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UEA Report on the 2013 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK SIX:

     

    2013 LEGISLATURE WEEK SIX SUMMARY: March 4-8

    It appears as though efforts of the UEA Legislative Team are paying off…the Executive Appropriations Committee recommended a 2 percent WPU increase to legislators. If it happens, it will be because of the many voices our legislators heard in support, including the more than 200 teachers who participated in the six Educator Day on the Hill events this session. The relationships are critical.

    Public Education Budget: A lot of time was spent by legislators considering the budget this week. On Monday, the Executive Appropriations Committee began meeting to compile the final budget bill. On Friday, the Committee came out with a Budget Proposal that recommends a 2 percent increase the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) and $68.5 million for enrollment growth. It also restores the $25 million budget shortfall created by calculation errors at the State Office of Education last year.

    (See more about the FY2014 public education budget)

    Educator Day on the Hill: Thirty educators from Salt Lake, Granite, Jordan, Canyons, Alpine, Nebo and Weber, along with several retired teachers participated in last scheduled Educator Day on the Hill for the 2013 Legislative Session. The teachers heard about bills the UEA is watching then spoke with representatives and senators about those bills. The biggest item of discussion was the push for a 2 percent increase on the WPU. There was also discussion about SB110, which would change funding for schools to have money follow students thus increasing workload for principals while decreasing funding equity, and SB133, which would make classroom test scores public information.

    More than 200 educators attended the six Educator Day on the Hill events held in 2013, many for the first time. As teachers see what goes on in the legislature, they gain greater understanding about the importance of being politically involved in order to protect public education and to advocate for our students.

