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UEA Report on the 2015 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK SIX: 

2015 LEGISLATURE WEEK SIX SUMMARY: March 2-6

With just four days left in the 2015 General Legislative Session, the number of education bills being tracked by UEA increased to 119. Action was taken on about 50 of those during Week Five. The Executive Appropriations Committee also approved a budget that increases the WPU by 4% over the current year.

Public Education Budget: The Executive Appropriations Committee approved a funding proposal that restores all the items cut by the Committee in its 2% budget-cutting “exercise”, funds new student growth and adds 4% to the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU). Many in the education community expressed disappointment that the WPU increase was not higher, considering the Governor’s request for a 6.25% WPU increase. (See more about the budget.)

Educator Day on the Hill: Nearly 50 educators from Salt Lake, Granite, Jordan, Canyons, Alpine, Grand, Nebo and Weber, along with several retired educators, met in the Copper Room of the Senate Building for the final Educator Day on the Hill of the 2015 Legislative Session. In all, about 400 educators attended the six Educator Day on the Hill events held in 2015, far more than in any other year.

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

HB49 (3rd sub.): Clean Fuel School Buses and Infrastructure distributes money through the capital outlay distribution with the first use of the money to replace the dirty buses. School districts that don’t have dirty buses could use the money for other purposes. This would make it more equitable to more districts. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB68 (2nd sub.): Student Privacy Act describes what kinds of student data may be collected and under what circumstances and provides for protection of student data privacy. The fiscal note estimates a cost of $758,000 to the State Office of Education to implement these data provisions. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HB93 (1st sub.): School District Amendments amends provisions related to the creation of a new school district. The bill passed the House Education Committee 5-3.

HB118 (1st sub.): Public Education Human Resource Management Act Revisions would clarify dismissal procedures when an educator exhibits both performance and conduct issues. Lisa Nentl-Bloom, UEA Executive Director expressed UEA support. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB124 (1st sub.): Education Background Check Amendments changes requirements for educators to get re-fingerprinted multiple times over their career. UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh spoke in favor of the bill. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB197 (1st sub.): Educator Licensing Amendments allows people to become school principals without education experience or a teaching license. A substitute bill broadens the applicant pool but does not require a change hiring process. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB134: Tax Credit for Home-Schooling Parent was presented as a way to improve home schooling to in Utah by providing tax credits for those who home school. The bill failed in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee 6-7.

HB198: Strengthening College and Career Readiness helps schools provide an up-to-date counselor program, which would also be available online. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB203 (1st sub.): Teacher Salary Supplement Program Amendments provides chemistry, math and physics teachers with additional salary. It also adds computer science and special education teachers to the formula. It moves the salary adjustment from $4,100 to $5,100 and then adds $1,000 a year until it gets to $10,000. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB208: School District Postemployment Health Insurance Benefits requires school districts to fully fund their post-retirement insurance benefits. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and was put on the consent calendar.

HB210 (1st sub.): Early College High Schools would change the 180-day rule for school attendance for schools involved in the early high school movement providing a fully transferable Associates Degree. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB213 (2 sub.): Safe Technology Utilization and Digital Citizenship in Public Schools requires schools to provide Internet filtering for devices student use both on and off campus. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB263: State School Board Powers Modifications modifies provisions relating to state school board powers. The bill failed in the House by a vote of 12-62.

HB293: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Program Amendments modifies provisions related to the STEM Action Center. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

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 by a vote of 66-8 and passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB335: STEM Action Center Amendments would allocate $716,000 to create a Southern Utah STEM Initiative at SUU and Dixie State to offer STEM education activities and professional learning. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HB337: Career and Technical Education Comprehensive Study creates a CTE Board to pursue a comprehensive study of CTE programs in the state and made recommendations to the Legislature. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HB345 (2nd sub.): Education Abuse Policy puts the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Committee (UPPAC) in an advisory role to the State Board of Education in educator licensing regulations. The bill passed the full House and the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB363 School Land Trust Program Amendments raises the cap on the allowable disbursements from the interest and dividends from the fund to the School Trust Lands program from 2% to 3%. It also has some clarification on the types of plans that school community councils can have. The bill passed the House unanimously.

