

The UEA Legislative Tracking Sheet now includes more than 100 education-related bills, 27 of which were considered during Week Five. The week began with encouraging news that the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee had recommended what amounts to a 2 percent increase on the WPU. It ended with the failure of a bill that would have protected the public reporting of individual teacher test scores in favor of another bill that requires that reporting.

Public Education Budget: Encouraging news from the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee this week! The Committee, which makes recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee for statewide funding, made a major change in direction with a recommendation to restore the Social Security and Retirement line item to the amount of about $25 million. This is approximately the amount of this year’s retirement rate change increase and is equivalent to about a 1 percent increase in the WPU. The UEA strongly advocated for this change (see more on this issue).

The Committee also voted to increase the WPU by 1 percent in addition to funding the retirement line item funding. A motion to increase the WPU by 2 percent passed the with the House members on the Committee but failed with the Senate members. The Committee voted to recommend to the Executive Appropriations Committee that they raise the WPU as much as possible. The UEA continues to advocate for a 2-percent increase in the WPU along with restoring and fully funding the Social Security and Retirement line item.

(See more about the FY2014 public education budget)

Educator Day on the Hill: More than 50 educators from St. George to Logan and all points between converged on Capitol Hill Friday, March 1, to talk to their legislators about current legislation and increasing funding for the WPU. Teachers went to the House and Senate to support ‘The Cat in the Hat,’ on the Hill in recognition of NEA Read Across America Day. Sen. Pat Jones introduced the Cat on the Senate floor and Rep. Carol Moss made the introduction in the House.

