UPDATE: Governor Vetoes Legislation after Request from UEA - March 31, 2106
In a letter dated March 18, UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, on behalf of the Utah Education Association, requested that Gov. Gary Herbert veto SB87: Administrative Rulemaking Act Modifications.
“This legislation exempts a single state agency, the State Board of Education, from the public hearing requirement of the Administrative Rulemaking Act,” wrote Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “We oppose the idea that any agency should be exempt from the transparency and accountability that the public hearing requirement creates.”
“The State Board of Education implements policy that directly impacts hundreds of thousands of Utahns - students, parents, teachers, administrators and local school boards. Such a broad reach requires more, not less, transparency and public input. The purpose of the public hearing requirement is to gather input from those individuals and organizations directly impacted by agency rules to create the most effective public policy. To exempt the State Board of Education from such a process is to jeopardize good policymaking,” she wrote.
Representatives from the UEA subsequently met with the Governor and explained the reasons he should veto this legislation.
On March 30, Gov. Herbert issued a veto. In his official letter to the legislature, the Governor said, “The work of the Utah State Board of Education is important and affects more citizens than any other state entity with rulemaking authority. The Board of Education oversees approximately one third of the entirety of the State's budget. Exempting the State Board of Education from the current public hearing requirements in existing statute will result in decreased opportunities for parents and other stakeholders to provide input on State Board rules. It is essential that the public be given ample opportunity to comment on these rules, especially as many of these rules create entirely new education programs and policies.”
The original bill passed the Senate unanimously and the House on a vote of 42-26.
The Governor also vetoed “Item 6” in SB2: Public Education Budget Amendments, the primary public education funding bill. Item 6 includes $998,900 from the Education fund and $3,775,000 from the Education fund, one-time funding to the State Board of Education for a variety of specialized programs.
“My objections are specific to three programs bundled within this appropriation item: The UPSTART Early Childhood Education Program, which is an additional $1,500,000 to an already existing program with ongoing funding; the ProStart Culinary Arts Program which is a $275,000 block grant for a reality television show; and the Early Intervention Program, which adds $3,000,000 one-time funds to an already existing program with ongoing funding,” wrote the Governor in his veto letter to the legislature.
Other programs grouped in Item 6 of the appropriation bill include the Electronic High School, the Electronic Elementary Reading Tool and the IT Academy. “While I do not have specific objections to those programs or their funding, I believe this action will not harm those programs,” the Governor said.
2016 UEA Legislative Summary
The 2016 Legislative Session ended March 10 with full funding of new student growth, a minor bump in overall funding, a move to partisan state school board elections and restrictions on the use of SAGE test scores.
The final budget provided $90 million to fund new student growth and added 3 percent to the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU). It also provided $20 million for charter schools, $15 million for technology grants, $6 million in teacher supply money and $5.7 million for arts programs. Pre-school programs received $11 million in new money, primarily from federal sources.
“We were disappointed that the Legislature was able to provide only 3 percent on the WPU,” said UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “With 2.5 percent needed just to cover current costs, this leaves very little funding for addressing the teacher shortage or reducing class sizes. We cannot just address the issue of equality between charters and our neighborhood public schools. We must also have the conversation about what is an equitable and adequate level of funding for all schools to be successful.”
Positive bills on their way to the Governor include a restriction on using SAGE test scores in teacher evaluations, reimbursements and stipends for teachers who earn National Board Certification, and updated management of State Institutional Trust Lands funds.
Once again, some of the biggest wins for educators happened behind the scenes, with legislation that would have been detrimental to students and educators either dropped, voted down or significantly improved prior to passing. For example, a bill to curtail rights to payroll deduction of union dues was never heard. A bill that would have eroded teacher rights and a proposal to eliminate criminal penalties for the parents of truant children failed. And, after UEA sent a letter and met with the Governor, he vetoed a bill that would have exempted the State Board of Education from certain public hearing requirements in rulemaking.
“I couldn't be prouder of the efforts of your UEA Legislative Team who worked long hours in a stressful environment to represent the interests of teachers and students,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “They labored diligently behind the scenes, gaining unprecedented access to legislators and building relationships. But the real difference-makers were the thousands of teachers who let their voice be heard.”
Educators played a significant role in influencing legislation in 2016:
- A record number of educators, almost 400, participated in our Educator Day on the Hill events. The stories members shared with legislators built great support for our issues, including funding.
- Thousands of UEA members made direct contact with their legislators.
- More than 3,100 teachers responded to the UEA legislative survey, providing data and teacher comments that were shared with legislators.
- Many local associations held meetings with legislators in their districts, including one in Granite that was attended by more than 100 members.
