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UEA Report on the 2014 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK TWO:

2014 LEGISLATURE WEEK TWO SUMMARY: February 3-7

Several of the more than 80 bills the UEA is tracking began to move through the legislative process during Week Two. The public education base budget (HB1) passed the House and Senate with no reductions and work began on additional budget priorities. The UEA also hosted two Educator Day on the Hill events, with about 30 teachers attending.

Public Education Budget: The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee met three times during the second week, passing a substitute base budget bill, HB1 (2nd Sub): Public Education Base Budget Amendments. The Executive Appropriations Committee reviewed the base budgets for all of the appropriation subcommittees. HB1 was accepted and will be sent to the full House and Senate for action. There were no reductions made to the public education base budget.

The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee heard informational presentations from several education groups including: Utah School for the Deaf and Blind, the State Charter School Board, the IT Academy Microsoft program, the Electronic Elementary Reading Assessment Tool, Student Leadership Grants program, UofU Reading Clinic Expansion program, Peer Assistance and Review pilot program, the Financial Literacy program, Pro Start food certification program, a Suicide Prevention grant program and a program to fund school field trips to the Utah State Capitol.

The committee also heard a presentation of the State Board of Education funding priorities and reviewed the one-time appropriation items from the FY2014 budget and items approved in the 2013 Legislative session (see the handout).

Educator Day on the Hill: UEA held Educator Day on the Hill events on Wednesday and Friday during Week Two, with nearly 30 educators attending from Davis, Jordan, Cache and Beaver School Districts. The unique Wednesday event was held because the UEA provided the refreshments during the morning break in both the House and Senate. During the Wednesday session, teachers were also able to attend a press conference held by House Democrats who were highlighting their education-related bills and funding proposals.

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

  • HB1 (2nd Sub): Public Education Base Budget passed the House and Senate unanimously and was sent to the Governor for signature. See above for details. (NOTE: This is just the “Base” budget. Near the end of the session, the Senate will introduce a supplemental appropriations bill that will contain the bulk of the additional education funding.)
  • HB23: Suicide Prevention Revisions would allow school employees to ask questions if they believe a student is having thoughts of harming themselves or others. The bill passed the House Education Committee then the full House on a 67-2. The UEA supports this bill.
  • HB36: Charter School Enrollment Amendments allows a charter school to give an enrollment preference to a child or grandchild of an individual who actively participated in the development of the charter school or who is a member of the charter school governing board. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.
  • HB96: Utah School Readiness Initiative creates a School Readiness Board, which would provide grants to high quality pre-K education programs and enter into contracts with private providers to fund pre-K education programs for at-risk students. The bill appropriates $5 million for the program. The bill passed the House Education Committee 13-3.
  • HB215: Public School Employee Background Checks would allow a district or charter school to use fingerprints on file for employees when conducting regular background checks. The bill would apply only to classified employees. UEA supports the bill. It passed out of the House Education Committee unanimously.
  • HB241: School Record Amendments amends provisions related to parent notifications in bullying incidents. The bill passed the House on a vote of 61-9. The UEA supports this bill.
  • HB224: Sales and Use Tax Amendments would lower the sales tax rate when and if the federal government passes the bill that will allow the collection of internet sales tax. The bill narrowly passed out of House Revenue and Taxation Committee on a vote of 6-5. The UEA opposes this bill.
  • HB226: Severance Tax Amendments puts into code the elements of a constitutional amendment passed by the voters. The bill passed the House unanimously.
  • HB250: Local School Board Amendments provides that an elected member of a local school board serves and represents the residents of the local school board member's district and may not be restricted by the board member's membership on, or obligations to, the local school board. The bill passed the House Education Committee 15-1.
  • HB292: School Grading - Calculation of High School Graduation Rate modifies how a high school graduation rate is calculated by excluding from the four-year cohort for a graduating class a student with an IEP that includes a plan to complete graduation requirements in more than four years. UEA supports the bill. The bill passed out of the House Education committee.
  • SB23: School Construction Amendments passed the Senate 28-0 and now moves to the House. The bill amends certain provisions related to the procurement process for public school construction.
  • SB38: Rural Superintendent Concurrent Education Program is an opportunity for students across the state to take concurrent education classes through interactive video conferencing. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee with a favorable recommendation.
  • SB98: Paraeducator Funding provides funding for Paraeducator to receive additional education to conform to higher educational standards. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.
  • SB103 (1st Sub.): Local Control of Classroom Time Requirements would allow districts or charters to allocate up to 60 hours of instructional time for teacher professional development or planning time. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and the full Senate on a vote of 21-6. It now moves to the House.
  • SB140: Advanced Placement Test Funding provides $100,000 for low-income students to be able to pay for tests after taking Advanced Placement classes. The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Education Committee.
  • SB148: UPSTART Program Amendments passed the Senate Education Committee with a favorable recommendation. It establishes the pre-K UPSTART program – begun five years ago by the Utah Legislature – as a permanent, non-pilot program.

