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UEA Report on the 2015 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK FIVE: 

2015 LEGISLATURE WEEK FIVE SUMMARY: February 23-27

The pace at the Legislature quickened during Week Five. The UEA is now now tracking about 110 education-related bills. More than twice as many bills progressed through the lawmaking process this week than moved the previous week. During Friday’s UEA Educator Day on the Hill, educators participated in celebrations for NEA Read Across America Day and a public education funding press conference.

Public Education Budget: The final budget is now in the hands of the Executive Appropriations Committee. (See more about the budget.)

Educator Day on the Hill: Nearly 60 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. After a morning briefing, some of the teachers helped with the Cat in the Hat celebrations or with the refreshments provided by the UEA to the legislators in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday. The refreshments were served in the House and Senate break rooms at breaks sponsored by the UEA.

The Cat in the Hat along with UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh were presented on the House and Senate floor where a proclamation was read celebrating NEA’s Read Across America and Dr. Seuss. Sen. Deidre Henderson introduced the Cat on the Senate floor and Rep. Stephen Handy made the introduction in the House.

Because of the grave issues facing education, UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh talked during lunch about the importance of attending a public education rally, scheduled for Monday, March 9, 5:30 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda. The rally is being co-hosted by UEA, the Utah PTA, the Utah School Boards Association, the Utah School Superintendents Association and the Utah School Employees Association, among others.

A few teachers stuck around in the afternoon for a press conference to support increased funding for education. “Utah teachers, parents and students have waited for six years for an improved economy that might drive additional funding to support our public schools,” said Utah School Boards Association President Kristie Swett. “It is TIME to devote significant funding to Utah’s public schools.” In addition, to Swett, participants included presidents of the UEA, Utah PTA, Utah School Superintendents Association and Utah Association of School Business Officials.

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

HB77 (2nd sub.) Postretirement Employment Task Force establishes a task force to study postretirement employment issues. The bill passed the House 71-1.

HB114: Test Preparation Resources was substituted to expand the use of an outside vendor to provide test preparation resources for AP Test Taking. The bill failed in the House Education Committee on a 4-6 vote.

HB118 (1st sub.) Public Education Human Resource Management Act Revisions provides clarification between conduct and performance for teachers. The bill was described as a compromise with input from school district human resource directors and the UEA. It passed the House unanimously.

HB124 (1st sub.): Education Background Check Amendments was substituted. It removes the need to for fingerprints to be redone each time a teacher applies for relicensing. It also requires ongoing background checks for licensed and classified employees. The bill passed the House 71-0.

HB186 (2nd sub.): State School Board Membership and Election Amendments would eliminate the existing State Board of Education nominating committee and replace it with a direct, non-partisan election. The bill would require candidates to get a certain number of signatures (2,000) to be placed on the ballot to be in a non-partisan election. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House Education Committee and now goes to the full House (see also HJR16 and SB104).

HB198: Strengthening College and Career Readiness creates a program to provide grants to local education agencies for professional development for school counselors. It requires the Utah State Board of Education to collaborate with the Board of Regents. The bill passed the House 57-11.

HB203 (1st sub.): Teacher Salary Supplement Program Amendments increases the salary supplement already available to teachers in secondary math, science and chemistry by $1,000 per year until the supplement reaches $10,000. It also adds computer science and special education to the subject qualifying for the supplement. After considerable discussion, the bill passed the House 55-18.

HB207 (1st sub.) Educator Tax Credit provides a nonrefundable $50 tax credit for qualified educational expenses for educators. The bill passed the full House on a vote of 48-24 and the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee unanimously. It now goes to the full Senate.

HB263: State School Board Powers Modifications modified provisions relating to state school board powers. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HB293: STEM Program Amendments allows STEM endorsements to be used in lane changes for compensation purposes. It also adds USU-Eastern to the institutions that may partner to provide STEM endorsements. It passed the House unanimously.

HB301 (1st sub.) Pesticide Application Notification Amendments requires schools to provide notification before applying certain types of pesticides. The bill failed in the House on a vote of 29-43.

HB331: Professional Learning Grant Program restores $30 million for teacher professional development cut during the recent recession. The funding would be provided through a professional learning grant program. The bill passed the House Education Committee on a vote of 9-3.

HB345: Education Abuse Policy takes some rule making authority that has been with the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission (UPPAC) and gives it to the State Board of Education. The bill passed the House Education Committee on a vote of 10-2.

HCR7: Concurrent Resolution Urging Development of Methods to Minimize Excessive Testing and Its Negative Impacts on the Schoolchildren of Utah is supported by the UEA. It passed the House 70-1.

