Page Title

UEA Report on the 2013 Utah Legislature General Session

Page Content


WEEK TWO:

 

2013 LEGISLATURE WEEK TWO SUMMARY: February 4-8

The number of bills on the 2013 UEA Legislative Tracking Sheet increased from 40 at the end of week one, to nearly 100 by the end of week two. About 30 teachers shared their thoughts on these bills and the public education budget with legislators during Educator Day on the Hill February 8. That day the UEA also sponsored breaks for legislators in the House and Senate chambers, hosted by teachers volunteering their time.

Public Education Budget: The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee met on February 7. A state fiscal analyst summarized voted and board local levy programs for the subcommittee. The analyst discussed the different funding options and provided the Subcommittee with a report showing the funding detail. The Committee discussed HB49: Voted and Board Levy Program Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Handy. The bill would require the full amount of the state contribution for the voted and board levy programs to be distributed each year, and would require the State Board of Education to increase the value of the state guarantee per Weighted Pupil Unit sufficient to fully distribute the legislative appropriation for the state contribution to the voted and board levy programs each year.

The analyst then summarized the minimum school program related to basic school program funding breakdown. He said there are a number of one-time funding allocations made last year that will dissolve this fiscal year without a re-allocation (approximately $18 million in one-time allocations). Among these were the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts Program, which is historically funded at $4 million, but was reduced to $2 million last year; Early Intervention funding; $800,000 for dual immersion, which allowed 22 new schools to start dual immersion programs last year; and teacher reimbursements for out-of-pocket expenses on classroom supplies, which was funded at $5 million dollars last year.

The Governor’s Education Advisor Christine Kearl presented the Committee with an outline of the Governor’s budget recommendations, including numbers for enrollment and graduation rates. The Governor’s funding priorities were named as: the growth of new students coming into our system; additional money for computer-adaptive testing; a one-to-one initiative in technology (one student per one piece of technology); professional development for math and language arts teachers; teacher supply money; special education money; dual immersion funding; protection of student and teacher data; teacher evaluation tools; funding for the Beverly Taylor Arts Program; ACT funding; utahfutures.org online counseling tool; and funding for Utah data alliance. In response to a question, Kearle indicated the Governor’s recommendation for any new money was to add to the WPU.

Educator Day on the Hill: “The (legislative) process is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” UEA Government Relations Director Kory Holdaway told the more than 30 teachers attending UEA Educator Day on the Hill. “We need to keep working, plodding along. We’re not the rabbit, we’re the tortoise…We need to grow the conversations we had (with legislators) today into meaningful relationships.”

The teachers attending this week’s event represented eight school districts and UEA Retired.

The UEA sponsored morning breaks in both the House and Senate chambers. Legislators were provided with snack boxes Teachers were assigned to host the breaks and provided legislators with snack boxes. UEA Board Member Trudy Henderson, who hosted in the Senate, called the event “a great opportunity to meet Senators,” noting that she was able to make contact with 21 of the 29 Senators. Those hosting in the House reported similar success.

During a lunchtime debriefing, several legislators stopped by to visit the teachers, including Sen. Jim Dabakis and Representatives Johnny Anderson, Patrice Arent, Jim Bird, Joel Briscoe, Richard Greenwood, Brian King, Rhonda Menlove, Carol Moss, and Marc Roberts.

UEA Educator Day on the Hill is held each Friday during the 2013 Legislative Session. All teachers are encouraged to attend (more information here).

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


February 4

Senate Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): By a vote of 28-0, the Senate passed SB128: Financial Transparency in Education, which imposes requirements regarding the submission of public financial information by a school district or charter school. This bill states that when submitting public financial information to the Utah Public Finance Website, a school district or charter school shall classify transactions in accordance with the uniform chart of accounts that school districts and charter schools are required to use for budgeting, accounting, financial reporting, and auditing purposes pursuant to rules adopted by the State Board of Education.

The Senate also passed SB42: Medical School Admissions Funding, sponsored by Sen. John Valentine. The bill adds $10 million in ongoing funds to increase by 40 the number of slots available for students admitted to the University of Utah School of Medicine.

Both pieces of legislation will now be considered by the House.

House Floor (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): HB53 (1st Sub.): Election Law Amendments clarifies voting dates to conform with the Western Presidential Primary, absentee ballots and mail-in voting. The bill was amended to clarify elections by mail where signatures don't match to give election officials leeway to contact the voter or send out new ballot. The bill passed on a vote of 59-13.