February 3, 2014

Public Education Appropriations Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): A second the base budget bill, HB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments, was approved. It included some technical changes from the original bill.

The Committee reviewed the one-time appropriation items from the FY2014 budget and items approved in the 2013 Legislative session (see the handout). During this discussion, Rep. LaVar Christensen mentioned that the Legislature should consider restoring funding to the Quality Teaching Block grant line item. This was not one-time funding but was ongoing money cut during the economic downturn.

Information was shared showing that State Trust Land revenue will increase by about $10 million and therefore the distribution will increase by that amount this year. This item will be reviewed and placed in the final budget bill.

Executive Appropriations Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): Tonight’s meeting of the Executive Appropriations Committee was to go over the base budgets for all of the appropriation subcommittees. The Public Education base budget bill (see above) was accepted and will be sent to the full House and Senate for action. There were no reductions made to the base budget bill.


February 4, 2014

House Floor (Reported by Jay Blain): HB1 (2nd Sub): Public Education Base Budget, passed unanimously and now goes to the Senate for final approval. (NOTE: This is just the “Base” budget. Near the end of the session, the Senate will introduce a supplemental appropriations bill that will contain the bulk of the additional education funding.)

House Education Committee (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): HB23: Suicide Prevention Revisions, sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason, passed out of the House Education Committee with a favorable recommendation. The UEA supports this bill.

The legislation allows a school employee or resource officer to intervene and ask a student questions regarding the student’s suicidal thoughts, physically self-harming behavior, or thoughts of harming others. The original bill was amended today to include school resource officers because they may not be school district employees, but can be among the first to become aware of a child who is in a dangerous position.

Senate Education Committee (Reported by Mike Kelley): Following a late start due to weather conditions, the Senate Education Committee heard just three bills and voted on only one.

SB34: Governance of the Utah Education and Workforce Alliance was amended to make clarifications. It would create a new entity to bring Utah Futures and the Utah Data Alliance “under one umbrella,” according to bill sponsor, Sen. Howard Stephenson. “(Utah Futures) has been less than exemplary in what it has produced,” said Sen. Stephenson, indicating that the private sector has produced much more robust products to inform student career choices. He indicated he would like to change the current bill to give the State Board of Education more authority over the Alliance, ensure parents have control over access to the tool, to protect the identity of students and to bring the Alliance under the control of an existing agency. UEA Director of Education Excellence Sara Jones testified against the bill, indicating that its price tag of $5 million is significant and should be viewed in the light of education funding that has been reduced over the past five years. She also pointed out that the private sector appears to be over-represented in the proposed Alliance structure, with six private sector representatives to one from the public sector. No action was taken.

SB37: Statewide Online Education Program Revisions would require all school districts and charter schools to include a document in all student registration materials indicating the online school options available to students. Several testified against the bill. Granite School District Director of Communications Ben Horsley cited cost concerns and said the bill was “asking (school districts) to subsidize private providers.” No action was taken on the bill.