HB367: Education Ethics Training Requirement requires educators and certain school volunteers to complete ethics training upon being hired and again every five years. Sara Jones, representing UEA, spoke in support of the legislation. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HB397: Local School Funding Options would provide block grants for almost all state money to local districts and charters who elected to participate in a pilot program. Jay Blain of UEA recommended that the bill should go to interim study so that all of the implications could be examined. The House Political Subdivisions Committee voted to hold the bill and recommend interim study.

HB403: Online Education Survey Amendments amends an existing online school survey program established to survey parents, students and teachers to provide feedback on schools or for educator evaluation. The survey is provided to school districts and charter schools for their use but is not required to be used. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HCR7: Concurrent Resolution Urging Development of Methods to Minimize Excessive Testing and its Negative Impacts on the Schoolchildren of Utah passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and was placed on Senate consent calendar. This resolution is supported by the UEA.

HCR9 (1st sub.): Concurrent Resolution on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act calls on Congress to reauthorize ESEA and allows the State Board of Education to seek a waiver for flexibility to be in control of our educational system. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HR5: House Resolution Regarding Mathematics Proficiency among High School Students calls on the State Board to consider a four year math requirement. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

SB84 (1st sub.): State Control of Nutrition Standards provides for state control of school nutrition standards. The bill failed in the Senate Education Committee 3-3.

SB97 (3rd sub.): Property Tax Equalization Amendments brings all districts’ voted leeway’s guarantees to at least the level at which we are supporting charter schools. The bill passed the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on a vote of 6-4.

SB106: Class Size Reduction Program Amendments distributes $8 million to school districts to help with class size reduction and $2 million to help with high enrollment property tax adjustments for facilities. The bill failed in the House Education Committee on a vote of 3-6.

SB114: Board of Education Compensation Amendments increases compensation for State Board of Education members and provides that the Legislature will set State Board compensation annually in an appropriation bill. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

SB116 (3rd sub.): Public School Dropout Recovery would require school districts and charter schools to provide dropout recovery services and would allow the services to be provided by an outside vendor. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

SB117: Interventions for Reading Difficulties Pilot creates a pilot program to provide intervention for students with reading difficulties, including dyslexia. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

SB151 (1st sub.): National Board Certification Scholarships for Teachers creates a National Board Certification Scholarship Program. It will also pay for scholarships for a limited number of National Board candidates. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB196 (2nd sub.): Math Competency Initiative would require the State Board of Education to make rules about math competency standards as a requirement for graduation. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

SB245 (1st sub.): School Grading Amendments will allow the State Board of Education to exempt special needs schools along with alternative high schools from school grading requirements. The exempted schools will be place on an accountability plan. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB253: Exceptions for Privately Funded Scholarships would expand privately funded scholarships. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB260 (3rd sub.): Teacher Termination Procedures provides clarity for local districts when teachers resign and districts impose a fine. A third substitute was moved and passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB263: Early Reading Amendments expands the number of venders that can provide a diagnostic assessment system for early reading. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB268: Student Leadership Skills Grant would make permanent a one-time grant passed last year. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB270: Carson Smith Scholarship Amendments would reduce the age at which a student could receive the scholarship and set a time limit for a private school that receives the scholarship. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and was placed on the consent calendar.

SB275: Educator Licensure Amendments would open up the credentialing process for teachers to teach online courses from out of state. UEA Legislative Team member Sara Jones noted that every teacher should meet the same high standard. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB279: Student Assessment Task Force creates a taskforce to review current state mandated assessments as well as competency based learning. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB283: Post-Secondary Career and Educational Choice establishes an evaluation panel to examine Utah Futures and compare it to similar tools. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB284: Charter School Funding Revisions would increase the local replacement funding for Charter Schools to 50% as has been proposed by Public Education Appropriations Committee. A motion to send this to interim study failed 3-3 in the Senate Education Committee. No other action was taken on the bill.