Senate Education Committee (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): Sen. Steve Urquhart said he is proposing SB51: Higher Education Tuition Waivers to address a funding hole created by the announcement of the lowered missionary age for LDS missionaries. One provision of the bill would waive nonresident tuition for certain above-average student (based on each individual institution). He said the Commissioner of Higher Education supports the bill, as do all presidents of Utah Higher Ed institutions to shore up falling numbers. Sen. Pat Jones asked if all meritorious students would qualify or if it would be up individual president of institution. Commissioner Buellor said it would be given in the form of scholarships to fill enrollment gaps. Utah State University President Stan Albrich said the school will lose 1,950 students, resulting in lost revenue of about $19 million. This bill will offset some of the impact in a short term process, he said. The bill passed the Committee unanimously and now moves to the full Senate.

SB151: Authorization of Charter Schools by Higher Education Institutions removes the requirement to obtain the approval of the Utah College of Applied Technology Board of Trustees before a campus board of directors enters into an agreement authorizing an individual or not-for-profit entity to establish and operate a charter school; allows a campus board of directors of a college campus within the Utah College of Applied Technology to establish procedures and criteria related to charter school applications; and prohibits a higher education institution from operating a charter school. The bill passed the Committee unanimously.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson presented SCR5: Concurrent Resolution Endorsing the Utah Education Excellence Commission. He said the Education Excellence Commission has produced several results including the PACE initiative (Preparing all learners, Access for all, Completion of coursework, and Excellence in Education) and the 66 percent by 2020 post-high school degree goal. Salt Lake Chamber President Lane Beattie spoke in favor of the resolution as did Chamber Executive Board member Mark Bouchard. UEA Government Relations Director Kory Holdaway said that the UEA Board has taken a position of support for the Commission, then pointed out that the Commission has also recommended a 2 percent increase in the WPU. Many others also spoke in favor of the resolution. The resolution received a unanimous recommendation from the Committee.


February 5

House Education Committee (Reported by UEA Legislative Intern Mikkela Blanton): Rep. Jim Bird introduced a second substitute bill for HB275: Health Insurance for Schools. The bill requires local school boards and charter schools to seek competitive bids from at least three producers or insurance consultants, on the health insurance benefits they offer school district employees beginning in the 2013-14 school year and every five years thereafter. Rep. Bird explained that the legislation allows school districts to keep the same plan or provider that they currently have, but requires them to go out for a bid to “make sure they’re where they need to be.” He further commented that the state spends approximately $382 million for health insurance in school districts, and spoke to the benefits of even a 1 percent savings on those costs.

Rep. Jim Neilson, quoting the State Constitution, referred to the control of schools being designated to the state school board. Rep. Neilson also commented that he was greatly opposed to this bill as he felt that it would pass a mandate for the schools. Patty Harrington testified that the Utah School Superintendents Association believes this bill is a local issue and is opposed. Jordan School District Board of Education President Peggy Jo Kennett and Business Administrator Burk Jolley also testified in opposition to the bill.

Rep. Greg Hughes stated that he was “baffled” over the opposition to this bill, stating that the bill is “good policy, and encourages us to do the right thing.” Rep. Kraig Powell commented on the excellence of the debate. In explaining his opposition to the legislation, he stated that there are “other considerations” that could be used. The vote on moving the bill out of Committee was a tie, resulting in the bill not passing.

Rep. Francis Gibson presented on HB285: Modification of Education Related Reporting Requirements. The bill eliminates an annual report to certain committees regarding the Engineering and Computer Science Initiative. Superintendent Martell Menlove testified on the bill, stating that the State Board of Education has not taking a formal position, but the State Office of Education appreciates the efforts of Rep. Gibson. The bill was passed out of Committee with a favorable recommendation and will move to the House floor.

HB298: Parent Seminar on Youth Protection was introduced by Rep. Steve Eliason. The bill requires school districts to offer an annual seminar to parents with information on substance abuse, bullying, mental health and Internet safety (although school districts can opt out). The bill also asks districts to include the charter schools in their area. Accompanying the legislation, Rep. Eliason presented suicide statistics for Utah, stating that Utah has some of the highest suicide rates in the nation.

“We always see a tragedy and have an opportunity to respond….but can government fix these things?” questioned Rep. Neilson, in opposition to the legislation. Neilson pondered aloud about the ability of schools to teach the mandatory subjects (English, math, science, etc.) when they’re focusing effort on social programs.

Public testimony on the bill was supportive of the legislation. Pamela Atkinson, community activist and chair of Utah Coalition Against Pornography (UCAP), spoke about the connection between pornography and drugs, and the desire to see a curriculum developed dealing with substance abuse. Superintendent Menlove stated that he personally wanted to “be part of the solution.” He further stated that in an already stretched system, we’re asking yet another thing from our teachers who are already dealing with limited resources if we don’t pass this legislation.

Rep. Rich Cunningham, in support of the legislation, presented statistics about the number of children who are currently afraid of going to school because of bullying. “I believe that we have the resources to bring doctors and members of the community in…to help with all of these issues,” he said. “I’m a big supporter of this.” HB298 was moved to the House floor with a favorable recommendation by a vote of 9-3.