The only bill that received a vote was SB103: Local Control of Classroom Time Requirements. This bill was substituted in the Committee. It would allow school districts and charter schools to replace up to 60 hours of classroom instruction time with teacher preparation or professional development. Bill sponsor, Sen. Aaron Osmond, said research shows that “highly trained and prepared classroom teachers have significant impact on student performance.” UEA’s Sara Jones testified that teachers support additional professional development, but that teachers and students also require the instructional days, which have already been reduced by additional testing requirements. She asked that legislators look for ways to restore the $70 million cut from professional development during the recession. The bill passed the Committee unanimously.

House Revenue and Taxation Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): Two bills that are being tracked by UEA were heard in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.

HB224: Sales and Use Tax Amendments would lower the sales tax rate when and if the federal government passes the bill that will allow the collection of internet sales tax. The committee discussed many points about this bill, uncertainties regarding the amount that will be collected, good uses for the money that would be collected if the rate was not cut, and whether it would happen at all at the federal level. The bill narrowly passed out of committee on a vote of 6-5.

HB226: Severance Tax Amendments puts into code the details of a constitutional amendment approved by the public in the last election. It passed out of the committee unanimously.


February 5, 2014

Educator Day on the Hill (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): Most Educator Day on the Hill events are held on Fridays, but this week there was an extra EDOH held on Wednesday because the UEA provided the refreshments during the morning break in both the House and Senate. There were more than 20 educators from Davis, Jordan, Cache, Beaver and some retired educators. There was even a fifth-grade student who came with her mother. When the student was introduced to her representative, Rep. Ryan Wilcox, he gave her a forty-minute social studies lesson on the Constitution and legislative process from the floor of the House.

Teachers met at 7 a.m. and heard about the bills that we going to be debated during the day. They then went to an 8 a.m. Education Appropriations Committee meeting (see below). Following the meeting, teachers had the opportunity to meet their representatives and senators and front of their chambers and to observe in the respective galleries.

During a lunchtime debriefing, teachers shared the conversations they had with legislators with the UEA Legislative Team. A few teachers attending EDOH for the first time reported back about how they were impressed with the concern their legislators had about education and how they wanted to be more involved communicating with their legislator during the session.

Finally, teachers attended a press conference held by House Democrats who were highlighting their education-related bills and funding proposals.

Public Education Appropriations Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): In the Education Appropriations Committee meeting, the State Board of Education presented its funding priorities. Rep. Francis Gibson reported that the number that he and Speaker Becky Lockhart will be proposing as part of their one-to-one device initiative is much larger than $50 million the State Board is requesting for technology.

Rep. Steve Eliason is proposing $1.5 million more for teacher supplies to compensate for the loss of the federal deduction that expires on December 31, 2014. The amount has been $5 million for the past several years.

The State Charter School Board and the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind also presented their funding priorities. The State Charter Board is requesting five new staff positions. Sen. Osmond mentioned that USDB is in dire need of a new building, a $12 million request.

Senate Education Committee (Reported by Tom Nedreberg): HB32: College Credit for Veterans, heard in the Senate Education Committee, requires Universities in the state to provide written notification to Veterans for them to meet with a counselor prior to receiving credit for military service. The bill passed out of the committee with a unanimous decision and no discussion.

SB98: Paraeducator Funding was amended to provide $50K instead of $100K to provide funding for Paraeducator to receive additional education to conform to higher educational standards. The bill passed out of the committee with a unanimous decision.

SB140: Advanced Placement Test Funding provides $100,000 for low-income students to be able to pay for tests after taking Advanced Placement classes. Each test costs about $85 and would be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. They would apply through school counselors. The bill passed unanimously out of the committee.

SB91: School District Modifications does two things: 1) sets parameters for how many signatures are needed in each precinct if a city wants to create a new school district, and 2) extends a sunset provision for the local levy equalization to be in 2020. Sen. Pat Jones expressed concern that it seems unfair to extend the Salt Lake County equalization, which has Granite, Murray City and Salt Lake City School Districts sending money to Jordan School District. Sen. Wayne Harper and Sen. Aaron Osmond disagreed with Sen. Jones’ assessment. Sen. Osmond suggested the problem of property tax equalization should be addressed on a larger scale than just Salt Lake County. After considerable discussion, the meeting was adjourned without taking action on the bill.