SB285: Student-Centered Learning Pilot Program creates a student-centered learning pilot program. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SCR5: Concurrent Resolution Regarding Western Governors University recognizes the good job Western Governors University is doingThe bill narrowly passed the House Education Committee with a favorable recommendation on a vote of 5-4.


March 2, 2015

Senate Education Committee (reported by Tom Nedreberg): Sen. Ann Millner explained that since there were so many items to discuss, she wanted to still use Senate rules but limit time to 10 minutes per presenter for each bill and 10 minutes for public input.

SB253: Exceptions for Privately Funded Scholarships would expand privately funded scholarships. The bill passed unanimously.

SB263: Early Reading Amendments expands the number of venders that can provide a diagnostic assessment system for early reading. Sen. Jerry Stevenson said we have several reading programs and he wants to direct the state to look at the multiple programs. The bill passed unanimously.

SB270: Carson Smith Scholarship Amendments passed the committee unanimously and was placed on the consent calendar. It would reduce the age at which a student could receive the scholarship and set a time limit for a private school that receives the scholarship.

SB275: Educator Licensure Amendments would open up the credentialing process for teachers to teach online courses from out of state. State Asst. Supt. Sid Dixon spoke saying the state office has a process for online providers to get quick Utah Certificate and she didn’t feel the process should be changed. She expressed concern was being able to look at the credential of an individual from another state. UEA Legislative Team member Sara Jones spoke of UEA’s concern on how every teacher needs to meet the same high standard. The bill passed the committee unanimously.

SB268: Student Leadership Skills Grant would make permanent a one-time financed grant passed last year. Sen. Aaron Osmond distributed six letters from the six schools that had this program last year. The letters stated how each school was able to reduce bullying and improve academics. Sen. Howard Stephenson spoke in favor of the program saying it was a powerful program. One parent talked about how this is such a wonderful program that it should be expanded. The bill was passed unanimously.

Rep. Patrice Arent introduced HB198: Strengthening College and Career Readiness  that helps schools provide an up-to-date counselor program, which would also be available online. Sen. Stephenson spoke highly of the bill. Members of the public also spoke very highly of the bill saying school counselors need high quality professional development and this bill would provide it. The Utah PTA stated that this was one of their priority bills and expressed support. The bill passed unanimously.

House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones and Chase Clyde): HB335: STEM Action Center Amendments was presented by Rep. Jon Stanard. The bill would allocate $716,000 to create a Southern Utah STEM Initiative at SUU and Dixie State to offer STEM education activities and professional learning. Several questions were asked about where the funding for this initiative would be found from the education fund. The bill passed unanimously.

HB93 (1st sub.): School District Amendments was presented by Rep. Kraig Hall. The bill amends provisions related to the creation of a new school district. The bill passed 5-3.

HB68 (2nd sub.): Student Privacy Act was presented by Rep. Jake Anderegg. The bill describes what kinds of student data may be collected and under what circumstances and provides for protection of student data privacy. The fiscal note estimates a cost of $758,000 to the State Office of Education to implement these data provisions. Several education stakeholders spoke in support of the bill and acknowledged the efforts of Rep. Anderegg in bringing groups together to find an appropriate balance. The bill passed unanimously.

HB367: Education Ethics Training Requirement was presented by Rep. Joel Briscoe. The bill requires educators and certain school volunteers to complete ethics training upon being hired and again every five years. Rep. Briscoe stated that there is a need to address better training for professional conduct and ethics for educators. He cited a 2010 State Board of Education report stating the need for better ethics training as well as 2014 report stating the same. There is currently an online ethics training that educators are required to take to receive a Level 2 license or to renew a license, however there is not consistency across the state in the quality and quantity of district level training. Sara Jones, representing UEA, spoke in support of the legislation and that the bill would create an ongoing expectation for ethics training throughout an educator’s career. The bill passed unanimously.