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

    • HB55: Amendments Related to Education Funding would freeze the basic property tax rate and the state personal income deduction, having the effect of increasing education revenue over time. It failed to pass the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on a vote of 4-8.
    • HB98: Severance Tax Revisions would increase education funding by repealing certain oil and gas severance tax exemptions. It bill failed to pass the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, but was sent to interim study.
    • HB201: State Board of Education Leadership Amendments passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously. The bill allows the State Board to elect up to three members to serve as vice chairs of the Board.
    • HB225: Income Tax Amendments would introduce brackets back into the state’s income tax – 6 percent for those with income above $250,000 and 7 percent above $1,000,000, generating about $54 million dollars in the first year. It failed to pass the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.
    • HB307: CPR Training in Schools would provide funding for CPR training. It failed in the House on a vote of 34-39.
    • HB318 (1st Sub.): Classroom Size Revisionsl was substituted to become only a reporting bill instead of a bill with any caps or actions. It mandates reports as to what districts are doing with the class-size reduction money appropriated as a part of the Minimum School Program. The bill passed the House Education Committee and the full House. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.
    • HB343 (1st Sub.): Textbook Purchasing Amendments would have school district and charter schools implement digital textbooks in certain classrooms. It was held in the House Education Committee.
    • HB344: Establishment of Charter Schools Amendments – which originally would have required 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 – was amended to not limit the types of charters that may be requested by the State Charter Board. The bill passed the House unanimously.
    • HB362 (2nd Sub.): Transparency in Public Employment Negotiation Process would require negotiation meetings between public employers and public employee labor organizations to be open to the public. The UEA strongly opposes this bill. It failed in the House Government Operations Committee on a vote of 4-5.
    • HB363: Public Education State Capitol Visit Funding would provide $9,800 in a fund to provide grants to public schools to use to fund field trips to the State Capitol during the legislative session. The bill passed the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.
    • HB271 (2nd Sub.): Funding for Public Education generates education funding for one year by using new money gained through state alcohol sales. It had originally failed in the House but was re-considered after changes. The revised measure also failed to pass the House by a vote of 33-39.
    • HB373: Small School Funding provides $3 million in additional Necessarily Existent Small School funding. It passed out of the House Education Committee and the Full House. It was sent to the Senate for consideration.
    • HB393: Competency-Based Education Amendments requires that the State Board of Education make recommendations on a possible funding formula for competency-based courses and allows a school district or charter school to establish competency-based curriculum standards and assessments that would result in course credit if the student demonstrates competency in the subject. It narrowly passed the House Education Committee on a vote of 6-5 and the full House on a vote of 43-26.
    • HB397: Property Tax Increase Amendments would limit the ability of political subdivisions, including school districts, to raise property taxes within the limits of truth-in-taxation and under their statutory caps. The bill is opposed by the UEA. It was held in the House Judiciary Committee.
    • SB39: Parental Responsibility for Sex Education Training would direct the State Board of Education to develop materials for parents to be able to educate their children in sex education. The bill was defeated in the House by a vote of 16-50.
    • SB59 (1st Sub.): Worker’s Compensation Coordination of Benefits Amendments passed the Senate unanimously then passed the House Education Committee. The bill amends the Insurance Code and the Utah Labor Code regarding payment of medical claims when an employee is injured. The UEA supports this bill.
    • SB71 (1st Sub.): Results-Based Financing for Early Childhood Education creates a board, which may enter into certain contracts with private entities to provide funding for early childhood education programs for at-risk students. The legislation failed in the Senate on a vote of 18-11.
    • SB82 (1st Sub.): Student Achievement Backpack provides access for students and parents to a learning profile in an electronic format for K-12 students. The fiscal note for 2014 is $450,000 one-time and ongoing $110,000. It passed the Senate Education Committee.
    • SB103: Carson Smith Scholarship Amendments passed the Senate by a vote of 23-4 and now moves to the House for consideration. The bill establishes a formula for an annual increase in appropriations for the scholarships.
    • SB184 (1st Sub.): Youth Suicide Prevention Revisions passed the Senate. This bill amends parental notification of certain safety threats to a student.
    • SB257: Personalized Educator Evaluation Technology allows for an RFP to be issued to help with evaluation administration. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee.
    • SB260 (1st Sub.): Reading Assessment Amendments has a fiscal note of $5 million in one-time money and $2.5 million in ongoing money to provide software for K-3 reading development programs. It passed the Senate Education Committee.
    • SB271: Grading Schools Amendment would create a second, separate accountability system in addition to the current UCAS system implemented under 2011’s original grading schools legislation. The UEA opposes this bill. It passed the Senate Education Committee.
    • SJR5: Joint Resolution on State Superintendent of Public Instruction would require the Governor’s approval and the Senate’s consent for the appointment of the state superintendent and would allow the Governor, after consulting with the State Board of Education, to terminate the Superintendent. Because this is a change to the Utah Constitution, it would require a public vote at the next General Election. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee.

    March 4

     

    Senate Education Committee (Reported by Sara Jones): Sen. Stephen Urquhart made a very brief presentation about SB260 (1st Sub.): Reading Assessment Amendments saying that a K-1 program began last year which attracted several vendors. The comparison of the outcomes for these programs was positive so this bill would extend the program to K-3.The fiscal note is $5 million in one-time money and $2.5 million in ongoing money.

    Because of the sizable fiscal note, Sen. Pat Jones asked for data on the “tremendous results” that Sen. Urqhart said the program demonstrated. Sen. Urqhart spoke very generally about progress in Washington County but could not provide any specific data. Supt. Martell Menlove highlighted several concerns with the bill including referencing a kindergarten assessment for which there is no statewide assessment currently, the changing of language from “proficiency” to “competency” and also asked that there be an adoption of a common metric that would allow for measuring competency in reading rather than a focusing on a common assessment.

    During public comment, representatives from Cache School District said that paper/pencil use of Dibels cost $1 per student while Wireless Generation cost $19 per student and that the district did not like it. The bill passed with one ‘no’ vote.

    Sen. Jerry Stevenson said SB82 (1st Sub.): Student Achievement Backpack provides access for students and parents to a learning profile in an electronic format for K-12 students. The fiscal note for 2014 is $450,000 one-time and ongoing $110,000. Sen. Jones asked “What are we getting with this that we don’t currently have?” Judy Park from USOE said that there is “a wealth of information” already available online to parents in real-time that is actually more comprehensive than what Sen. Stevenson’s bill proposes. She also noted that there are requirements for data that is not currently collected, such as formative assessments. She suggested that we use systems already in place at the LEA level and add in data that is wanted because that would be the most cost-effective. She said that implementation will be much more costly than the fiscal note suggests. The bill passed the Committee with one ‘no’ vote.