Here are a few key issues and how they fared:
2016-17 Public Ed Budget—
The Utah Legislature passed a 2016-17 budget that includes $90 million to address enrollment growth, and a 3 percent increase, about $80 million, in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU). Other budget items include $20 million for charter schools and a $15 million grant program for classroom technology. This graphic shows that public education represents 30 percent of the state budget and received 41 percent of the new funding. This graphic shows what was budgeted for all students compared to selected groups, such as charter schools.
The budget process began before the session with Gov. Gary Herbert unveiling his proposed budget in December. His proposal was highlighted by a 4.75 percent increase on the WPU. He indicated that this would give local districts the most flexibility to address their needs. This theme was echoed by UEA and other education entities as they presented their budgetary requests to the Legislature.
“We believe Utah public school students are best served by allocating as much funding as possible directly to the WPU,” said UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh in a letter to legislators. “Specifically, we are requesting that rather than designate line items for technology, professional development or other earmarked uses, those funds be rolled into the WPU.”
The Utah School Board Association, the Utah School Superintendents Association and UEA all requested between 4.5-5 percent on the WPU. One key message was the crisis level in the teacher shortage statewide and the need to address it. “Today we face arguably the most critical teacher shortage of our lifetime,” Gallagher-Fishbaugh’s letter continued. “A student today faces a greater chance of sitting in a classroom with an unqualified teacher than perhaps ever in modern history.”
A UEA video highlighted the teacher shortage and stressed the importance of contacting legislators to address the issue.
As the session progressed, the message was delivered that the WPU was primary and as bills were introduced with large fiscal impacts, the focus needed to be on increasing the WPU first before addressing other needs. Some of these bills included very worthy causes such as:
- HB28: Grants for Educator Professional Learning – This bill would have created grants to districts and charters for professional learning for educators. The original funding request was $30 million. The request from Public Education Appropriations was $10 million and in the end it received no funding.
- HB42: Early Learning Amendments – This bill would have provided for $10 million in grant programs to extend the opportunities for optional extended day kindergarten. This bill was also not funded.
One project that did receive funding, although on a much reduced level than the $96 million originally proposed, is HB277: Personalized Learning and Teaching Amendments. In the end, this school technology proposal was funded at $15 million, with about $10 million of it being ongoing money.
Another key theme for 2016 was “equity” of funding—whether it was the discussion surrounding charter schools or equality of property tax funding for all districts. SB38: Education Funding Amendments, which originated in the Charter School Funding Task Force but changed substantially along the way, was a significant piece of legislation. It adds elements to the formula for Charter School Local Replacement Funding, creates a District Property Tax Levy for charter schools, and provides for that levy to be placed on the county property tax notices. The result is $20 million additional ongoing funding to charter schools.
No new revenues were implemented this session, despite efforts by Sen. Jim Dabakis and members of the business community. Sen. Dabakis sponsored SB104: Amendments to Income Tax, which would have provided for marginal income tax increases at the $250,000 and $1 million income levels. Education First Utah urged legislators to place a referendum on the ballot asking voters to approve a 7/8 of one percent income tax increase for education. Neither proposal was successful.
(See more about the budget.)
Assessment and Evaluation—
A number of bills addressed concerns with end-of-level (SAGE) testing:
- The use of SAGE scores as a measure of student performance for a teacher’s evaluation is now prohibited by HB201: Student Testing Amendments. While student performance data is still required, more authentic measures, such as student learning objectives, must be used.
- HB200: Student Assessment Modifications allows a district or charter school to choose to offer only the ACT test for 11th grade students, rather than being required to administer both the ACT and SAGE.
- The School Grading program, based on statewide standardized assessments, was modified yet again. According to SB149: School Grading Amendments, when 65 percent of schools receive either an A or B grade the range for determining a grade must increase by 5 percentage points.
- HB164: Educational Testing Amendments, an effort to restore a teacher’s ability to use SAGE results in calculating a student’s course grade, failed in committee.
Teacher Preparation and Leadership—
Teacher preparation and leadership were the focus of several bills:
- A program to provide reimbursement to teachers achieving National Board certification, HB331: Education Provisions, was successful. National Board certified teachers will receive reimbursement for certification and renewal costs, as well as a $750 annual stipend or a $1,500 stipend for NBC teachers in a Title I school.
- However, HB312: Peer Assistance and Review Program Amendments failed. This bill would have expanded the successful Peer Assistance and Review program to a second school district. The PAR program began several years ago in the Salt Lake City school district when the district received money from a legislative pilot program.
- To strengthen teacher preparation in the state, SB139: Board of Education Approval Amendments requires the State School Board to designate an employee to coordinate with and monitor teacher preparation programs and make recommendations to the Board for the improvement of teacher preparation programs.
- SB51: Teacher Leader Role requires the State School Board to define the role of teacher-leader and to consider creating a teacher-leader endorsement.
State School Board Elections—
On the final day of the session, a last-minute bill substitution allowed for non-partisan elections for state school board members, including a primary, in 2016. However, starting in 2018 these elections will become partisan. This means candidates will need to go through their political party’s nominating convention or gather signatures to get on the ballot.