HJR16: Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Governance of Public Education proposes a constitutional amendment to change the selection of Utah Board of Education members from an election to a governor appointment. It would also change the number of school board members from 15 to 9. The bill passed the House Education Committee on a vote of 10-2 (see also HB186 and SB104).

SB33 (1st sub.): Public School Graduation Amendments would require schools to help parents and their children compare options of early graduation and college choices beginning in 8th grade. The bill would also increase the centennial scholarship amount for students who do graduate early from high school. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously, then failed in the House on a vote of 32-39, but was recalled by the House for reconsideration.

SB104 (5th sub.): Education Elections and Reporting Amendments would replace the current State Board of Education selection system with a partisan election. The bill, which has already passed the Senate, passed the House Education Committee with two no votes (see also HB186 and HJR16).

SB107 Computer Science Initiative provides a general fund appropriation of $2 million to the STEM Action Center for creating a computer science initiative in public schools. The bill passed the House Public Utilities and Technology Committee unanimously.

SB204 (1st sub.): Parental Rights in Public Education passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously. It modifies the requirements for excusing a student from attendance and taking certain tests. It also limits the grades in which a parent can request a student to be held on grade level to grades K-8.

HB208: School District Postemployment Health Insurance Benefits puts into code the requirement that school districts with open postemployment benefit plans must get onto an actuarial path to funding their benefits to stay open to new participants. The bill passed the House 68-4.

HB210: Early College High Schools exempts Early College High Schools from certain State Board Requirements and gives the schools leeway on the 180-day requirement for being in school. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

SB38: Behavioral Testing and Tracking Restrictions was on the House Consent Calendar and therefore there was no debate. The bill passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.

SB60 (1st sub.): American Civics Education Initiative provides for a new graduation requirement that each graduating student be required to pass the same civics test an immigrant has to pass to become a citizen. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

SB219 (1 sub.): World Language Proficiency Recognition would require proficiency in a world language as a graduation requirement. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB222: Digital Teaching and Learning diverts more than $75 million from the Education Fund to a digital teaching and learning program administered by the Utah Education Network. The bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee on a vote of 7-1.

SB227 (1st sub.): Charter School Revisions allows a charter school to apply to the State Charter Board and to have their charter changed. The Charter Board would then give notice to all charters and the district where the charter is located to apply to pick up the school’s charter. The bill passed the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee unanimously.

SB235: School Turnaround and Leadership Development Act would force the bottom 3% of schools each year, as measured by the school grading system based on SAGE, into a turnaround process. The bill requires the low-performing school to form a committee and use an outside expert chosen by the state school board and develop a plan that has to be approved by the state school board. The school and educators will be incentivized by receiving bonuses for raising the school letter grade. The bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee unanimously.


February 23, 2015

House Education Committee (reported by Tom Nedreberg): HB210: Early College High Schools was written to exempt Early College High Schools from certain State Board Requirements and to give the schools leeway on the 180-day requirement for being in school. According to the bill’s sponsor, this is because students who go to the six Early College High Schools attend UVU their senior year, which has a different calendar. Rep. Justin Fawson wanted to change listed universities that have partnered with high schools and to open it up to all institutions of higher education, including private schools like BYU and Westminster. Rep. Val Peterson stated the schools listed were part of the original program established 10 years ago and those schools have not changed.

State Supt. Brad Smith said the State Board had not taken a position but that he personally felt it was a good bill. A representative from Higher Education also expressed support. A high school director stated that much of the emphasis of the program is to have first generation students participate and provide them a head start with college. After making a few minor amendments, the bill passed unanimously.

Sen. Howard Stephenson said SB60: American Civics Education Initiative provides for a new graduation requirement that each graduating student be required to pass the same civics test an immigrant has to pass to become a citizen. He felt this was needed because so many people don’t know basic civics information as demonstrated on the Jay Leno show. Sen. Stephenson then presented a substituted bill, which changed the number of questions (students would study for all 100 questions but would be given a 50 item test) and the passing score required.

Rep. LaVar Christensen spoke in support of the bill. He stated that civics education should be the nucleus of education and not a peripheral. He also asked schools to report every year about their successes. Rep. Carol Moss said that many teachers have expressed frustration with the legislature requiring curriculum Teachers include things in their curriculum about civics already, she said. Mandating curriculum changes like this will lead to problems. Sen. Stephenson said this should not be a curriculum product and that no teacher should teach to this test. He also stated there should be no studying because everyone should know the answers.