House Revenue and Taxation Committee (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): The House Revenue and Taxation Committee held HB84 (1st Sub.): School District Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Craig Hall. This bill provides that a city may not submit for voter approval a measure to create a new school district if the results of a feasibility study show that the five-year projected average annual revenue of the proposed new school district exceeds the five-year projected average annual cost of the proposed new school district by more than 5 percent. A representative from South Jordan City testified against the bill, saying that the legislation is a barrier to cities wishing to create their own school district.


February 6, 2014

House Floor (Reported by Jay Blain): In presenting his HB23: Suicide Prevention Revisions, Rep. Steve Eliason read a moving letter from a high school student. The bill would allow school employees to ask questions if they believe a student is having thoughts of harming themselves or others. He summarized it as a very common sense measure. The bill passed the House on a vote of 67-2. The UEA supports this bill.

HB241: School Record Amendments amends provisions related to parent notifications in bullying incidents. The sponsor explained that teachers would only have access if they were part of that specific bullying incident. The bill passed the House on a vote of 61-9. The UEA supports this bill.

HB226: Severance Tax Amendments puts into code the elements of a constitutional amendment passed by the voters. The bill passed the House unanimously.

Senate Floor (Reported by Sara Jones): Sen. Aaron Osmond presented SB103 (1st Sub.): Local Control of Classroom Time Requirements for a final vote. The bill would allow districts or charters to allocate up to eight days of instructional time for teacher professional development or planning time. UEA spoke in a committee hearing earlier this week to highlight the problems with sacrificing instructional time for professional development time and instead asked that the Legislature restore the more than $70 million that used to fund dedicated professional development days prior to the recession.

Sen. Jim Dabakis spoke against the bill saying it was a “draconian” measure and a “mistake.” Sen. Osmond acknowledged the need to find ways to fund professional development and teacher preparation and planning time but said this provided some options for districts in the meantime. The bill passed 21-6 and moves to the House.

House Education Committee (Reported by Sara Jones): The House Education Committee heard several bills. HB36: Charter School Enrollment Amendments allows a charter school to give an enrollment preference to a child or grandchild of an individual who actively participated in the development of the charter school or who is a member of the charter school governing board. The bill was also amended to include a provision that would allow a charter school to weight its lottery to give a slightly better chance of admission to educationally disadvantaged students. The bill passed unanimously.

HB250: Local School Board Amendments was recommended by the legislative education taskforce. This bill defines the term "body corporate" and identifies local school boards by that term. It also provides that an elected member of a local school board serves and represents the residents of the local school board member's district and may not be restricted by the board member's membership on, or obligations to, the local school board. The bill passed 15-1.

About an hour was spent discussing the final bill, HB96: Utah School Readiness Initiative. This bill creates a School Readiness Board, which would provide grants to high quality pre-K education programs and enter into contracts with private providers to fund pre-K education programs for at-risk students. The bill appropriates $5 million for the program and would also allow for “results-based school readiness contracts” in which private investors investing in pre-K programs would receive repayment if certain performance indicators are achieved. There was extensive discussion among the committee and public comment included both supporters and opponents speaking to the bill. The bill passed 13-3.

Senate Education Committee (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): The Senate Education Committee passed out SB148: UPSTART Program Amendments, with a favorable recommendation. The bill establishes the pre-K UPSTART program – begun five years ago by the Utah Legislature – as a permanent, non-pilot program. One evaluation of the program showed participants entered kindergarten three times better prepared than the control group, according to sponsor Sen. J. Stuart Adams.

The committee also heard testimony on SB38: Rural Superintendent Concurrent Education Program sponsored by Sen. Ralph Okerlund. The bill is an opportunity for students across the state to take concurrent education classes through interactive video conferencing. Any Utah high school student can take advantage of the opportunity and receive college credits through Snow College. The bill passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation.