HB360: Utah Education Amendments changes terms and also gives the State Office of Education some tasks. The term “core curriculum” standards happens all throughout the state code. The bill changes the language to read “the core standards for Utah public schools.” Rep. LaVar Christensen said he wrote the bill to clarify the role of our public education system into state code. He argues for this change to emphasize that the State Office establishes the core standards and local school districts create the curriculum at local level. The way the code is written is confusing and he is trying to make this clear, he said.

The bill also adds a preamble of language from other places of the code to create a guiding statement for education policy in Utah. It removes non-voting State School Board members. However, the bill does require the elected State School Board members to meet quarterly with the Board of Regents, State Charter School Board, and the Utah College of Applied Technology Board of Trustees.

Deputy Supt. Sidney Dickson said she appreciates some of the clarifications of code in the bill. She emphasized that the State Office of Education does not write curriculum. This bill will make that clear. Dickson said she appreciates the spirit of the preamble included in the bill, but has some trouble with some of the wording, including broad words like “virtuous.”

Governor Herbert’s education advisor Tami Pyfer said she wanted to support the concept of this bill. She had concerns with changing terms related to federal programs vs. national programs.

Rep. Brad Last said the preamble section seems repetitive. The bills seems long and unnecessary. In order to amend the bill properly and gain support of the Governor’s Office, the State Board and other stakeholders, the bill was held in committee.

House Floor (reported by Sara Jones): HB345 (2nd sub.): Education Abuse Policy was debated in the House today. The bill modifies provisions related to school personnel employment and licensing procedures and student abuse reporting. Rep. Dan McCay stated that the bill would do two things: establish that the State Board of Education has rule making authority for UPPAC and make clear that the Board may not issue, renew or reinstate an educator license for certain felony sexual offenses. There was no opposition during floor debate. Rep. McCay stated that “educators deserve to be treated as professionals” and the profession suffers when reports of abuse occur. He said that there needs to be clear policy and guidance to ensure professional credibility and public trust. The bill passed unanimously.


March 3, 2015

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): SB151 (1st sub.): National Board Certification Scholarships for Teachers creates a National Board Certification Scholarship Program. This bill was previously heard in committee but based on feedback was revised with a greatly reduced fiscal note of $370,000. The bill now will pay for a study to conduct longitudinal research to compare student learning gains for National Board certified teachers compared to other teachers. The bill will also pay for scholarships for a limited number of National Board candidates. There was no debate and no public comment. The bill passed unanimously.

SB84 (1st sub.): State Control of Nutrition Standards provides for state control of school nutrition standards. Currently, Utah receives about $138 million in federal money for school nutrition programs, including school breakfast and lunch programs. However, Sen. Aaron Osmond’s concern is that the money comes with strings attached. The bill will require the State Board of Education to make rules about nutrition standards in schools, rather than rely on federal standards. Sen. Osmond noted that there is a risk that if the federal government determines that state standards are less rigorous than federal standards that federal money could be cut. The bill failed 3-3.

SB285: Student-Centered Learning Pilot Program creates a student-centered learning pilot program. In previous years Sen. Howard Stephenson has proposed similar legislation but he said this year a key difference is there is no requirement that a participating district hire an outside consultant. Several members of the audience spoke in favor of the bill and it passed unanimously.

SB279: Student Assessment Task Force creates a taskforce to review current state mandated assessments as well as competency based learning. Sen. Stephenson said that not a single one of the highest performing nations has a high stakes end-of-level test. He said his interest is in students being able to demonstrate mastery of skills and knowledge at their own pace rather than taking high stakes tests at the end of a course. There was no debate and no public comment. The bill passed unanimously.