Rep. Mike Noel said he saw a program on TV where college graduates and didn’t know these basic answers. Rep. Marie Poulson stated there are many things a high school student should be able to do, like writing, punctuation, math and so on, but didn’t feel it is right require it as part of graduation. Rep. Kim Coleman stated that her daughter passed the test in her class but 30 other senior students were not able to pass it. There may be some trivia kind of questions but there are basic questions about civil rights. Rep. Ken Ivory stated he felt we were on the verge of losing our republic. Too many students are taking their citizenship for granted, he said. We need to do this because so we can measure it…nothing ever changes unless you measure it, he said.

Supt. Smith stated the State Board has not taken a position on this bill but he personally believes in the bill. He then stated, “when performance is measured, performance improves.” He then talked about teaching two classes in Ogden last year he was dismayed at student lack of skill in civic issues and he strongly supported the bill. The substitute bill was moved passed the committee unanimously.

HB0114: Test Preparation Resources was substituted to expand the use of an outside vendor to provide test preparation resources for AP Test Taking. A representative of SMOOK, Utah’s AP Test Prep Vendor, spoke to the bill. He stated their company was number 1 in test prep. They don’t want to replace the teacher but supplement them. Rep. Brad Last stated that we could look at this as a vendor bill and he believed it is a vendor bill but it is subject to an RFP process and SMOOK could lost their contract. Rep. Carol Moss said there are many teachers that have tons of materials for AP test prep and not with this vender she is astounded that Utah is contracting out teachers jobs. Utah is ranked very high in those that succeed in AP and ACT tests. She felt this insulted teachers because of their own individual preparation and concern for students being discounted.

Sid Dixon from the Utah State Office of Education said State Board has not taken a position but asked about how SMOOK gets access to the proprietary info on the tests. Tami Pyfer spoke to the bill saying we already have a high pass rate and this is a bill in search of a problem. A teacher testified we did not need to spend the money on this bill but on technology or something else instead. The bill failed on a 4-6 vote.

Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee (reported by Jay Blain): Sen. Deidre Henderson began her presentation of SB227 (1st sub.): Charter School Revisions by saying that there are more than 100 charter schools in the state and there are not a lot of options for those that are having problems. This bill allows a charter school to apply to the State Charter Board and to have their charter changed. The Charter Board would then give notice to all charters and the district where the charter is located to apply to pick up the school’s charter. The applying charter must also hold a public hearing and notify all parents of students attending the school.

Sen. Stephenson asked if there is a trigger for the school improvement process. Sen. Henderson turned it over to Howard Headlee, Vice Chair of the State Charter School Board. Headlee said no because a local charter board could enter this process for more reasons than just danger of failing. Sen. Stephenson then suggested that in the future maybe legislation would be in order to have a trigger.

Sen. Jim Dabakis asked when are we going to engage in a long-term plan for charter schools instead of piecemeal legislation like this bill? Headlee responded that was a great question but this bill was needed because if we are going to continue to have good experiments with charter schools then we need ways to resolve failed experiments. Kim Frank of the Utah Charter Network spoke in favor of the bill. The bill passed the committee unanimously.

House Floor (reported by Jay Blain): SB38: Behavioral Testing and Tracking Restrictions was on the House Consent Calendar and therefore there was no debate and the bill passed the House unanimously.

HB77 (2nd sub.) Postretirement Employment Task Force establishes a task force to study postretirement employment issues. He reported that qualified employees are retiring and leaving the state to work in other states. Rep. Rich Cunningham also mentioned that the data he looked at now doesn’t match the data from 2010. Hiring early retirees did not cause the shortfall during the economic downturn and totally eliminating it will not erase the unfunded liability.

Rep. Kraig Powell complimented Rep. Cunningham on the approach he has taken on this bill and said this is needed because it is necessary to examine the changes that were made in 2010. The bill passed 71-1.

HB207 (1st sub.): Educator Tax Credit provides for a nonrefundable tax credit for certain expenses that an educator incurs. Rep. Steve Eliason substituted the bill, adding a study to provide information about the amount teachers are spending out of pocket. The educator must keep receipts and the expense must be non-reimbursed and is $50. He acknowledged that the amount is small and that in other businesses supplies are always provided.

Rep. Bruce Cutler said that sends a good signal that we are listening to teachers. Rep. Fred Cox asked if doubling or tripling the allocation for teacher supplies might be a better way of accomplishing this. Rep. Ivory said this is a good idea and he supports it as did Rep. Jake Anderegg.