In 2014, a judge ruled the method currently in statute, which included a nominating committee to select the final candidates, was unconstitutional. In 2015, the Legislature debated a handful of bills, including direct non-partisan, partisan, and governor-appointed methods to select state school board members, but none passed. The UEA has consistently supported direct, non-partisan elections.
Going into 2016, the Lt. Governor’s office issued rules for the upcoming election. Given the current language in statute, the office determined that anyone who filed to run for state school board would be placed on the general election ballot.
Rep. Craig Hall filed a bill (HB110) to create a non-partisan primary. This bill passed the House but was not heard in the Senate.
Sen. Ann Millner ran legislation, (SB78) to tweak the parameters of the nominating committee. Her intent was to change the nominating committee criteria and create a vetting method that is constitutional. The bill passed the Senate, but received significant pushback from various stakeholders, including the Governor’s office. It was substituted on the session’s final day to allow the primary elections for this year and partisan future elections. This final substitute bill passed the House 50-23 and the Senate 24-4.
Legislators introduced several retirement bills this session in an attempt to address the recruitment and retention of educators. These were quickly narrowed down to four bills, only one of which passed:
- HB86: Postretirement Employment Amendments would have reduced from one year to 60 days the time a state employee must wait before being rehired without penalty. The bill passed the House but was not heard in the full Senate.
- SB36: Postretirement Employment Exceptions would also have changed the postretirement reemployment window from one year to 60 days, but only for teachers, public safety and firefighters. The bill passed a Senate committee, but failed in the Senate 10-17.
- HB205: Tier 2 Retirement Amendments would have increased the Tier 2 retirement multiplier to yield a 60 percent benefit at 35 years of employment, similar to the 60 percent benefit for Tier 1 employees at 30 years. This bill passed a House committee but was never heard by the full House.
- SB19: Phased Retirement was the only retirement bill to pass both houses. It allows, at the employer’s discretion, an employee to receive half retirement benefits while continuing to work half-time. The retirement board can write rules to implement this bill and employers can negotiate policies around this as well. It takes effect January 2017.
It is very likely that efforts will continue next session on these same topics.
Other Good Bills Passed—
Several bills clarified issues with charter school governance. HB289: Charter School Closure Amendments develops procedures for closing a charter school and SB239: School Governance Amendments establishes budgetary requirements for charter schools.
Other Bad Bills Stopped—
Success at the legislature is measured not just by good laws passed, but also by helping lawmakers to recognize that some proposals, however well intended, may cause more problems than they fix. Several 2016 bills fit that category:
- Following a request from the UEA, Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed SB87: Administrative Rulemaking Act Modifications. This bill would have exempted the State Board of Education from some public hearing requirements in rulemaking.
- Having your UEA member dues deducted from your paycheck would be illegal if HB173: Payroll Deductions for Union Dues had passed. The UEA Legislative Team and coalition partners from other labor organizations met with the bill’s sponsor to educate him about some of the bill’s potential unintended consequences. As a result, the bill was never heard.
- Touted as a “parent rights” bill, SB45: Compulsory Education Provisions would have eliminated criminal penalties for the parent of a truant student. Many teachers expressed concern that attendance is a critical factor in a student’s academic success and that eliminating penalties would hurt some of the state’s most vulnerable children. Substitute bills removed a truant student’s performance from a teacher’s evaluation and moved to simply reduce rather than eliminate criminal penalties. SB45 passed the Senate on a vote of 22-5 but was defeated in the House 32-39.
- SB165: Public Education Appointment and Hiring would have given the principal final authority on who is hired in his or her building. The UEA joined the Utah School Boards Association, the Utah School Superintendents Association, the Utah Association of Secondary School Principals and the Utah Association of Elementary School Principals in opposing this bill. These organizations believe that concerns about employee hiring and placement are local issues, best handled by local school boards. It passed the Senate on a vote of 21-4, but was held in the House Education Committee.
- The UEA opposed HB419: Educator Licensing Amendments because it attempted to put into code harsh minimum standards for suspending or revoking an educator’s license. The proposal was similar to administrative rules unilaterally implemented by the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) in January, and over which the UEA has brought suit. The UEA first tried to work with the bill sponsor to amend and make improvements to the bill. When those efforts failed, UEA’s Legislative Team worked diligently to educate House members. The UEA’s efforts were successful and the bill failed in the House on a vote of 30-44.
- See the complete UEA Legislative Archive
Legislation of Note in the 2016 Legislative Session
With more than 120 bills dealing directly or indirectly with education, the UEA Legislative Team had its hands full.
Here are a few education bills of note and their final status:
J = Outcome favorable to the UEA position K = Outcome neutral L = Outcome unfavorable
2016 Legislative Archives
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