SB283: Post-Secondary Career and Educational Choice was also presented by Sen. Stephenson. He said that the bill is a follow up from the 2014 bill SB34 that established an evaluation panel to examine Utah Futures and compare it to similar tools “to see if we’re making the right choice”. The bill will require the selection of a technology provider, either Utah Futures or a private vendor. Utah Futures has not had funding since 2012 and the bill would allocate $2.4 million to fund either Utah Futures or the selected technology provider. Tami Pyfer explained that the Governor’s budget does request funding for Utah Futures. However, she expressed concern about abandoning the work that has been done on Utah Futures and moving to another provider. The bill passed unanimously.

SB284: Charter School Funding Revisions makes revisions to charter school funding. The bill would increase the local replacement funding to 50% as has been proposed by Public Education Appropriations Committee. Sen. Stephenson said that this bill was the vehicle for implementing in statute what was implemented through the appropriations process. It would codify language that would otherwise conflict with the budget recommendation. Several organizations spoke in opposition to the bill including UEA, USBA and UTA. Sen. Osmond made a motion to send the bill to interim study. The motion failed 3-3 effectively taking no action on the bill.

HB118 (1st sub.): Public Education Human Resource Management Act Revisions was presented as a bill that had the support of all stakeholders. The bill would clarify dismissal procedures when an educator exhibits both performance and conduct issues. Lisa Nentl-Bloom, UEA Executive Director, thanked the sponsor for the collaborative work on the bill and expressed UEA support. The bill passed unanimously.

House Revenue and Taxation Committee (reported by Jay Blain): HB134: Tax Credit for Home-Schooling Parent was presented as a way to improve home schooling to in Utah. Supt. Holmes from North Summit School District spoke against the bill saying that the fiscal impact was of concern. He also said that they provide extracurricular activities to homed school children. In addition, he stated that we pay for public services that we don’t necessarily use such as fire and police and don’t ask for rebates or credits.

Kari Lisonbee, UHEA Legislative Liaison, expressed concerns over the bill that home school families that accept this credit will expand regulations in the future. She urged defeat of the bill. Connor Boyack of the Libertas Institute spoke in favor the bill. He said that he home schools their children and people like him shouldn’t be forced to pay for other people’s children before paying to home school their own children.

In summation, Rep. David Lifferth said that this is an opt-in credit, if a home school family doesn’t want to participate then they don’t have to do it. The bill failed 6-7.

House Floor (reported by Jay Blain): HB263: State School Board Powers Modifications modifies provisions relating to state school board powers. Rep. Merrill Nelson said he is really not sure of the purpose of this bill. It seems we are taking away the control from the State Board of Education, he said. With too many bills, we cross the line of being a state school board and many legislators are acting as the state Superintendent. According to Rep. Nelson, this bill completely obscures the line and allows the legislature to encroach on the state school board. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Norman Thurston, said he believes that this bill clarifies, not obscures the role, of the State Board. The bill failed by a vote of 12-62.

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. Rep. Brad Last said he realizes that the whole amount may not be funded but he wants the bill passed so that the language is there so it can be funded in future years. The bill passed by a vote of 66-8.


March 4, 2015

House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): HB392: Requirements for Career and Technical Education Teachers was presented by Rep. Brad Daw. It would allow highly qualified English, math and science teachers to teach career and technical education courses without needing to attain a CTE endorsement. The Utah State Office of Education stated that they had concerns with this bill. Rep. Marie Poulson asked if USOE had seen a need for such a change. Syd Dickson said they had not seen any need to this point. Rep. Justin Fawson questioned whether legislation was even necessary when the State School Board already has the ability to make any licensing changes that are needed. Jay Blain, speaking on behalf of UEA, stated that as a former math teacher who also went through the CTE endorsement process the training on industry standards, pedagogy and hands on learning is important. No action was taken on the bill.