    Sen. Stuart Adams spoke very briefly about SB257: Personalized Educator Evaluation Technology saying it allows for an RFP to be issued to help with evaluation administration. During public comment, Syd Dickson from USOE said that, while State Board of Education has not yet taken a position, there were concerns. Only about five vendors can provide this service and three are here in Utah. The bill however is so prescriptive that only a single specific vendor would qualify and this would not provide for a true RFP process, she said. Other concerns included questions about why a web-based tool required software and why free services required in the bill necessitate $70,000 in funding. The bill passed with one ‘no’ vote.

    HB201: State Board of Education Leadership Amendments passed the Committee unanimously. The bill allows the State Board to elect up to three members to serve as vice chairs of the Board.

    House Revenue and Taxation Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): HB98: Severance Tax Revisions, sponsored by Rep. Brian King, was continued from last Friday’s Committee meeting. The bill would increase education funding by repealing certain oil and gas severance tax exemptions. One oil company lobbyist spoke against the bill. The bill failed to pass the Committee on a party-line vote.

    HB225: Income Tax Amendments would introduce brackets back into the state’s income tax. When the “flat” tax was introduced in 2008, it was allegedly a revenue neutral change. The brackets would reflect a marginal rate of 6 percent for those with income above $250,000 and 7 percent above $1,000,000, generating about $54 million dollars in the first year.

    UEA Legislative Team member Jay Blain mentioned the call from the business community to invest in public education. When businesses look to locate, they look at the schools and the workforce, he said. Blain also cited the hit that public and higher education took with the installation of the flat tax and the economic downturn. Allison Rowland of Voices for Utah Children mentioned the regressive nature of the current tax system. The bill failed to pass the Committee on a party-line vote.

    Rep. Eric Hutchings made a motion to send the severance tax issue to interim study. The motion passed.

    HB55: Amendments Related to Education Funding would freeze the basic property tax rate and the state personal income deduction, having the effect of increasing education revenue over time. Rep. Joel Briscoe presented the numbers showing that if basic rate would not have floated down over time the state would have about $450 million per year more for education today.

    Jay Blain commented that this would incrementally help public education funding in the future. He also said it would be the beginning of a long-term plan to help stabilize education funding in the state. The bill failed to pass on a vote of 4-8.

    House Rules Committee (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): Rep. Greg. Hughes presented HJR16: Joint Rules Resolution on Campaign Contributions. The resolution says it is a violation of legislative ethics for a legislator to accept a campaign contribution on Capitol Hill. A violation is subject to the ethics review and complaint process. “If we look at the climate that we are in, public trust is an important aspect of what we do,” Hughes told the committee. “Accepting campaign contributions at the Capitol should probably not be happening at the time we are talking about policy.” The resolution passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation.

    Rep. Jim Dunnigan presented HR4: House Rules Resolution on Floor Activity. The resolution amends the rules governing access to House space and House floor procedures. This resolution:

    • clarifies that members of the House of Representatives are required to be on the House floor during floor debates;
    • reorganizes and modifies provisions governing access to the House floor, lounge, offices, conference rooms, and halls, including modifying the list of those individuals who are permitted access;
    • modifies the list of individuals who are permitted to sit next to a Representative on the House floor; requires that legislation receive a favorable recommendation by a House standing committee before passage;
    • provides procedures for reconsidering legislation where the House concurs with Senate amendments but fails to pass the bill;
    • requires that legislation be removed from the consent calendar and placed on the bottom of the third reading calendar if the legislation is circled; and has not been debated before the House recesses or adjourns floor time;
    • provides that a motion to substitute, rather than a substitute motion, may be reserved in a House Standing Committee on the House floor;
    • provides procedures for handling legislation on the concurrence calendar;
    • prohibits a Representative who receives floor time yielded by another Representative from making a motion;
    • changes House voting terminology from "aye" and "nay" to "aye" and "no"; and
    • modifies the language used to initiate a call of the House.