February 7, 2014

Senate Floor (Reported by Mark Mickelsen): SB23: School Construction Amendments passed the Senate 28-0 and now moves to the House. The bill amends certain provisions related to the procurement process for public school construction.

Public Education Appropriations Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): The Public Education Appropriations Committee heard presentations from several education programs:

The IT Academy Microsoft program trains students to obtain Microsoft certifications. Their representative said there are 2,200 jobs open in Utah that would require these skills. Brandon Jacobsen, a teacher from North Sanpete High School, reported having 165 students in the program.

The Electronic Elementary Reading Assessment Tool records test results electronically. Representatives claim the program saves teachers time over traditional paper and pencil recording.

Student Leadership Grants program awarded 31 grants last year to schools implementing leadership programs. Sen. Aaron Osmond is requesting an additional $250,000 in ongoing funding for the program.

U of U Reading Clinic Expansion program is requesting an additional $275,000 of ongoing funds for schools that would like their help.

The Peer Assistance and Review pilot program was originally budgeted for $350,000 non-lapsing, but was cut to $37,500 last year. Logan Hall, facilitator who oversees the PAR program in Salt Lake School District, said there has “never been a program (like PAR) where the association and district can work together to hold teachers accountable.” He also said he is very impressed by the remediation process. Two teachers who run the program reported that the work they do is based on the ten state standards for effective teaching, they model teach and help new teachers understand the state teaching standards. Rep. Carol Spackman Moss strongly encouraged that the funding be prioritized to continue this pilot.

The Financial Literacy program enhances the teaching of financial literacy through teacher certification and assessment. Sen. Pat Jones says SB40: Financial and Economic Literacy Amendments is included in this request for $300,000 of ongoing and $200,000 of one-time funding.

Pro Start has 56 high schools participating in the program and should have up to 65 next year. They are requesting a continued appropriation for next year. Students who participate can be career-ready by earning state and national food industry certifications.

A Suicide Prevention grant program would provide $500 per middle school and high school to select a suicide prevention program of their choice.

Rep. Steve Eliason is requesting $85,000 for Utah State Capitol school field trip visits. This would provide about seven field trips per district, he said.

House Education Committee (Reported by Sara Jones): HB215: Public School Employee Background Checks would allow a district or charter school to use fingerprints on file for employees when conducting regular background checks. The bill would apply only to classified employees. UEA supports the bill and it was passed out of committee unanimously.

HB81: Parental Review of Statewide Summative Test Questions allows a parent or guardian of a student to review “any or all” test questions for any grade 3-12 statewide summative test. Rep. Michael Kennedy stated that since representatives from USOE were not able to be present to speak about the bill, he wanted to vet committee questions and then continue to work on the bill. He acknowledged that USOE estimates a cost of $28 million to create enough test questions to maintain test validity. Rep. Marie Poulson commented that as a teacher she never saw standardized tests in advance because that preserved the integrity of the test. Rep. Francis Gibson questioned whether the concern about test content was a significant problem before computer adaptive testing. UEA opposes the bill. The bill was held with no action taken.

HB292: School Grading - Calculation of High School Graduation Rate modifies how a high school graduation rate is calculated by excluding from the four-year cohort for a graduating class a student with an IEP that includes a plan to complete graduation requirements in more than four years. Several legislators raised concerns that the School Grading system currently is not fair for many special need students and others asked questions related to safeguards to prevent students who are struggling to graduate from being placed on an IEP in order to extend the time to graduate. The bill was amended to require USBE to report the number of students excluded from the 4-year cohort for each school. UEA supports the bill. The bill passed out of committee.

Educator Day on the Hill (Reported by Mike Kelley): The UEA held its second Educator Day on the Hill this week with about eight teachers attending. Teachers were successful in contacting their legislators on education issues. They also attended a Public Education Appropriations Committee meeting (see above).