HB337: Career and Technical Education Comprehensive Study was presented by Rep. Rich Cunningham. The bill creates a CTE Board to pursue a comprehensive study of CTE programs in the state and made recommendations to the Legislature. The bill passed unanimously.

HB403: Online Education Survey Amendments amends an existing online school survey program established to survey parents, students and teachers to provide feedback on schools or for educator evaluation. The survey is provided to school districts and charter schools for their use but is not required to be used. The bill passed unanimously.

SB114: Board of Education Compensation Amendments increases compensation for State Board of Education members and provides that the Legislature will set State Board compensation annually in an appropriation bill. Sen. Aaron Osmond said the compensation changes were not requested by School Board members but that since compensation had not been adjusted in many years he felt it was overdue. There were some questions about why there was no fiscal note for the bill if compensation per Board member would increase about $9,000 per year. The bill passed unanimously.

SB117: Interventions for Reading Difficulties Pilot creates a pilot program to provide intervention for students with reading difficulties, including dyslexia. The bill would allocate $750,000 to provide professional development and resources for up to 5 LEAs. The bill passed unanimously.

SB196 (2nd sub.): Math Competency Initiative was presented by Sen. Ann Millner. The bill would require the State Board of Education to make rules about math competency standards as a requirement for graduation. The bill passed unanimously.


March 5, 2015

House Education Committee (reported by Tom Nedreberg): Sen. Wayne Harper started his discussion on SB106: Class Size Reduction Program Amendments talking about equalization and how it hurts everyone. This bill doesn’t equalize but takes $10 million and distributes 80% of it to school districts to help with class size reduction and then 20% to help with high enrollment property tax adjustments for facilities. This will help all school districts to some extent, according to Sen. Harper. Some representatives expressed a concern that the money may be better used to increase the WPU and allow school districts the flexibility to use the funding where it’s most needed. The bill failed on a vote of 3-6.

SCR5: Concurrent Resolution Regarding Western Governors University is a resolution to recognize the good job Western Governors University is doing and express appreciation for WGU being in Utah and helping so many Utah Citizens. There was discussion about the status of WGU whether it was appropriate to recognize a private university. The bill narrowly passed the committee with a favorable recommendation on a vote of 5-4.

HCR9 (1st sub.): Concurrent Resolution on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act calls on Congress to reauthorize ESEA and allow the State Board of Education to seek a waiver for flexibility to be in control of our educational system. State Board President David Crandall said the school board is asking for a waiver because of the requirements of ESEA. The bill passed the committee unanimously.

HR5: House Resolution Regarding Mathematics Proficiency among High School Students calls on the State Board to consider a four year math requirement. It was described as a stop-gap to another bill calling for the same thing. Rep. Carol Spackman Moss spoke against the resolution because it reduce opportunities for students to take other programs like drama and debate. It passed the committee unanimously.

SB116 (3rd sub.): Public School Dropout Recovery would require school districts and charter schools to provide dropout recovery services and would allow the services to be provided by an outside vendor. The bill passed unanimously.

House Revenue and Taxation Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): HB358: Voted and Board Levy Amendments raises the guarantee for the board and voted leeway. There was a detailed explanation of voted and board levies. After confusion expressed by committee members and a number of questions, the bill was held in the committee.

SB97 (3rd sub.): Property Tax Equalization Amendments brings all districts’ voted leeway’s guarantees to at least to the level at which we are supporting charter schools. Sen. Howard Stephenson added his support for the bill because the tax increase only recaptures part of the money lost due to inflation over the past 19 years. Bruce Williams from the Utah State Office of Education relayed the support of the State Board of Education for the bill. The Utah Taxpayers Association spoke against the bill because of the tax increase. Susan Pulsipher of the Jordan School Board pointed out if the income tax was not equalized some of the property tax ‘poor’ districts, like Jordan, would do quite well but they are fine with that and we need do better with property tax. The bill passed the committee on a vote of 6-4.