    UEA Government Relations Director Kory Holdaway testified about the dangers of passing legislation without proper committee debate, or holding controversial issues on the board in the House or Senate to avoid committee hearings. The resolution passed out of Committee with a favorable recommendation.

    Rep. Jim Nielsen presented HR1: House Rules Resolution on Voting Procedures. This resolution modifies House rules related to voting procedures. The resolution makes an exception to the requirement that a Representative be present within the House chamber when a vote is taken; allows a representative who is present within the House chamber when a vote is taken to abstain from voting; and authorizes the Speaker to recognize, upon request, a Representative who abstained from voting for the purposes of allowing the Representative to explain why the Representative abstained. Rep. Nielson said the resolution will help deal with conflict of interest issues within the body. The Committee moved to have the resolution considered during Interim session.

    House Floor (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): HB307: CPR Training in Schools was considered. This bill does not add any new curriculum. It is a local issue that would be funded in a grant process for which local schools or districts could apply. Rep. Carol Moss said she wants to see a reliable funding source for something that teachers have already been asked to teach. She said the current CPR requirement is an unfunded mandate on schools and this bill provides the funding to put this program in place. It will not change anything in the curriculum and is already an important part of the health curriculum from the state. The bill failed on a close vote of 34-39.


    March 5

    House Education Committee (Reported by Jay Blain and Mikkela Blanton): Rep. Jacob Anderegg’s HB343 (1st Sub.): Textbook Purchasing Amendments would have school district and charter schools implement digital textbooks in certain classrooms. State Supt. Martell Menlove said this was a local issue and is already being done and therefore the bill is not necessary. Jay Blain of UEA commented that this an effort best left to grow from the bottom up not the top down. In addition, as with any technology implementation, professional development would need to be a crucial part of it. Patty Harrington, executive director of the School Superintendents’ Association, shared their opposition to the bill, as it does not support local choices. The bill was held in Committee.

    HB393: Competency-Based Education Amendments would “begin the process of exploring ways to measure the student’s competency,” said sponsor Rep. Gregory Hughes. The bill requires that the State Board of Education make recommendations on a possible funding formula for competency-based courses and allows a school district or charter school to establish competency-based curriculum standards and assessments that would result in course credit if the student demonstrates competency in the subject. Supt. Menlove addressed many concerns about this bill including the lack of consistency with 41 districts and 88 charter schools developing curricula. After thorough discussion on the bill, the bill narrowly passed out of the Committee on a vote of 6-5.

    Last on the agenda was Rep. Becky Edward’s HB318 (1st Sub.): Classroom Size Revisions. This bill was substituted to become only a reporting bill instead of a bill with any caps or actions. This will mandate reports as to what districts are doing with the class size reduction money appropriated as a part of the Minimum School Program. Supt. Menlove offered the caution that this would require an additional report that would be required through the state office about classroom size reduction. The bill passed out of Committee with a favorable recommendation.

    House Floor (Reported by Jay Blain): HB344: Establishment of Charter Schools Amendments – which originally would have required 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 – was amended to not limit the types of charters that may be requested by the State Charter Board. Rep. Joel Briscoe asked why we have “cookie-cutter” charter schools. Rep. David Lifferth answered that too many are just replicating neighborhood schools. The objective is to provide a list of examples but not to limit the creativity of the type of charters, he said. The bill passed the House unanimously.

    Senate Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen and Mikkela Blanton): SB59 (1st Sub.): Worker’s Compensation Coordination of Benefits Amendments passed the Senate unanimously. The bill amends the Insurance Code and the Utah Labor Code regarding payment of medical claims when an employee is injured. The UEA supports this bill.

    SB184 (1st Sub.): Youth Suicide Prevention Revisions passed the Senate 26-1. This bill amends parental notification of certain safety threats to a student.