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

  • HB44 (1st Sub.): Election Polling passed the Senate by a vote of 19-6 and now goes to the Governor for consideration. Sen. Margaret Dayton said the purpose of the legislation is to allow for transparency in polling. The UEA supports this bill.
  • HB64: Felon’s Right to Hold Office passed the Senate and goes to the Governor. The bill prohibits an individual convicted of certain sexual offenses from holding the office of State Board of Education member or local school board member.
  • HB134 (1st Sub.): Parent Notification Related to Student Safety requires school districts to notify parents of certain safety threats to students. The bill passed out of the House Education Committee favorably.
  • HB139 (1st Sub.): Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Action Center establishes a STEM Action Center to gather best practices and train teachers in the STEM fields. The bill passed the House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee and the full House. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.
  • HB154: Suicide Prevention Programs creates a Utah State Office of Education suicide prevention coordinator to oversee youth suicide prevention programs as well as a Department of Health Services suicide prevention coordinator to coordinate suicide prevention programs in schools and the community. The bill passed the House Education Committee and the House floor. It will move to the Senate for consideration.
  • HB173: Necessarily Existent Small School Funding Amendments ties part of the NESS funding to local taxing efforts, clarifying current practice. The bill passed out of the House Education Committee favorably.
  • HB246: Expanded Use of School District Property Tax would allow school districts to use revenue collected from capital property tax levies. The bill passed the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee with a favorable recommendation and now goes before the full Senate.
  • HB255: Classified School Employee Amendments passed the Senate and is on its way to the Governor for signature. HB255 will impose the requirement of benefits, requiring that all classified employees must work twenty hours per week and receive benefits in order to qualify for URS benefits. It protects the retirement eligibility of current employees who are presently qualified.
  • HB268 (1st Sub.): Disorderly Conduct Amendments, passed the House floor and will be sent the Senate for consideration. The bill re-confirms that “merely displaying a dangerous weapon in pubic without other behavior is not disorderly conduct.”
  • HB271 (2nd Sub.): Funding for Public Education would transfer 25 percent of new money generated through alcohol sales to public education. It is estimate this would generate about $7 million in the first year and $14 million in the second year. The bill passed the House Business and Labor Committee but failed in the House on a vote of 24-47.
  • HB278 (1st Sub.): Public School Seismic Studies required that a school district issuing a bond for building new schools must also do a seismic safety study on schools built before 1975. It has a $300,000 fiscal note for districts as they conduct seismic studies. The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee unanimously.
  • HB285: Modification of Education-Related Reporting Requirements passed the Senate and now goes to the Governor. This bill eliminates annual reporting requirements to the Education Interim Committee, the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and the governor because the data is redundant or no longer needed, according to the bill sponsor.
  • HB344: Establishment of Charter Schools Amendments requires the State Charter School Board to request applications to establish a military charter school; a charter school whose mission is to enhance learning opportunities for students at risk of academic failure; and charter schools whose focus is career and technical education. The House Education Committee passed the bill.
  • HB345: Expanding Access for Sixth Graders to Secondary Education provides that a secondary school may impose a fee to secondary students, including students in grade six attending a secondary school; and provides that certain remediation programs apply to students in grade six attending a secondary school. The bill passed out of the House Education Committee with a favorable recommendation.
  • SB39: Parental Responsibility for Sex Education Training passed the full Senate and also the House Education Committee. It now moves to the full House. The bill requires the State Board of Education to offer training instruction to parents regarding health education, including human sexuality, for their children.
  • SB51 (1st Sub.): Higher Education Tuition Waivers allows higher education institutions some latitude in “taking the cap off” and issuing additional tuition waivers. The bill passed the House 63-2 and will be sent to the Governor.
  • SB58 (2nd Sub.): Amendments to Sales and Use Tax passed the Senate on a vote of 18-8. This bill addresses the disposition of sales and use tax revenue if Congress or the Supreme Court of the United States take certain actions related to the collection of sales and use taxes by certain sellers that are not currently collecting sales and use taxes. The UEA opposes this bill.
  • SB69: Assessment and Reporting of Student Performance was drafted with the help of educators and school districts concerned with the language of other bills related to reporting requirements. It would protect the privacy of student and teacher test score data. The bill failed to pass the Senate Education Committee on a vote of 2-5. The UEA supported this bill.
  • SB79: Student Centered Learning Pilot Program creates a pilot for schools centered on a competency-based, blended learning model of instruction and based on an extended school year schedule for K-12. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee.
  • SB81: School Property Tax Funding freezes the basic property tax rate and holds it constant, which will result in an increase in WPU revenue as property values increase over time. The net impact will be a tax increase offset by a reduction in the local levy, but districts will be able to restore local levy rates through a truth-in-taxation process. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee on a vote of 5-1.
  • SB100: Higher Education Scholarship Amendments weights International Baccalaureate courses the same as AP and concurrent enrollment classes to qualify for New Century Scholarships. It passed the House Education Committee and the full House. It will be sent to the Governor for signature.
  • SB128: Financial Transparency in Education requires that the data districts currently report to the USBE also be reported publicly. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.
  • SB133: School Performance Report Amendments requires the public reporting of student and teacher data through online access. The publicly accessible reports would include information about academic achievement and demographic characteristics of a school’s students. This bill is opposed by the Utah School Boards Association, the Utah School Superintendents Association, the Utah State Board of Education, the Utah Education Association and the Parent Teacher Association. It passed the Senate Education Committee on a vote of 4-3.
  • SB169: Education Task Force would create a taskforce comprised of elected legislators. It passed the Senate on a vote of 23-2 and will be sent to the House for consideration. The UEA supports the addition of representatives from public and higher education to the taskforce.
  • SB175: Assessment of College Readiness passed the Senate unanimously. The bill modifies provisions regarding the assessment of high school students’ college readiness, providing for every high school student in Utah to take an ACT-type test. The fiscal note is estimated to be $850,000.
  • SB209: Grants for Personal Mobile Learning Devices provides for grants to school districts and charter schools for personal mobile learning devices. The bill was held in the Senate Education Committee.

February 25

 

Senate Education Committee (Reported by Sara Jones): HB278 (1st Sub.): Public School Seismic Studies, sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer, stated that when a district decides to bond, and the public approves a bond for building new schools, the district must also do a seismic safety study on schools built before 1975. The bill also requires that the seismic safety evaluation be given to the Utah Seismic Safety Administration. The bill has a $300,000 fiscal note for districts as they conduct seismic studies. There were no public comments and the bill was approved unanimously.