February 6

Senate Education Committee (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): SB43 (1st Sub.): Financial and Economic Literacy Education Amendments authorizes a state school board task force to study the impact of financial literacy coursework and make recommendations on how to improve financial literacy education in the public school system. State Supt. Martell Menlove stated that USOE has been reviewing financial literacy as well. While the Utah State Board of Education has not taken a formal position, he said they are willing to cooperate with the sponsor, Sen. Pat Jones, on implementing this bill. The bill received a unanimous recommendation from the Committee.

SB162: Concurrent Enrollment Amendments would allow higher education to charge up to $30 per credit hour and other rates for different low income students or instructors. UEA Vice President Tom Nedreberg testified about support for concurrent enrollment, but expressed concern about the cost of credits in low income areas. Patty Harrington also testified about the same concerns, but said the Utah School Boards Association has not yet taken a formal position. Sponsor Sen. Steve Urquhart talked about wanting to preserve concurrent enrollment and sharing the cost with 16-17 year olds instead of having it on the backs of 19-20 year olds. The bill was forwarded with a unanimous recommendation.

In discussing his SB122: Student Leadership Skills Development, Sen. Aaron Osmond talked about the importance of "soft" skills in the success of a career. Soft skills are things like self-confidence, self-discipline, listening, organization, planning and goal setting, he said. The purpose of the bill is to develop a three-year pilot of a leadership program at $240,000 per year for the three years. There would be matching funds from the district and a priority for Title 1 schools. Local districts would choose the provider of their program, but the provider would have to show data demonstrating effectiveness. Supt. Menlove expressed concerned about legislation driven by a specific product. There are local programs available statewide and should make money available to local districts to develop programs themselves, he said. After an amendment to say at least two providers should be included in each bid, the bill passed unanimously.

Senate Floor (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): SB141: Education Contribution on Tax Returns passed the Senate unanimously. The bill provides for a voluntary income tax contribution to an “Invest More in Education Account,” that would support the public education system.


February 7

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (Reported by UEA Legislative Intern Mikkela Blanton): In the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, State fiscal analyst Ben Lishman summarized voted and board local levy programs. The program guarantees that districts with low property tax values are able to generate sufficient funding. The state guarantee rate is the amount the state guarantees a district will generate per WPU. Charter schools do not directly participate in the levy programs. Lishman further discussed the different funding options and provided the Subcommittee with a report showing the funding detail.

The Committee discussed HB49: Voted and Board Levy Program Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Handy. The bill would require the full amount of the state contribution for the voted and board levy programs to be distributed each year, and would require the State Board of Education to increase the value of the state guarantee per Weighted Pupil Unit sufficient to fully distribute the legislative appropriation for the state contribution to the voted and board levy programs each year. Rep. Handy explained the bill as attempting to deal with an appropriations “orphan.” Currently, he said, there is $81.3 million appropriated in the budget, but there is another $19.5 million that’s sitting at USOE, having not yet been appropriated. “So, this bill is an attempt at equalization,” Rep. Handy stated, “that would require that full amount to be allocated…this is really a ‘catch up’ number.”

Rep. Joel Briscoe questioned where the money has gone in the past without allocation. Lishman explained that there were two estimates conducted. If the number of students is over-estimated, a balance is created. If the amount of property tax revenue is under-estimated, there is less state money that is required, leaving a pool of funding in the program that is unallocated. “The school board isn’t missing out on what’s due,” said Lishman.

Rep. Jim Neilson commented, “We need to be very cognizant of the implications of our policies. I would hate to do anything that would impact the decisions of the district…I think it’s important not to remove the incentive that local districts may choose to create more funding…I understand the value of equalization, but I don’t want to hold one district accountable for the sins of another.” Rep. Neilson also brought up the fiscal note, questioning the certainty of the implementation of this legislation being a one-time cost. Lishman, with a detailed explanation, stated that the base funding would indeed remain the same, therefore guaranteeing only a one-time cost.

Moving on to the next item on the agenda, Lishman summarized the minimum school program related to basic school program funding breakdown. Lishman covered the number of one-time monies that were allocated last year, but will dissolve this fiscal year without a re-allocation (approximately $18 million in one-time allocations). Among these were the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts Program, which is historically funded at $4 million, but was reduced to $2 million last year; Early Intervention funding; $800,000 for dual immersion, which allowed 22 new schools to start dual immersion programs last year; and teacher reimbursements for out-of-pocket expenses on classroom supplies, which was funded at $5 million dollars last year. Rep. Briscoe reminded the Committee that all of these items were "at risk" if the committee did not fund them.