    SB71 (1st Sub.): Results-Based Financing for Early Childhood Education was presented on the Senate floor by Sen. Aaron Osmond. This bill creates a board, which may enter into certain contracts with private entities to provide funding for early childhood education programs for at-risk students. Sen. Osmond started by moving an amendment, which he said makes technical changes and addresses the scope of students who can be served. The amended bill restricts help to students who score below average on assessments. As we evaluate this bill, Sen. Osmond said, the question is, “do we continue doing the same things we are doing and expect a different result?”

    Sen. Osmond said SB71 is about the cost and academic impact on at-risk students. The senator noted that from 2008-2012, $525 million was spent to remediate this group of students. And, he added, this does not include the $100 million in Title I monies spent on the same group. He said the research shows we can do something in pre-K programs to help at-risk students. “We have functioning working examples in our state right now,” he said, noting success stories in Granite, Washington and Park City School Districts. “This bill does not introduce universal pre-school,” he said, but it enables the expansion of pre-k programs in districts.

    The funding model for the bill is a public/private partnership. “We do not have the funding to expand these programs on our own,” Sen. Osmond told colleagues, noting that access to funding is tied to results.

    Sen. Karen Mayne said she supports the bill. She said she has the most Title I schools in her Senate district. “I saw this population. This is what I did all day long,” Sen. Mayne said. “No one is taking a child away from her mother.” The population is getting skills and socialization, she said. “We are investing in our future,” said Sen. Pat Jones. “Our economy will not grow if we do not pay attention to this natural resource of ours, our children.”

    “I ask you to take a risk and do what is right based on the data,” Sen. Osmond concluded. The legislation failed with a vote of 18-11.


    March 6

    House Government Operations Committee (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): By a vote of 5-4, the House Government Operations Committee today did not advance HB362 (2nd Sub.): Transparency in Public Employment Negotiation Process to the House floor. The bill would have required negotiation meetings between public employers and public employee labor organizations to be open to the public.

    In his opening comments, Rep. Daniel McCay argued the importance of transparency in negotiations, using as his main example deficits in funding for the Utah Retirement Systems.

    The Utah One Coalition, which represents 120,000 working men and women throughout the state – and includes the Utah Education Association and eight other labor groups - packed the Committee meeting with police, fire fighters, educators, education support personnel and other public employees who negotiate contracts. The Coalition is opposed to the legislation.

    Coalition Chair Mark Mickelsen testified that transparency already exists in bargaining in the public sector. “In Utah school districts, the constituencies of both the school board and the employee association can already provide input regarding negotiations, and vote on a tentative agreement,” Mickelsen said. “Elected school boards are entrusted to negotiate and their final decisions are made in a public meeting. Elected education association leaders are entrusted to negotiate for their members. Those members vote on whether or not to accept the contract, and have an opportunity to convince their fellow members to vote against a negotiated agreement, if they wish. Other public entities follow similar bargaining procedures to ensure transparency.” Mickelsen told the committee that neither employees nor employers are asking for the changes proposed in the legislation.

    Others, including Patti Harrington who represents school superintendents throughout the state, said matters related to personnel, litigation and property acquisition or disposition may come up in the course of negotiations and should remain confidential.

    In explaining why he would be voting against this bill, Rep. Kraig Powell said the negotiation meetings would be unworkable because of confusion about what’s open and what is closed. He argued that taxpayers are represented in meetings by elected representatives. He concluded that the Legislature is in control of the school districts and should not get involved in the details of the process.

    Voting against the bill were Representatives Rebecca Chavez-Houck, Lee Perry, Janice Fisher, Powell and Jack Draxler. Voting in favor of the bill were Representatives Keith Grover, John Mathis, Michael Noel and Ken Ivory.

    In his summation, Rep. McCay promised the bill would be back next year.

