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UEA Report on the 2016 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK FIVE: 

2016 LEGISLATURE WEEK FIVE SUMMARY: February 22-26

The pace at the Legislature quickened during Week Five. The UEA is now tracking about 120 education-related bills with about a third of those progressing through the system this week. On Friday, educators participated in celebrations for NEA Read Across America Day, recognition of National Board Certified Teachers and break hosting in the House and Senate chambers. The UEA sent a letter to legislators encouraging additional investment on the Weighted Pupil Unit.

Public Education Budget: There were no public discussions on the final public education budget, which is now in the hands of the Executive Appropriations Committee. On Feb. 23, UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh delivered a letter to legislators asking them to allocate as much funding as possible directly to the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU). “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,” she said, noting that “this position is a shift from recent years.”

“Today we face arguably the most critical teacher shortage of our lifetime,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “Educators, school boards, administrators and parents are all feeling the crunch…and it’s the students who suffer. We must address the situation before the crisis escalates.”

“Our local school boards, administrators, teachers and parents need the flexibility to collaboratively address teacher shortages in ways as unique as the communities in which they live and work. Directing funds through the WPU provides this flexibility,” she said. The letter was distributed to all 104 Utah legislators.

Educator Day on the Hill: More than 80 educators from a dozen school districts, in addition to representatives from the Utah School Employees Association and UEA-Retired, participated in UEA Educator Day on the Hill. After a morning briefing, some of the teachers helped with the Cat in the Hat celebrations or with the refreshments provided by the UEA in the House and Senate break rooms. NBCT teachers and the Cat in the Hat were recognized in the House and Senate.

During lunch, teachers reported back on what they heard from their representatives. Reps. Marie Poulson, Joel Briscoe, and Craig Hall and Sens. David Hinkins and Jim Dabakis stopped by to visit with teachers, share information about their bills and thank the teachers for their work.

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

HB71: Weighted Pupil Unit Calculation Equalization Amendments changes charter school funding from enrollment based on an October 1 deadline to average daily membership (ADM) like neighborhood public schools. The UEA supports this bill. It was discussed, but was held in the House Education Committee.

HB86 (1st sub.): Postretirement Employment Amendments allows a state retiree to be reemployed with a participating state employer after a certain period from the retiree's retirement date if the retiree does not receive certain employer provided retirement benefits. The bill passed the House 45-28 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

HB95: Political Issues Committee Amendments passed the Senate unanimously. It now goes to the Governor for signature. This bill amends the definition of a political issues committee in the Campaign and Financial Reporting Requirements section of the Election Code.

HB107 (1st sub.): Early College High Schools defines an “early college high school” and restricts the use of the term to those schools meeting certain criteria. A motion to table the bill passed the Senate Education Committee 5-1 so no further action will be taken.

HB110 (3rd sub.): Election Law Changes creates a non-partisan primary for state school board elections. This bill creates a primary election to winnow the field down to two candidates. It passed the House on a vote of 65-8 and now moves to the Senate.

HB142: Agency Auditing Procedures for Education changes the reporting procedures for the USOE auditing staff to report to the State Board of Education rather than the superintendent. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB147: State Board of Education Revisions eliminates statutory references to the State Office of Education and replaces the references with the State Board of Education, which is a constitutionally created body. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.

HB158 (1st sub.): Campaign Funds Restrictions for County and Local School Board Offices prohibits a personal use expenditure on a county and local school board level. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.

HB164: Educational Testing Amendments would allow the use of end-of-level (SAGE) testing to be considered in determining a student’s academic grade or whether a student may advance to the next grade level. The House Education Committee voted to move to the next item on the agenda so no action was taken on the bill.

HB175 (2nd sub.): Public Education Employment Amendments would amend provisions related to employment and licensing in public education. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HB182: Concurrent Enrollment Amendments passed the Senate and now goes to the Governor for signature.

HB198: Ballot Proposition Amendments passed the Senate unanimously and now and now goes to the Governor for signature.

HB200: Student Assessment Modifications would allow an LEA the option of choosing to offer the ACT test for 11th grade students in place of the SAGE exam. The bill passed the House on a vote of 70-2 and now goes to the Senate.

HB201: Student Testing Amendments would prohibit the use of end-of-level assessments (SAGE) in educator evaluation. The bill passed the House Education Committee with one no vote.

HB217: Small School Funding appropriates $2 million in ongoing money for the necessarily existent small schools program. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

HB277 (1st sub.): Digital Teaching and Learning creates a Digital Teaching and Learning Grant Program with a fiscal note of $96 million, although the current proposal would cut that to $10 million in ongoing and $15 million in one-time funding. The bill passed the House 44-28 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

HB288: Educational Records Protection Amendments would exempt certain education records from GRAMA requirements. The bill passed the House on a vote of 62-9.

HB289 (1st sub.): Charter School Closure Amendments develops procedures for closing a charter school. The bill passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Senate.

HB301: School Bus Route Grant Program provides a 85% state / 15% local grant program for dangerous routes to school for routes that are under the mileages in code. The appropriation is $1 million in one-time money. The bill passed the House 66-3 and now goes to the Senate.