Senate Education Committee (reported by Tom Nedreberg): HB203 (1st sub.): Teacher Salary Supplement Program Amendments provides chemistry, math and physics teachers with additional salary. It also adds computer science and special education teachers to the formula. It moves the salary adjustment from $4,100 to $5,100 and then adds $1,000 a year until it gets to $10,000. Sen. Howard Stephenson proposed an amendment that would add engineering to the list. He also proposed including integrated science. The amendment passed. The president of the Utah Music Educators association said that this bill would send some unintended messages to other educators in fine arts, social sciences and many other areas. Sidney Dixon spoke in appreciation for bringing this issue forward. The bill passed unanimously.

Sen. Stephenson stated that many of the items proposed in his SB260 (2nd sub.): Teacher Termination Procedures make changes to 2012’s SB64 by Sen. Aaron Osmond, so he yielded his time to Sen. Osmond. Sen. Osmond then spoke how this bill provides clarity in dismissal procedures. It also provides clarity for local districts when teachers resign and districts impose a fine, he said. Sen. Jim Dabakis asked about the five-year probation period and Sen. Osmond said that was gone from the third substitute. The third substitute was moved and passed unanimously.

SB245 (1st sub.): School Grading Amendments will allow the State Board of Education to exempt special needs schools along with alternative high schools from school grading requirements. The exempted schools will be place on an accountability plan. State Supt. Brad Smith spoke to the bill saying he feel this bill is the best way to learn from the current grading system and make improvements. The bill passed unanimously.

HB49 (3rd sub.): Clean Fuel School Buses and Infrastructure distributes money through the capital outlay distribution with the first use of the money to replace the dirty buses. School districts that don’t have dirty buses could use the money for other purposes. This would make it more equitable to more districts. The bill passed unanimously.

HB124 (1st sub.): Education Background Check Amendments changes requirement for educators to get re-fingerprinted multiple times over their career. There have been broad discussions with attorneys about this bill. Gallagher-Fishbaugh spoke in favor of the bill saying she wishes it was done three months ago because it would have saved her $50. The bill passed unanimously.

According to bill sponsor Rep. Kim Coleman, HB0197 (1st sub.): Educator Licensing Amendments provides flexibility in administrator licensure because more responsibilities are being pushed down to the local school level. It would allow people to become school principals without education experience or a teaching license. Leaders are being asked to be both an instructional leader and a manager of facilities, she said. This bill will provide ways for flexibility in obtaining administrative certification. A substitute bill broadens the applicant pool but does not require a local LEA to change its hiring process. It allows districts to be flexible to hire an individual with leadership experience who may not be certified as an educator. The bill passed unanimously.

HB208: School District Postemployment Health Insurance Benefits requires school districts to fully fund their post-retirement insurance benefits. Rep. Steve Eliason said an audit of all 41 school districts showed several that did not have money set aside to cover these benefits. The total obligation for districts is $200 million, he said. This bill says that if districts do not fund their program, they cannot take on any new employees. Districts that are not in compliance but will work towards fully funding the benefits will have 20 years to make sure the system is corrected. The bill passed unanimously and was put on the consent calendar.

HB213 (2 sub.): Safe Technology Utilization and Digital Citizenship in Public Schools requires schools to provide Internet filtering for devices student use both on and off campus. Carolyn White from the Beaver County School Board said this was unnecessary because it was a local issue and they are handling it. The bill passed unanimously.

HCR7: Concurrent Resolution Urging Development of Methods to Minimize Excessive Testing and its Negative Impacts on the Schoolchildren of Utah was discussed, but no action was taken because a quorum of the committee was not present. Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh spoke on behalf of students and teachers as president of UEA. It’s not the tests that matter but how the tests are used, she said. The misuse of tests hurts students. Tests are used to grade schools, evaluate teachers, divide students and so on. Tests don’t measure quality teaching. We need to push for quality teaching instead of ways to fire teachers. Mindy Layton, a teacher in a Title 1 school with 26 languages spoken, said that over-testing has created many problems in her school. Brad Asay, president of AFT Utah applauded Rep. Marie Poulson for bring this resolution forward.