SB209: Grants for Personal Mobile Learning Devices provides for grants to school districts and charter schools for personal mobile learning devices. Sponsor Sen. Aaron Osmond explained that the bill provides a one-time funding request of $3 million for a grant administered by USOE to provide personal mobile learning devices to schools. The USOE will create rules for determining grant criteria and districts receiving grant monies must provide matching dollars. State Supt. Martell Menlove spoke in favor of the bill.

Sen. Howard Stephenson had many questions about the use of digital technology in schools. He asked what standards have been put in place as recommendations or requirements for LEAs in deploying digital learning tools. Supt. Menlove stated that standards have been developed and adopted by USBE and have been built around computer adaptive testing and assuring that all digital devices would support computer adaptive tests. Sen. Stephenson also asked the degree to which schools are implementing such standards and stated that his experience was that quality of implementation varies widely and is not always tied to improving instruction in the core curriculum.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson said that he has also been interested in this topic and passed similar legislation last year with the Smart Schools bill funded through GOED. He said that he has a similar bill this year that he believes can be incorporated with this legislation so he moved to hold the bill until the next Committee meeting to allow for discussion between himself and Sen. Osmond. The motion to hold passed unanimously.

House Education Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): Rep. Gage Froerer presented his HB134 (1st Sub.): Parent Notification Related to Student Safety. He addressed many concerns with his original bill by giving districts flexibility on how the verify the parental notification. The bill passed out favorably with one nay vote.

Rep. Becky Edwards presented HB318: Class Size Revisions. She said it is about accountability and equity. She commented that many studies show that class size matters, especially in lower grades. This bill caps class sizes in K-3 in a four-year phase in. Rep. Jim Nielson suggested that class size is a function of how much funding is available, noting that to really reduce class sizes would cost millions every year. He then asked where districts would get the money to comply with the bill. Rep. Edwards explained that districts have tools to comply with the bill including using paraprofessionals, redistributing class sizes in grades 4-12, and adjusting other programs. Supt. Martell Menlove reported that State Board of Education is in favor of lowering class sizes, but without additional funding they would see this bill just causing a shift in existing resources. After considerable discussion, a motion to move to the next agenda item passed on a vote of 7-6.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson presented SB100: Higher Education Scholarship Amendments, which weights International Baccalaureate courses the same as AP and concurrent enrollment classes to qualify for New Century Scholarships. Cherilyn Eager presented against the IB program, claiming that it is directly connected to the United Nations. Providence Hall Charter School, which offers the IB program, spoke in favor of the bill. It passed the Committee favorably.

Rep. Kraig Powell presented HB173: Necessarily Existent Small School Funding Amendments. This bill ties part of the NESS funding to local taxing efforts, clarifying current practice. Bill passed out favorably on a unanimous vote.

House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): Bill sponsor, Rep. Val Peterson, said that HB139 (1st Sub.): Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Action Center will 1) provide skills to our children to make them competitive in a global environment; 2) provide a global quality education for our children; and 3) make sure our economy remains strong. Rep. Jim Bird asked about the constitutionality of the bill. A representative from Legislative Research said the bill does have some constitutional issues.

Representatives from the business community testified in favor of the bill as did the Commissioner of Higher Education. UEA Vice President Tom Nedreberg also spoke in favor, but expressed concern about the bill’s fiscal note and impact it might have on the WPU.

Representatives Merrill Nelson, Lynn Hemingway and Rich Cunningham all spoke in support of a 2 percent increase on the WPU for teachers. Rep. Peterson clarified that the $15 million for this bill comes from General Fund and not the Education Fund. The bill passed the Committee unanimously.