Rep. Dan McCay says that we are voting for a $50 credit with no oversight and no prioritization. It is probably the least transparent appropriation we will make this session. Districts have told them classrooms have everything they need, he said. Rep. Mel Brown noted that the first appropriation for teacher supplies was $5 million and the mistake was not making it ongoing at that time. We are creating a camel’s nose in the tent with a tax credit, he said. The other concern is for $50 we are creating an administrative oversight for the tax commission. So for those reasons he will vote no.

After discussion and other representatives speaking both for and against the proposal, the bill passed on a vote of 48-24.

HB118 (1st sub.) Public Education Human Resource Management Act Revisions provides clarification between conduct and performance for teachers. The sponsor, Rep. Brad Last, said this bill is a compromise with input from school district human resource directors and the UEA. He said he is concerned about how fast some HR directors might move to terminate somebody on a conduct basis and bypass due process. He assured him that both parties are comfortable with the protections in the bill. It passed the House unanimously.

HB124 (1st sub.): Education Background Check Amendments was substituted. It removes the need to for fingerprints to be redone each time a teachers applies for relicensing. It also requires ongoing background checks for licensed and classified employees. The bill passed 71-0.

HB198: Strengthening College and Career Readiness creates a program to provide grants to local education agencies for professional development for school counselors. It requires the Utah State Board of Education to collaborate with the Board of Regents. No counselor will be required to complete the certificate program in theses competencies. The program will be available online so it will be available statewide. The fiscal note is $440,000, but Rep. Arent stressed that it would be worth it in the amount of scholarships earned. The bill passed 57-11.

HB203: Teacher Salary Supplement Program Amendments was substituted to add Computer Science and Special Education teachers to the supplement program. Rep. Fawson spoke against the bill because he is concerned the funding might be going to schools or districts where there is no need. Districts might have needs in other areas. We need to offer these funds in a less restrictive way so districts can decide how to use the funds locally, he said.

Rep. Moss agreed with Rep. Fawson and said that English teachers have many demands on their time and many are leaving the profession because the job is taking over their lives. Rep. Joel Briscoe said he understands the theory, but is concerned about the fiscal note…$13 million is about 0.5% on the WPU. We talk about picking winners and losers and with this bill we are picking winners, he said. After considerable discussion, the bill passed 55-18.


February 24, 2015

House Education Committee (reported by Chase Clyde and Jay Blain): Rep. Brad Last presented HB331: Professional Learning Grant Program. Before the most recent recession there was an $80 million line item in the budget called “quality teaching.” The funding for this line item was essentially cut and used to shore up the WPU during the recession. Before the cuts, the money was being used to add additional days to teacher contracts and allow them to do professional development and get paid for it, he said.

Rep. Last’s bill, if funded in the appropriations process, would give the State Office of Education $30 million to work with LEAs to develop professional learning opportunities.

Deputy State Supt. Sydney Dixon spoke in support of the bill. She talked about how as time goes on, more research is done, and teaching methods change. Instruction methods change and teachers need this professionally learning. Rep. David Lifferth noted the large fiscal note. He questioned whether it would be wiser to put the money into the WPU. Rep. Justin Fawson and Rep. Kim Coleman asked similar questions.

Dixon said that teachers are willing and wanting to have professional learning. This bill allows the State Office to look at data and figure out how to use professional learning to help teachers and kids in specific circumstances.

Rep. Last emphasized this used to be an important line item. Leadership will decide if this bill gets funded and how big the WPU will be, he said. All that $80 million was taken during the recession and given to the WPU. Districts eliminated money and days from contracts. Less pay for teachers, less professional development for teachers.

Rep. Marie Poulson commented that by losing this professional development line item during the recession actually equaled a decrease in salary because teachers lost the professional development money. She said she wants to see the line item back as well as a significant increase in the WPU.

Rep. Last said this is a direct way that money will end up in teacher salaries. We need to have a statewide plan for professional development. Making sure we are implementing the best practices and using the best data.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss said she is torn between giving the money to the WPU and making sure this money gets to teachers via professional development. Overall she said this is a way to assure quality professional development.

UEA Legislative Team member Sara Jones spoke in support of the bill. She emphasized the importance of professional development for teachers. Creation of these plans at the district level should include input from teachers, administrators, and include the goals of the district. This year with substantial new revenue, this is not a threat to WPU, this is another supplemental investment in our public education system. PTA also spoke in support of the bill.

Rep. Francis Gibson talked about how he disliked seeing the professional development get cut during the session. He supports seeing it come back. Rep. Steve Eliason said people ask what the State office does with all its money. Should we give more money and responsibility to the state office? WPU vs. more money for state office debate is important.