    House Education Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): HB373: Small School Funding was presented by its sponsor Rep. Kay McIff. This bill provides $3 million in additional Necessarily Existent Small School funding. Last year the additional $3 million was greatly appreciated and funded things such as: one additional math and one additional science teacher in Grand County and one additional elementary teacher in Koosharem, he said. He commented on the disparity on rural students’ ACT scores, about 1 to 1.5 points lower than the statewide average, because of the lack of breadth of offerings in rural schools. He was asked about their utilization of online courses. Rep. McIff responded that they are doing it whenever possible but face-to-face teachers are still needed. The bill passed out favorably with the caution that it still needs to go through the appropriations process.

    SB59 (1st Sub.): Workers Compensation Coordination of Benefits Amendments will have a worker’s insurance pay claims if their claim goes to adjudication. If the claim is found to be the responsibility of the worker’s comp carrier then they repay the insurance company plus 8 percent. Many spoke in favor of the bill, including UEA Legislative Team member Jay Blain, who cited his experience working with teachers who had the added stress of unpaid bills while waiting for their worker’s comp claims to be paid. The bill passed out favorably.

    Senate Education Committee (Reported by Sara Jones): Sen. Stuart Reid presented SJR5: Joint Resolution on State Superintendent of Public Instruction, which would require the Governor’s approval and the Senate’s consent for the appointment of the state superintendent and would allow the Governor, after consulting with the State Board of Education, to terminate the Superintendent. Because this would be a change to the Utah Constitution it would require a public vote at the next General Election. State Board of Education Chair Deborah Roberts spoke against the bill, calling it “a solution in search of a problem.” The bill passed with one ‘no’ vote.

    Sen. Stuart Adams presented SB271: Grading Schools Amendment. This bill would create a second, separate accountability system in addition to the current UCAS system implemented under 2011’s original grading schools legislation. Sen. Pat Jones said that UCAS seems to be working, so “how would this be different than the current system?” Sen. Adams asked the USOE to come forward and explain the differences between the UCAS and his proposed legislation. Judy Park from USOE identified a number of differences between the two models and said the proposal would be “a huge change from the accountability system now in place.” She then shared data showing that under Sen. Adams model schools that received A’s and B’s in the UCAS system would receive C’s and D’s in the proposed system. In fact, the data shared by USOE showed that no schools in the sample received a grade higher than a C.

    UEA Legislative Team member Sara Jones spoke against the bill saying that the original legislation allowed the State Board to develop an accountability model that was valid and reliable and that the proposed legislation is highly prescriptive and creates a model that will be punitive to schools. She also stated that two accountability systems reduce transparency and create confusion. Based on the data presented by USOE, there would be a negative economic impact on property values if the state ranks all schools C’s, D’s or F’s, she said. The bill passed with one ‘no’ vote.

    House Revenue and Taxation Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): Rep. Steve Eliason presented HB363: Public Education State Capitol Visit Funding. This bill would provide $9,800 in a fund to provide grants to public schools to use to fund field trips to the State Capitol during the legislative session. The bill passed the Committee with a favorable recommendation.

    House Floor (Reported by Jay Blain): SB39: Parental Responsibility for Sex Education Training was introduced by Rep. Jeremy Peterson. He explained that this bill would direct the State Board of Education to develop materials for parents to be able to educate their children in sex education. Rep. Rhonda Menlove was concerned about the information being put online for parents but then not being protected from children being able to access and the cost of protecting it. Rep. Brian Greene questioned the need for this, stating that there is no shortage of materials available online already. Rep. Stephen Handy said he doesn’t see the need to compel the State Board to do one more thing when there are already an abundance of resources available. The bill was defeated on a vote of 16-50.

    Senate Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): SB103: Carson Smith Scholarship Amendments passed the Senate by a vote of 23-4. It now moves to the House for consideration. The bill establishes a formula for an annual increase in appropriations for the scholarships.


    March 7

    House Judiciary Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): HB397: Property Tax Increase Amendments was presented by Rep. Jim Nielson. This bill would limit the ability of political subdivisions, including school districts, to raise property taxes within the limits of truth-in-taxation and under their statutory caps. It would require school districts to go to a vote to authorize an increase instead of just having an open meeting/hearing. Davis School District School Board member Barbara Smith, a representative from the Utah Association of Counties, and UEA Legislative Team member Jay Blain spoke against the bill. The bill was held in the Committee.