House Business and Labor Committee (Reported by Mike Kelley): HB271 (2nd Sub.): Funding for Public Education, sponsored by Rep. Jim Bird, would transfer 25 percent of new money generated through alcohol sales to public education. It is estimate this would generate about $7 million in the first year and $14 million in the second year. The bill passed the Committee with a favorable recommendation.


February 26

 

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (Reported by Jay Blain and Mike Kelley): Encouraging news from the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee! The Committee, which makes recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee for statewide funding, made a major change in direction with a recommendation to restore the Social Security and Retirement line item to the amount of about $25 million. This is approximately the amount of this year’s retirement rate change increase. The UEA strongly advocated for this change (see more on this issue).

The Committee also voted to increase the WPU by 1 percent in addition to funding the retirement line item funding. Rep. Joel Briscoe moved to increase the WPU by 2 percent. His motion passed the with the House members on the Committee but failed with the Senate members. Sen. Stephen Urquhart then moved to recommend to the Executive Appropriations Committee that they raise the WPU as much as possible. That motion passed. The UEA continues to advocate for a 2-percent increase in the WPU along with restoring and fully funding the Social Security and Retirement line item.

There was much discussion about the prioritizations of the remaining budget items and the committee made some adjustments to the list that they had voted on prior to the meeting and then sent it on to the Executive Appropriations Committee where the final decisions will be made.

UEA’s lobby team will continue to monitor the progress of the funding as it makes it way through the process.

Retirement and Independent Entities Appropriations Subcommittee (Reported by Jay Blain): The State Auditor’s office presented their Performance Audit of URS Assumed Rate of Return. Their two main questions were 1) does the assumed rate of return reasonably predict plan solvency for the noncontributory pension system, and 2) should URS be subject to GRAMA. The two recommendations from the audit were to have URS lower their expected rate of return and to be subject to GRAMA. (See the audit and the response from URS.)

Senate Floor (Reported by Mikkela Blanton): SB169: Education Task Force, sponsored by Senator Stuart Reid, would create an Education Task Force comprised of elected legislators. It passed the Senate on a vote of 23-2 and will be sent to the House for consideration. The UEA supports the addition of representatives from public and higher education to the task force.


February 27

 

Senate Education Committee (Reported by Sara Jones): Currently, the basic property tax rate that funds the WPU increases or decreases based on property values to maintain a constant revenue level. SB81: School Property Tax Funding freezes the basic rate and holds it constant, which will result in an increase in WPU revenue as property values increase over time. The net impact will be a tax increase. To offset this increase there will be a reduction in the local levy, but districts will be able to restore local levy rates through a truth in taxation process. The bill passed on a vote of 5-1.

SB79: Student Centered Learning Pilot Program creates a pilot for schools centered on a competency-based, blended learning model of instruction and based on an extended school year schedule for K-12. Sen. Howard Stephenson said that teachers would support this model because it “establishes teaching professionals as true professionals who are compensated at a professional rate” because they will be teaching year-round. The bill doesn’t specifically prescribe what any school model looks like, although it does prescribe certain parameters. Currently, blended learning models exist in Utah but nothing on this scale, he said. Sen. Pat Jones questioned the need for the bill because, with a fiscal note of $275,000, “we are chipping away at the education fund by a lot of the bills we are approving and I am concerned about that.”

Supt. Martell Menlove said the State Board of Education has not taken a position on the bill, but he spoke about the need for changes that would strengthen the bill and increase probability of a successful pilot. First, there is a lack of consideration for the individuals who will participate in planning process. There is a specific fee that must be paid to an outside consultant but a school committee must create a complicated new structure with no compensation. Second, he questioned the short turnaround for identifying a consultant, getting an RFP to districts and awarding grant dollars. Third, he identified that a competency-based model does not address the credit that schools must grant for graduation.

UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh testified against the bill saying that “this is already happening at the high school level” at Innovations High School in Salt Lake and the bill is unnecessary because LEAs and charters already have the ability to make this happen.