Rep. Last said the grants will fund an approved LEA professional development fund. In a sense it becomes a block grant. Competition is essentially who wants the money. Districts don’t have additional money for the extra days for professional development. Rep. Last hopes we can fund this line, get it back to where it was and ABOVE that eventually. Also, fund WPU this year and keep funding it going forward.

The bill passed the committee on a vote of 9-3.

Rep. Norm Thurston presented HB263: State School Board Powers Modifications. Rep. Thurston said the intent of his bill is to adopt into statute the actual responsibilities of the State Board of Education. The Judiciary Branch via case law indicates that the Board is not a legislative body, he said. The Board serves an executive function, a strong one, managing the education system in Utah.

Rep. Thurston says some people have categorized this bill as a power grab, while other people say this bill is cutting the State Board loose. Thurston reiterated his intention is to clarify what the State School Board does.

Rep. Poulson asked if the bill’s intent is to diminish or increase state board’s position. Rep. Thurston said the courts have been very clear on this. He is trying to put what the courts say into statute.

State Supt. Brad Smith said the State School Board has not taken a position on this bill. He agreed overall that this bill is pulling language out of case law and putting it into statute. However, he said he doesn’t see why putting it into statute is necessary. The State Supreme Court is the arbiter of what the constitution says.

Rep. Thurston said this is an opportunity as a Legislature to define what the role of the State Board is. The bill passed unanimously.

Sen. Aaron Osmond presented SB33 (1st sub.): Public School Graduation Amendments. The bill addresses issues related to graduation requirements and what it means to be college ready. The bill also increases the amount for the Century Scholarship from $1,000 to $2,000. Sen. Osmond said his goal is to proactively communicate these options to parents and students in the 8th grade and continue that communication going forward.

Rep. Coleman asked “Why isn’t this already happening?” Sen. Osmond responded that some in education feel that graduating early is not always the best option. He said he feels that that decision should be made by the parents and student.

Rep. Poulson asked why there isn’t a fiscal note on the bill. Sen. Osmond said even with the increase in the cost of the scholarship, it ends up saving money because less students stay in school the full four years. He said he wants to reinforce support for this scholarship. The bill passed unanimously.

HB345: Education Abuse Policy restores some rule making authority to the State School Board that has been with the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission (UPPAC). It classifies certain crimes to make somebody ineligible to get a license or retain one if already licensed.

A few victims of sexual abuse from years ago cam to testify, asking the committee to support this bill so sexual abusers would not get their license back.

UEA Executive Director Lisa Nentl-Bloom testified against the bill, raising the concern that this bill had not yet been shared with the State School Board. This is a significant change in processing license issues without determining the unintended consequences, she said.

Heidi Alder, former attorney with UPPAC, cited state code that already requires permanent revocation of license for anyone with conviction or even a preponderance of evidence of a sexual offense. She also gave data about the fact that reinstatement is not a presumption. She stated that there were 10-12 cases per year of a sexual nature in UPPAC.

Supt. Smith says he had a hand in redrafting the bill. The governance and sanctions are separate pieces. He believes that the rulemaking should be with the Board and UPPAC is a vital and necessary entity. Smith was asked if there are unforeseen problems and he replied that there might be.

The bill passed the committee on a vote of 10-2.

Senate Education Committee: SB204 (1st sub.): Parental Rights in Public Education passed the committee unanimously. It modifies the requirements for excusing a student from attendance and taking certain tests. It also limits the grades in which a parent can request a student to be held on grade level to grades K-8.

SB219 (1 sub.): World Language Proficiency Recognition would require proficiency in a world language as a graduation requirement. It passed the committee unanimously.

House Floor (reported by Jay Blain): HB208: School District Postemployment Health Insurance Benefits puts into code the requirement that school districts with open postemployment benefit plans must get onto an actuarial path to funding their benefits to stay open to new participants. The bill passed 68-4.


February 25, 2015

Senate Education Committee (reported by Jay Blain): In presenting SB222: Digital Teaching and Learning, Sen. Howard Stephenson said there has been a movement to go to 1:1 devices, but unfortunately usually student performance drops. He said it is because we are overlaying a device on a nineteenth-century classroom. Fortunately, according to Sen. Stephenson, a framework was started last year with technology directors and superintendents and it has been inserted into this legislation. Money will be partially distributed based on taxing effort. Also, districts won’t be “punished” for already taking the lead on this issue. He is very passionate about individualizing learning. He claims that this allow all students to learn with their own style.