Rep. Mike Kennedy stated that he didn't understand why "novices" like him were making funding decisions like these, specifically mentioning teachers benefits vs. salaries increases. Expanding, he commented that he would like to see something set up where autonomous local control could be in place.

Sen. Mark Madsen said that one of the reasons for state control was that "we wanted to see beginning teachers get more," explaining that wasn't happening without direction from the legislature. Sen. Pat Jones interjected that "A good, inspiring teacher," is the absolute number one thing we need to support for our school children and that we need to support those teachers through salary and benefit increases.

The Committee then heard a presentation about book funding for school libraries. E-books are “hot right now. Kids are stoked to read them,” said Dr. Cheryl Smith. Smith talked about our state's English language learners, applauding the Salt Lake City School District for making a conscious decision to buy books in foreign languages. Smith stated that there have been years where libraries received no new books. "I'm the mouse that roared," stated Smith, "it's not my personality to go out and fight people like this....but I'm telling you Utah, we're behind. We're so behind. Kids can achieve when we have well-staffed libraries."

Governor’s Education Advisor Christine Kearl presented the Committee with an outline of the Governor’s budget recommendations, including numbers for enrollment and graduation rates. For funding, priorities were named as: the growth of new students coming into our system; additional money for computer-adaptive testing; a one-to-one initiative in technology (one student per one piece of technology); professional development for math and language arts teachers; teacher supply money; special education money; dual immersion funding; protection of student and teacher data; teacher evaluation tools; funding for the Beverly Taylor Arts Program; ACT funding; utahfutures.org online counseling tool; and funding for Utah data alliance. In response to a question, Kearle indicated the Governor’s recommendation for any new money was to add to the WPU.

House Revenue and Taxation Committee (Reported by Jay Blain and Mikkela Blanton): HB246: Expanded Use of School District Property Tax, heard today in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, would allow school boards to use revenue collected from certain capital property tax levies for certain general fund purposes. The fiscal note on the bill is $60 million. Sponsor Rep. Kay McIff told the Committee that the Utah School Boards Association supports this bill. Patti Harrington, on behalf of the Utah School Superintendents’ Association, and Kory Holdaway, representing the UEA, testified in support of the bill. “Right now, today, we don’t have the answers to all the questions in terms to the federal costs that are hanging over us. This bill lends itself to prudent decisions in a local body…for that reason, I would strongly encourage you to support this legislation,” said Holdaway. After thorough discussion on the bill and a number of public testimonies and responses from Committee members, the bill passed with a favorable recommendation.

HB264: Property Tax Notice Amendments would require property tax notices to include the amount of property taxes imposed on a taxpayer that represents revenue distributed to charter schools. Representatives from several organizations spoke in opposition to bill including the Utah Charter Network, the Salt Lake County Treasurer’s office, the Utah Taxpayers Association and the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools. Patti Harrington, representing the Utah School Superintendents’ Association, said she thinks this bill will help clarify that charters are public schools and are not overseen by the local boards. The UEA also supports this bill. Rep. Jim Nielson moved to hold the bill and move the agenda. The motion was passed and the bill was held in Committee.

House Floor (Reported by Jay Blain): HB49: Voted and Board Levy Program Amendments attempts to get the state guaranteed money that is already allocated out to the districts faster. Bill passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Senate.

HB64: Felon’s Right to Hold Office would prevent a person convicted of serious sexual crimes against children from running for State or local boards of education. The question was raised as to why not just rely on the ballot box. Rep. Carol Moss replied that right before the election, the other candidate might become incapacitated or die and then that person would automatically be elected. Rep. Spencer Cox brought up the point about an unopposed candidate. The bill passed on a vote of 47-27 and will now move to the Senate.


February 8

House Floor (Reported by Jenny Okerlund): HB67: Personal Property Taxation would apply the same exemption to personal property used within a rental property to that of a primary residential property.

Rep. Briscoe pointed out that this bill simply shifts the tax from personal property to personal real estate. “Taxes will still come in, but not from the same people,” he said.

Following two successful amendments, the bill passed on a vote of 67-6 and now moves to the Senate. The UEA is watching this bill because of its potential impact on education funding.

Congressman Jason Chaffetz addressed legislators in both the House and the Senate. He told the House his chief concern in Washington is lack of fiscal discipline. “Our nation’s debt is not sustainable,” he said. “In the first quarter, federal government spending is up by 16 percent.” He added that the nation must “deal with entitlement reform…In 1987, 2 percent of the population received disability payments, now 4.7 percent receive disability payments.” There are 30 million more people receiving food stamps than in 1987, he said. Rep. Chaffetz also said heavy cuts in defense, as would occur if the ‘fiscal cliff’ situation is not addressed, are a threat to Hill Air Force Base and to our nation’s security.