Utah School Boards Association Director Patti Harrington said her organization does not support bill but felt that amendments could improve it. She said the program is “very top heavy” by mandating that legislators must serve as an advisory committee. She also noted that evidence of the pilot success is required but no dollars are set aside for third-party evaluation. Finally, she said that this program disadvantages rural schools because they lack density of population to participate in the pilot.

Several senators spoke of the need for Sen. Stephenson to work with different groups to amend the bill and address specific concerns. Sen. Stuart Reid said the role of the legislature should be to establish outcomes and standards and let educators determine the resources needed to achieve the outcomes. The legislature then prioritizes needs. He said he is “becoming less and less interested in trying to micromanage the classroom from the legislature.” The bill passed 4-1.

House Education Committee (Reported by Sara Jones): SB128: Financial Transparency in Education was first heard in the House Education Committee on Feb. 13. At that time the Committee voted to hold the bill. Sen. Dan Thatcher presented the bill again clarifying the intent of the legislation. He stated that the State Board of Education has the authority to set reporting requirements for districts and the bill does not alter that and does not create additional data collection. The bill simply requires that the data districts currently report to the USBE also be reported publicly. The bill passed unanimously and was placed on the consent calendar.

The Committee spent considerable time discussing Rep. Joel Briscoe’s HB151: Chronic Absenteeism Amendments. Currently there is no common statewide definition of a school “absence” although districts are required to report the number and percent of students that are absent for 10 or more days per year. This bill would create definitions for both “absent” and “chronically absent” for the school performance report already in place. Rep. Briscoe cited research linking chronic absenteeism to lower achievement and increased drop outs. He noted that the bill does not create penalties for chronic absenteeism but collects data so that districts can respond with the appropriate supports. There was a lengthy discussion among the Committee and extensive public comment. The Committee took no action on the bill.

The final bill on the agenda was HB154: Suicide Prevention Programs, presented by Rep. Steve Eliason. The bill creates a Utah State Office of Education suicide prevention coordinator to oversee youth suicide prevention programs as well as a Department of Health Services suicide prevention coordinator to coordinate suicide prevention programs in schools and the community. The bill passed with two dissenting votes.

Senate Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): By a unanimous vote, the full Senate passed SB39: Parental Responsibility for Sex Education Training, which requires the State Board of Education to offer training instruction to parents regarding health education, including human sexuality, for their children.

SB175: Assessment of College Readiness also passed the Senate unanimously. The bill modifies provisions regarding the assessment of high school students’ college readiness. The UEA supports this bill.

SB58 (2nd Sub.): Amendments to Sales and Use Tax passed the Senate on a vote of 18-8. This bill addresses the disposition of sales and use tax revenue if Congress or the Supreme Court of the United States take certain actions related to the collection of sales and use taxes by certain sellers that are not currently collecting sales and use taxes. The UEA opposes this bill.

SB110: School-based Budgeting Amendments, Sen. Stephenson’s “backpack funding” bill, remains circled on the Senate calendar, meaning it could be discussed at any time. See more about this bill.


February 28

 

 

Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee (Reported by Mikkela Blanton): The Committee began with the introduction of Rep. Kay McIff’s HB246: Expanded Use of School District Property Tax. The bill would allow school districts to use revenue collected from capital property tax levies. “We’re in the mode of the school district providing jobs in the community instead of providing the best educational opportunities…I don’t have a lot of sympathy,” Sen. Howard Stephenson said about school districts, voicing his opposition to the bill.

Sen. Jim Dabakis asked the sponsor if there were special circumstances that explained Piute’s higher spending per student in comparison to the rest of the state. Rep. McIff offered an explanation that included an analogy: “Now I have five horses. If I only had one, I’d still have to do the same amount of work,” explaining that districts must do what makes them the most efficient given the resources they have.

UEA Government Relations Director Kory Holdaway, speaking on behalf of classroom teachers, urged the Senators to vote in favor of the bill for a number of reasons. He said the challenges the state has had with the recession have not yet allowed school districts to return to the previous funding state. “Because this does grant a short-term opportunity, not necessarily that all districts will take, but only that those districts have need, and because of the fact that it is also letting the constituents in those areas know what is happening with their tax dollars, I think that this is a bill that helps districts going forward,” said Holdaway.