Sen. Aaron Osmond asked what structure would be built under this bill. Sen. Stephenson explained that the tech deployment and support will be under Utah Education Network and the curriculum and training will be under the Utah State Office of Education and the Utah State Board of Education. We don’t want to dictate to a school district or charter school what hardware or software to use but they do need to develop a plan that will need to be approved to receive their funds.

State Supt. Brad Smith said this one of the few bills on which the State Board of Education has taken a position and they support it. It is prioritized just below funding growth and the WPU. He says the bill epitomizes the best we can offer. The collaboration was inspiring to watch, he said.

Sen. Jim Dabakis said that, without a new funding source, he cannot support this when we are so strapped in other areas.

Wasatch District Superintendent Terry Shoemaker said they have been involved in the development of this bill for months, along with both rural and urban superintendents. There were long, strong conversations to get where we are today, he said.

The bill passed out of committee with only Sen. Dabakis voting against.

SB235: School Turnaround and Leadership Development Act would force schools that receive an “F” into a turnaround process. Sen. Wayne Neiderhauser said he believes this bill is a good first draft looks forward to beginning work on a bill that hopefully will get passed this session.

The bill requires the low-performing school to form a committee and use an outside expert chosen by the state school board and develop a plan that has to be approved by the state school board. The school and educators will be incentivized by receiving bonuses for raising the school letter grade, according to Sen. Niederhauser.

Sen. Osmond said he believes one year is too soon and that the State Board should also have more criteria than just the letter grade to determine a low-performing school. He used the PACE model as an example.

Supt. Smith said he heartily supports this bill, even though there is much to be improved. “What we are talking about is a systems approach,” he said.

Carolyn White, past president of the Utah School Boards Association said she was very disheartened that the state went to grading schools at all. “We have two ‘F’ schools in Beaver because they were moved down to meet a quota,” she said. “I am appalled that we have to grade schools in this manner.”

UEA Legislative Team member Sara Jones also expressed the need to use multiple measures to identify struggling schools. She questioned whether the SAGE assessment was really and appropriate way to identify the schools that are struggling. If the goal is to support instructional improvement then eliminating teacher accountability provisions, as the bill requires, is counterproductive because it would eliminate the evaluation of teachers in these schools, she said.

The bill passed out of committee unanimously.

House Floor (reported by Jay Blain): HB293: STEM Program Amendments was characterized by the sponsor as a housecleaning bill. Among other things, it allows STEM endorsements to be used in lane changes for compensation purposes. It also adds USU-Eastern to the institutions that may partner to provide STEM endorsements. It passed unanimously.

Rep. Marie Poulson said HCR7: Concurrent Resolution Urging Development of Methods to Minimize Excessive Testing and Its Negative Impacts on the Schoolchildren of Utah is not meant to disparage state or local school boards and is constituent driven. She emphasized some of the major points of the resolution such as learning time lost to testing, the misuse of testing and tying up technology for testing.

Rep. Brad King said “you don’t make a cow fatter by weighing it more often.” The only thing worse than too many tests is changing the tests too often or the curriculum, he said. It is time we slow things down a look at assessment and not at high-stakes testing.

The resolution, which is supported by the UEA, passed 70-1.

HB301 (1st sub.) Pesticide Application Notification Amendments requires schools to provide notification before applying certain types of pesticides. Rep. Brian King recounted the story of the two young girls who died after a pesticide application at their home. A school districts or charter school must provide notifications if pesticides are being applied inside or outside of a school. He says they are trying to strike the right balance to provide a balance between notification and not being onerous to the school districts.

The bill failed on a vote of 29-43.


February 26, 2015

House Education Committee (reported by Tom Nedreberg): All the bills heard in the House Education Committee today dealt with selection of members to serve on the State Board of Education. Committee Chairman Rep. Brad Last said he wanted to give the sponsors of each bill 10 minutes to explain their proposal. He then wanted to have the public be able to speak to all the bills and finally vote on the bills at the end.

HB186 (2nd sub.): State School Board Membership and Election Amendments would eliminate the existing State Board of Education nominating committee and replace it with a direct, non-partisan election. The bill would require candidates to get a certain number of signatures (2000) to be placed on the ballot to be in a non-partisan election. It also increases the stipend for the members of the state school board on a daily basis to be equal to the amount legislators received daily.

(See discussion notes on the bills below) Reps. Dan McCay, Carol Moss and Marie Poulson spoke in favor of passing the bill on to the full House. The bill passed with only Rep. David Lifferth voting against.