House Floor (reported by Jay Blain): HB363 School Land Trust Program Amendments raises the cap on the allowable disbursements from the interest and dividends from the fund to the School Trust Lands program from 2% to 3%. It also has some clarification on the types of plans that school community councils can have. The bill passed the House unanimously.


March 6, 2015

Educator Day on the Hill (reported by Mike Kelley): Nearly 50 educators from Salt Lake, Granite, Jordan, Canyons, Alpine, Grand, Nebo and Weber, along with several retired educators, met in the Copper Room of the Senate Building for the final Educator Day on the Hill of the 2015 Legislative Session. The teachers heard about bills the UEA is watching and were then encouraged to speak to their representatives and senators about those bills. A main item of discussion was the Executive Appropriations Committee announcement that they are proposing a 4% increase on the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU). the push for a 6.25% increase on the WPU, as proposed by Governor Herbert.

Senators Ann Millner and Aaron Osmond stopped by during lunch to share legislative insights and to thank the teachers for what they do.

Teachers were urged to support the Stand Up for Public Education rally on Monday. Everyone is to bring their families, fellow teachers, neighbors, and friends to State Capitol that evening to show support for public education and ask legislators to do more to support our students.

About 400 educators attended the six Educator Day on the Hill events held in 2015, far more than in any other year. As teachers participate in the legislative process, they gain greater understanding about the importance of being politically involved in order to protect public education and to advocate for students.

Senate Education Committee (reported by Tom Nedreberg): HCR7: Concurrent Resolution Urging Development of Methods to Minimize Excessive Testing and its Negative Impacts on the Schoolchildren of Utah was discussed in an earlier meeting. It passed unanimously and was placed on Senate consent calendar.

HB293: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Program Amendments was also discussed in an earlier meeting. It modifies provisions related to the STEM Action Center. Sen. Howard Stephenson said there were a quarter of a million students involved with math instruction and STEM in Utah. He said third-party evaluations have shown remarkable success with this program. The bill passed unanimously.

HB210 (1st sub.): Early College High Schools would change the 180-day rule for school attendance. Rep. Val Peterson said he was proposing the bill because of many students taking classes on college campuses. It will allow certain schools, those involved in the early high school movement providing a fully transferable Associates Degree, to use the 990 hour rule. The bill passed unanimously.

HB345 (2nd sub.): Education Abuse Policy will put the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Committee (UPPAC) in an advisory role and the State Board of Education in charge of educator licensing regulations. According to the bill’s sponsor, over time rule making authority has eroded from the State Board to the UPPAC committee. The bill will also create a lowest common denominator for certain crimes involving sex where teachers will not be allowed to get a certificate or will have their certificate revoked. Over Interim this policy will be reviewed if there are other crimes that should be added to the list. The bill passed unanimously.

HB331: Professional Learning Grant Program  would restore a portion of the $80 million that was once in an educator professional development fund. The money was taken out of the budget during the recession and there have been efforts to get it back in the budget but very little has been able to be put back in the budget. Rep. Brad Last said he has mixed feelings about the bill because there is a $30 million fiscal note and it is not funded in the currently proposed budget. Deputy Supt. Syd Dixon spoke saying it has been a priority for the State Board of Education. Deon Turley said it has also been a PTA Priority and the PTA supports this bill to get some funding back into the budget. Sara Jones from UEA also expressed support for the bill as long as the funding would not supplant WPU funding. The bill passed unanimously.

House Political Subdivisions Committee (reported by Jay Blain): HB397: Local School Funding Options would provide block grants for almost all state money to local districts and charters who elected to participate in the pilot program. Jay Blain of UEA recommended that the bill should go to interim study so that all of the implications could be examined. The committee voted to hold the bill and recommend interim study.