The Utah Taxpayers Association and Davis School Board member Peter Canon testified in opposition to the bill. The bill passed the Committee with a favorable recommendation, with Sen. Stephenson offering the only opposing vote.

Senate Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): HB285: Modification of Education-Related Reporting Requirements passed the Senate today by a vote of 25-0. This bill eliminates annual reporting requirements to the Education Interim Committee, the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and the governor. Eliminated are reports to the Interim Committee on teacher quality and transfers of information technology equipment by state agencies to public schools. Also eliminated is the annual report to the Interim Committee, Higher Education Appropriations, and the governor regarding the Engineering and Computer Science Initiative. The bill is being presented because the data is redundant or no longer needed, said Sen. Aaron Osmond. The bill now goes to the Governor for approval.

The Senate also sent HB64: Felon’s Right to Hold Office to the Governor. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, prohibits an individual convicted of certain sexual offenses from holding the office of State Board of Education member or local school board member. In earlier testimony, Sen. Pat Jones said the bill came about because a convicted felon ran for the school board in her area.

House Floor (Reported by Jay Blain and Mikkela Blanton): SB100: Higher Education Scholarship Amendments, which deals with higher education scholarships such as the New Century Scholarship and the Regents Scholarship, was discussed in the House. This bill would change some of the standards, “essentially raising the bar,” said the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Derek Brown. When asked about opposition to the bill from the House Education Committee, it was explained that the opposition focused on the bill’s requirement that recipients of the Scholarships now take 15 credit hours rather than 12. The bill would also exempt undocumented students. The bill passed the House with a vote of 65-7, and will be sent to the Governor for the signature.

SB51 (1st Sub.): Higher Education Tuition Waivers allows higher education institutions some latitude in “taking the cap off” and issuing additional tuition waivers. “This bill in no way inhibits Utah residents from coming back and filling these slots that are being taken by non-residents,” said Rep. Francis Gibson. The bill passed the House 63-2 and will be sent to the Governor.

HB268 (1st Sub.): Disorderly Conduct Amendments, passed the House floor and will be sent the Senate for consideration. The bill re-confirms that “merely displaying an dangerous weapon in pubic without other behavior is not disorderly conduct.”

HB139 (1st Sub.): Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Action Center passed by the House. This bill establishes a STEM Action Center to gather best practices and train teachers in the STEM fields. Rep. Val Peterson, the bill’s sponsor, said if we can’t fill the technology jobs in Utah they will go out of state. Rep. Jim Bird raised the constitutional question about the Center being housed in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development instead of under the State Board of Education. Rep. Joel Briscoe clarified that the funding for the Center is coming out of the General Fund, not the Education Fund.

Rep. Bird moved HB271 (2nd Sub.): Funding for Public Education. This bill would take 25 percent of the new profit of the Division of Alcohol Beverage Control and send it to the WPU. It would increase education funding by about $7 million the first year and $14 million the second. Rep. Dan McCay suggested that the state would be put in a position of fostering drinking. Rep. Jacob Anderegg opposed the bill because it would be a conflict of interest to continue to keep encouraging drinking to fund education and that was a link he didn’t want to make. Rep. Stephen Handy said he didn’t like the earmarking of funds. Rep. Bird summarized by saying that this was a way to increase education funding without raising taxes and people choose to drink, nobody is forcing them to do it. The bill failed 24-47.


March 1

 

 

Educator Day on the Hill (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): More than 50 educators from St. George to Logan and all points between converged on Capitol Hill to talk to their legislators about current legislation and increasing funding for the WPU. They listened to the UEA Legislative Team talk about legislation that the UEA supports or opposes and why. Teachers were assigned to talk to their own legislators and others as well about increasing funding for public education. Teachers were also told about the debate that was going to happen in the Senate Education Committee (see below) concerning reporting of classroom testing data.