HB305: State Board of Education Membership Amendments would have State Board of Education members appointed by the Governor with approval by the Senate. For 2016, Board members would be selected in partisan elections. This change would require a constitutional amendment change in a public vote.

(See discussion notes on the bills below) The bill was held by the committee in a unanimous vote.

HJR16: Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Governance of Public Education is the companion to HB305, proposing a constitutional amendment to change the selection from an election to an appointment from the governor. It would also change the number of school board members from 15 to 9. Rep. McCay said he feels that the system wouldn’t be fixed with either partisan or non-partisan elections and that having the governor appoint school board members would provide a constitutional check on the system.

Rep. Last stated if a partisan or non-partisan bill was passed it would serve until the 2016 election at which point this resolution would be considered. If it passed in a public vote, it would be the law. If it did not, then whatever law passed would be the law.

(See discussion notes on the bills below) The bill passed on a vote of 10-2.

SB104 (5th sub.): Education Elections and Reporting Amendments is about vetting and “preserving the caucus system,” according to Sen. Alvin Jackson. It would replace the current State Board of Education selection system with a partisan election. The system allows citizens to vet candidates to be chosen by delegates who love this country and with the principles of a republic be able to choose who they want to be elected, he said.

(See discussion notes on the bills below) Sen. Jackson said that the fifth substitute of the bill removes the provision for any partisan school board races at the local level. The bill, which has already passed the Senate, passed the committee with two no votes.

HB297: State School Board Elections Amendments provide a fourth option for selecting State Board of Education members. Rep. Norm Thurston said it is not his intent to disparage the other ideas but he wanted to find another solution that may address some of the weaknesses of the other solutions. This bill would align the state school board districts with present school districts and then the local school boards would choose their state school board members. According to Rep. Thurston, this would allow parents to interact with their own school boards to express their opinions about the state school board. It would avoid the problems of big money in partisan or non-partisan elections.

(See discussion notes on the bills below) A motion to hold the bill in committee passed unanimously.

HB342: Amendments to State School Board Election Process  would create non-partisan elections for State Board of Education members but would require a candidate for state school board at the time filing be a member of a local or charter school board. The purpose would be to bring greater understanding between local and state levels, said Rep. Kraig Powell. This would also help with experience building from the base of local school boards and be a part of the major leagues at the state level. It would still be separate and distinct but would provide a connection to local school boards and the people, he said.

(See discussion notes on the bills below) A motion to hold the bill in committee passed on a vote of 11-1.

Public discussion on State Board of Education selection bills:

Royce Van Tassel from the Utah Taxpayers Association said that prior non-partisan elections had resulted in elections that produced a school board that was very hostile to charter schools. He said he felt that clearly showed the need for partisan elections.

Heather Gardner, former candidate for state school board who was not selected by the committee, spoke in favor of partisan elections.

Allison Williams spoke for partisan elections. She feels the only way to interact with candidates is through the party system. She had a problem with a state school board and felt that he was not electorally accountable to the people he represents. She wants him to be accountable to her. She also presented a petition of 1200 signatures who support partisan elections.

A representative from The Sutherland Institute stated their support of SB104 and partisan elections. They said it is less about party politics but more about vetting. In a small area like a city, non-partisan elections work well but not with large school districts, he said.

Gayle Ruzika, Utah Eagle Forum, stated when she attends state school board she doesn’t know the people there. It is a different process at the state level and you don’t know anyone. It’s time now to have partisan elections so we can know the people that are running and serving, she said.

Lady Benedict from Parents Involved in Education (PIE) said their group believes that non-partisan elections are the way to stand up for schools and that partisan elections are not good for children. She then presented a petition of 1,700 signatures gathered in a social media campaign to support non-partisan elections.

UEA Executive Director Lisa Nenl-Bloom said the UEA supports Rep. Francis Gibson’s non-partisan bill. It will be a better system for children in Utah, she said.

Mary Nelson, a school board member from Juab talked about being selected as a delegate when she didn’t go to a neighborhood meeting. When she became a school member she was vetted by the community as she went and talked to them but as a state delegate she was not vetted at all, she said. With a non-partisan election to the school board, she felt she was very much vetted.

Jody Sundberg, representing the Utah School Boards Association, thanked Rep. Jackson for removing local school boards from his bill. In her election in her local board she has events, mailings and when they vote they know her, she said. She was involved in a primary and all could vote. If we have partisan elections, Democrats and independents could not vote, she said.

Deon Turley representing the Utah PTA shared a resolution from that group supporting non-partisan elections.