    House Floor (Reported by Mikkela Blanton): HB318 (1st Sub.): Classroom Size Revisions passed the House and now goes to the Senate for consideration. The revised bill is a reporting bill rather than a bill with any caps or actions. It mandates reports as to what districts are doing with the class-size reduction money appropriated as a part of the Minimum School Program.

    HB271 (2nd Sub.): Funding for Public Education, sponsored by Rep. Jim Bird, generates education funding for one year by using new money gained through state alcohol sales. Rep. Jack Draxler asked about the fixed percentage of alcohol revenues that currently goes to school lunches, asking if Bird felt that this bill was on the same level as importance as the school lunch program. Rep. Bird replied that while school lunch is an important thing, learning how to read and write trumps that. Rep. Draxler agreed that if we’re willing to allocate money to school lunch, we absolutely need to be willing to allocate money to academic development of children, too. After several comments for and against, the bill failed to pass the House by a vote of 33-39.

    HB393: Competency Based Education Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Greg Hughes, makes recommendations to the State Board of Education on a possible funding formula for competency-based courses. The bill would also allow for a district or charter school to create competency-based curriculum standards and assessments that would result in course credit for students. “People say ‘we love this!’ but it’s not the right time. This is my eleventh term (in the Legislature), and we’ve been discussing it since the first,” said Hughes. The bill passed the House on a vote of 43-26.


    March 8

    Executive Appropriations Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): The Committee presented a Budget Proposal that recommends a 2 percent increase the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) and $68.5 million for enrollment growth. It also restores the $25 million budget shortfall created by calculation errors at the State Office of Education last year. The budget now has to be written up into the final bills and approved by the full legislature.

    Educator Day on the Hill
    (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): Thirty educators from Salt Lake, Granite, Jordan, Canyons, Alpine, Nebo and Weber, along with several retired educators, met in the Copper Room of the Senate Building. It was the last scheduled Educator Day on the Hill for the 2013 Legislative Session, which is both winding down and heating up. The teachers heard about bills the UEA is watching and were then encouraged to speak to their representatives and senators about those bills. The biggest item of discussion was the push for a 2% increase on the WPU. There was also discussion about SB110, which would change funding for schools to have money follow students thus increasing workload for principals while decreasing funding equity, and SB133, which would make classroom test scores public information.

    Since this is the end of the session, committee meetings are finished so the teachers stood outside the House and Senate and wrote notes to talk to their legislators. Once they were able to talk to them, they then watched the sessions from the galleries. At lunch they reported what they heard from their representatives. Teachers were energized about their discussions and then signed pledges to continue being involved in the political process. Some also contributed to UEA's PAC to help fund our political efforts on the hill.

    As the teachers left, Sharon asked them if they were planning to attend Monday's Public Education Day on Capitol Hill. All indicated they would be there. She encouraged the teachers to bring their families, fellow teachers, neighbors, and friends to be on the Hill that evening to show support for public education and thank our legislators for their efforts to make our schools better.

    More than 200 educators attended the six Educator Day on the Hill events held in 2013, many for the first time. As teachers come and see what goes on in the legislature, they gain greater understanding about the importance of being politically involved in order to protect public education and to advocate for our students.

    House Floor (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): Rep. Kay McIff talked about the importance of providing an equal opportunity of education around the state as he presented HB373: Small School Funding. He said 91 schools receive Necessarily Existent Small School (NESS) funding in 23 districts. This bill would provide additional funding for those schools. After many comments in support of the bill, it passed the House unanimously and will go to the Senate for consideration.

    Senate Floor (Reported by Mikkela Blanton): SB81: School Property Tax Funding, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Osmond, was discussed on the floor, but was circled without a vote. The bill would set the minimum basic tax rate at a set rate and amends a school board levy. Sen. Osmond pointed out the disparity in funding for different districts, saying “I believe we need to reinforce that distribution when it comes to property taxes, and the way we do that is to make a change to the minimum basic rate.”