After the initial session, teachers divided into two groups. Most went to the Senate Education Committee, others went to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee to hear a few bills that concerned education funding.

Teachers then went to the House and Senate to support ‘The Cat in the Hat.’ The Cat was there in recognition of NEA Read Across America Day. Sen. Pat Jones introduced the Cat on the Senate floor and Rep. Carol Moss made the introduction in the House. Some stayed and watched floor debate while others went out in front of the chambers to talk to legislators. At lunch, teachers reported the things they heard from their Legislators and how they would vote on HB271 (2nd Sub.): Public Education Funding, which would increase funding for schools by marking 25 percent of new revenue from alcohol sales for schools. Rep. Jim Bird came in and thanked teachers for their work on his bill. Sen. Jim Dabakis also stopped by as did Sen. Aaron Osmond. Sen. Osmond asked teachers to support his SB71 (1st Sub.): Results-based Financing for Early Childhood Education, which would raise funding for preschool programs.

In the afternoon teachers went back to the House and Senate to watch the debate on the floor but they were energized by the discussion that happened in the previous meetings.

Senate Education Committee (Reported by Mikkela Blanton): The Committee began with Sen. Ralph Okerlund introducing his bill, SB69: Assessment and Reporting of Student Performance. Educators and school districts concerned with the language of other bills related to reporting requirements presented the language of this bill to Sen. Okerlund. “The intent was to make sure that anything that we can to do to protect individuals, both teachers and students, regarding reporting that may not be indicative of their talents,” he said.

“As I understand it, your bill does not allow the public to see the classroom data at all,” said Sen. Howard Stephenson. Sen. Okerlund explained that the public wouldn’t have full access, but parents would have total access to student data.

Sen. Osmond expressed his view that it’s critical for a parent to be able to access their child’s individual test scores, as well as the classroom test scores. “I believe that there’s context,” he said. “What I don’t support is access to classroom-level data on the school performance report. That creates an enormous opportunity for misinformation and misunderstanding. There’s not context behind that report,” Sen. Osmond elaborated. “We want to preserve the confidentiality and integrity of a teacher’s evaluation.”

The bill was amended to prohibit the reporting of data by class and to expand the right of a parent to have access to that test-level data at a class level.

Sen. Stephensen then introduced his bill, SB133: School Performance Report Amendments, which differs from Sen. Okerlund’s bill in its reporting of student and teacher data on a public level through online access. The publicly accessible reports would include information about academic achievement and demographic characteristics of a school’s students.

Sen. Osmond proposed an amendment to this bill that would restrict the classroom-level data (but allows the grade-level data) from being accessible on a public level—only parents could access it upon request from the administration. Sen. Stephenson voiced his resistance to the amendment, saying that he believes “it is important for a parent to see the data in the classroom where their child may be assigned.” With Sen. Stephenson opposed, the motion for the amendment was withdrawn.

Representatives from the Utah School Boards Association, the Utah School Superintendents Association, the Utah State Board of Education, the Utah Education Association and the Parent Teacher Association testified in favor of SB69 and in opposition to SB133. “Utah teachers do more for less than any other state in the country…Utah teachers deserve our respect and praise for the work that they do….many refer to SB133 as ‘public shaming’ of teachers,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh, citing data from the negative effects of similar legislation in other states. UEA Director of Education Excellence Sara Jones shared some technical concerns with the bill. The 2012 passing of SB64 created conflicts in the code that SB69 is trying to clarify. SB133 is in direct opposition with SB64 of last year. SB133 would violate the protections for teachers assured in SB64. Standardized tests “do not alone define a teacher’s effectiveness, and may actually misrepresent it,” said Jones.

Judy Clark, representing Parents for Choice in Education, testified in favor of SB133 because “classroom data is given in perfect context” in this bill.

SB133 passed the Committee on a vote of 4-3 and SB69 failed with a vote of 2-5.