Members of the committee then discussed options. Rep. Last asked for a straw poll of committee members. He said it appeared the majority of committee supports partisan elections at the state level and don’t support partisan elections at local level so he asked to accomplish this with the bills before them.

Rep. Kim Coleman said there appeared to be no bills to satisfy both. Rep. Moss suggested that they should listen to the community and let the full House determine what to do. The committee should give both the partisan and non-partisan options an opportunity on the floor, she said. Rep. Gibson said he has been a representative for six years and the partisan bill has failed every year. Rep. LaVar Christensen said the committee should discuss the merits of each bill and give some guidance to the body. There is merit in sending a couple of choices to the full House, he said.

House Public Utilities and Technology Committee (reported by Jay Blain): SB107 Computer Science Initiative provides a general fund appropriation of $2 million to the STEM Action Center for creating a computer science initiative in public schools. Sen. Howard Stephenson said that by 2020 we will have 1.2 million open jobs in programming. This bill provides the opportunity to have more secondary schools to have more coding in their schools, he said.

Rep. Patrice Arent asked about the professional development component of the bill. Sen. Stephenson responded that it will be left to the state and local boards to allow for that.  He added that we need to shift our education to be just-in-time knowledge because we can look things up and not memorization of facts. Rep. Arent followed up by asking if districts could do this on their own without the bill. Stephenson said ‘yes,’ but this bill helps get their attention because they have so much minutiae on their plates.

The bill passed the committee unanimously.


February 27, 2015

Educator Day on the Hill (reported by Mike Kelley): Nearly 60 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 many serious issues facing public schools and some bills of grave concern to educators.

After the morning briefing, some of the teachers helped with the Cat in the Hat celebrations or with the refreshments provided by the UEA to the legislators in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday. The refreshments were served in the House and Senate break rooms at breaks sponsored by the UEA. The Cat in the Hat along with UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh were presented on the House and Senate where a proclamation was read celebrating NEA’s Read Across America and Dr. Seuss. Sen. Deidre Henderson introduced the Cat on the Senate floor and Rep. Stephen Handy 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.

During lunch, teachers reported back on what they heard from their representatives. Reps. Joel Briscoe, Marc Roberts, Carol Spackman Moss and Sen. Ann Millner stopped by to visit with teachers, share information about their bills and thank the teachers for their work and also for coming to the hill.

Because of the grave issues facing education, UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh talked about the importance of attending a public education rally, scheduled for Monday, March 9, 5:30 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda. The rally is being co-hosted by UEA, the Utah PTA, the Utah School Boards Association, the Utah School Superintendents Association and the Utah School Employees Association, among others.

Finally, teachers heard from Gallagher-Fishbaugh about the importance of contributing to U-PAC to help UEA build relationships with legislators of both parties. There was also some discussion about the importance of helping to elect education-friendly delegates and candidates.

A few teachers stuck around in the afternoon for a press conference to support increased funding for education. “Utah teachers, parents and students have waited for six years for an improved economy that might drive additional funding to support our public schools,” said Utah School Boards Association President Kristie Swett. “It is TIME to devote significant funding to Utah’s public schools.” In addition, to Swett, participants included presidents of the UEA, Utah PTA, Utah School Superintendents Association and Utah Association of School Business Officials.

There is one more Educator Day on the Hill for this session on Friday, March 6. The biggest push for legislation is during the last few days so it’s important for teachers to join the UEA Legislative Team and talk to their representatives and senators to help them understand the issues classroom teachers face.

Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee (reported by Jay Blain): HB207 (1st sub.) Educator Tax Credit provides a nonrefundable $50 tax credit for qualified educational expenses for educators. This bill originated when the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Eliason, was talking to one of his children’s teachers and she related to him how much she spends out of her own pocket. In the business world employees have their expenses covered. This is a simple way to show teachers are hearing them about their needs, he said, adding that frankly he is embarrassed that it is such a small amount. Another reason for this bill is because of the expiration of the federal credit and to show that Utah can do things on their own without the Federal intrusion, he said.

Sen. Howard Stephenson wondered if a tax credit is the correct vehicle or if the appropriation for teacher supply money should be increased to get this done. We should make it one system instead of two, he suggested.

Kate Bradshaw spoke as an individual whose husband is an art teacher in Davis County. She listed some of the expenses that her husband had in July last year. His supply money is often spent in the first month. This sends a good signal that the legislature is listening and urged support of the bill. Tom Black from Farr West spoke as a father of seven children who have reaped the benefits of the public education system and he appreciates that this bill will reward teachers for their efforts.

The bill passed the committee unanimously.