House Education Committee (reported by Mark Mickelsen): HB344: Establishment of Charter Schools Amendments, sponsored by Rep. David Lifferth, was heard in the House Education Committee. This bill requires the State Charter School Board to request applications to establish a military charter school; a charter school whose mission is to enhance learning opportunities for students at risk of academic failure; and charter schools whose focus is career and technical education.

Rep. Jim Nielson said the list appears too prescriptive. Sara Jones, UEA Legislative Team member, said the bill is unnecessary. There is a well-established process for approving charter schools, she told Committee members. To address Nielson’s concern, Rep. Patrice Arent suggested an amendment to change “shall” to “may” in terms of the requirement for certain types of charter schools. The amendment failed on a 5-4 vote. Rep. Nielsen made a motion to send it out with a favorable recommendation. The vote was unanimous in favor.

The committee heard HB345: Expanding Access for Sixth Graders to Secondary Education, which provides that a secondary school may impose a fee to secondary students, including students in grade six attending a secondary school; and provides that certain remediation programs apply to students in grade six attending a secondary school. The bill passed out of Committee with a favorable recommendation.

SB175: Assessment of College Readiness, which provides for every high school student in Utah to take an ACT-type test, also passed out of Committee. The fiscal note is estimated to be $850,000. Rep. Carol Spackman Moss said “this is the right thing to do for kids and will make a huge difference.” Rep. Marie Poulson said this will encourage more students to attend college. Supt. Menlove said it is a high priority for the Utah State Board of Education.

SB39: Parental Responsibility for Sex Education Training provides for an online curriculum and instructional material for parents to teach their children sex education. This bill also passed out of Committee with a favorable recommendation. Supt. Menlove said the Utah State Board of Education is opposed to the bill. If this bill passes, he said the Utah State Office of Education will make information on the website easily accessible. Supt. Menlove said he is concerned about how to make information available given the sensitivity of data. Liz Zentner, Utah PTA president-elect, said PTA supports the bill. Parents are the primary educators of children and “we want them to have this information,” she said.

Senate Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): Sen. Pat Jones introduced the Cat in the Hat, who made a morning appearance on the Senate Floor. Sens. Gene Davis and Ralph Okerlund shared the spotlight in reading Dr. Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat” story. The Cat was in the chamber in celebration of the National Education Association’s 16th annual “Read Across America” event.

HB44 (1st Sub.): Election Polling passed by a vote of 19-6. During floor debate, Sen. Margaret Dayton said the purpose of the legislation is to allow for transparency in polling. She said the bill would require those doing polling to identify themselves, and they must be a “legal entity.” The bill also imposes a fine for failure to make the disclosure. Sen. Jones offered an amendment, which says “poll” means the survey of a person regarding the person’s opinion or knowledge of “an individual who has filed a declaration of candidacy for public office or of a ballot proposition that has legally qualified for placement on the ballot,” which is conducted in person or by telephone, facsimile, Internet, postal mail, or email. The amendment passed. “Push polling is very deceptive,” Sen. Jones said. “It’s harming our government and political environment.”

HB255: Classified School Employee Amendments passed the Senate and is on its way to the Governor for his signature. About this bill, the Utah School Employees Association wrote “State law defines as aregular full-time employee’ eligible for state retirement benefits through the Utah Retirement Systems (URS) any classified school employee who normally works at least 20 hours per week,regardless of benefits provided…’ This is an exception to the general provision that applies to other public employees defining a regular full-time employee as any employee who works at least twenty hours a week and who receives benefits normally provided by the participating employer.’

HB255 will impose the requirement of benefits, requiring that all classified employees must work twenty hours per week and receive benefits in order to qualify for URS benefits. The bill protects the retirement eligibility of current employees who are presently qualified.

House Floor (Reported by Mikkela Blanton): HB154: Suicide Prevention Programs, presented by Rep. Steve Eliason, passed from the House floor and will move to the Senate for consideration. This bill creates a Utah State Office of Education suicide prevention coordinator to oversee youth suicide prevention programs as well as a Department of Health Services suicide prevention coordinator to organize suicide prevention programs in schools and the community.