HB312: Peer Assistance and Review Program Amendments would expand the PAR program from one school district to at least two districts. It has a fiscal note of $500,000. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HB329 (1st sub.): Federal Funds Procedures Act Amendments creates certain compliance requirements for the State Board of Education to review and approve federal funds. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HB343: School Administration Amendments amends provisions for school community councils and safe technology use in schools. The bill passed the House Education Committee and the full House unanimously. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

SB72: School and Institutional Trust Lands Management Act Amendments would clarify procedures related to trust lands. The bill passed the House Education Committee and the full House unanimously. It now goes to the Governor for signature.

SB87: Administrative Rulemaking Act Modifications provides that under certain circumstances, the State Board of Education is exempt from the public hearing requirements described in the Utah Administrative Rulemaking Act. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House.

SB91 (2nd sub.): Board of Education Amendments gives authority to the State Board of Education to audit money distributed to local agencies, even if that funding is distributed through a third party provider. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House for consideration.

SB93 (2 sub.): Computer Science Initiative for Public Schools provides for Computer Science instruction and collaboration between USBE and the STEM Action Center. The bill appropriates $770,000 from the General Fund. It passed the Senate unanimously and now moves to the House.

SB101 (1st sub.): High Quality School Readiness Expansion request of $9 million from the Education Fund and $2.5 million from the General Fund for a home-based technology school readiness program for eligible students. It passed the Senate 19-4 and now goes to the House.

SB103 (1st sub.): Strategic Workforce Investments establishes a process for investing strategically in workforce development. It appropriates $5 million from the Education Fund. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now moves to the House.

SB109: State Institutional Trust Land Amendments and SJR12: Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Changes to School Funds are companion bills to allow a change in the formula for distribution of State Institutional Trust Lands funds. The change would have the Trust operate more like an endowment and would require a vote to change the Utah Constitution. The UEA supports these bills. Both passed the Senate and now go to the House for consideration.

SB125: After-school Programs Amendments requires the State Board of Education to make rules that describe high quality standards for programs for elementary and secondary students that operate outside of the regular school day provides grant funding for certain programs. The bill failed in the Senate on a vote of 13-11.

SB143 (1st sub.): Competency-based Learning Amendments creates a grant program for up to three districts or charter schools to participate in the development of competency-based learning. The bill appropriates $369,000 in ongoing money to support the development, implementation and expansion of competency-based learning programs. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

SB176 (1st sub.): Office of the State Board of Education Employment Amendments would allow the State Board of Education to create a program to incentivize IT and Finance staff at USOE to volunteer to give up career status and become exempt employees for higher pay. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee 4-1.

SB191: School Turnaround and Leadership Development Act Amendments makes two technical and clarifying changes to the Turnaround program created last year. It slightly extends deadlines required for in the program and clarifies that turnaround consultants will only receive a final payment if a school improves at the end of three years rather than just showing improvement for a single year. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously.


February 22, 2016

House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): HB329 (1st sub.): Federal Funds Procedures Act Amendments was presented by Rep. Justin Fawson. The bill creates certain compliance requirements for the State Board of Education to review and approve federal funds. There was extensive committee discussion about creating compliance requirements when the bill does not have any fiscal note creating funding for new staff or resources at USOE to implement the compliances measures. The bill passed unanimously.

HB71: Weighted Pupil Unit Calculation Equalization Amendments was presented by Rep. Bruce Cutler. This bill changes charter school funding from enrollment based on an October 1 deadline to average daily membership (ADM) like neighborhood public schools. The bill was amended to create an exemption for the special needs charter school Spectrum Academy because of the unique student population they serve. However, this exemption raised many questions from the committee. USOE stated that the exemption raises issues of administrative problems in predicting how to budget if other charters qualify for the exemption. And, if only Spectrum Academy qualifies for the exemption, it is anticipated that there will be a $470,000 cost because it costs more to fund on the October 1 formula. Because of concerns about granting exemptions for only some schools the bill was held in committee until additional amendments can be prepared.

HB312: Peer Assistance and Review Program Amendments was presented by Rep. Joel Briscoe. With a fiscal note of $500,000, the bill would expand the PAR program from one school district to at least two districts. Susan McFarland, Salt Lake Education Association president, and Logan Hall from the Salt Lake City School District spoke about the PAR program in Salt Lake and the benefits of the program. Sara Jones, speaking on behalf of the UEA, highlighted how PAR improves teaching effectiveness and, with a growing teacher shortage in Utah, PAR is a proven program that increases teacher retention. She also stated that while a 5% increase on the WPU is the UEA’s first priority, this program provides an opportunity to improve teacher retention and effectiveness at a nominal cost. The bill passed unanimously.

HB343: School Administration Amendments was presented by Rep. Keven Stratton. This bill amends provisions for school community councils and safe technology use in schools and is “not a change in practice, but clarification only”. There was no committee discussion. The bill passed unanimously and was placed on the consent calendar.

House Floor: HB110 (3rd sub.): Election Law Changes creates a non-partisan primary for state school board elections. This bill creates a primary election to winnow the field down to two candidates. It passed the House on a vote of 65-8 and now moves to the Senate.

Senate Floor: SB91 (2nd sub.): Board of Education Amendments gives authority to the State Board of Education to audit money distributed to local agencies, even if that funding is distributed through a third party provider. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House for consideration.

SB103 (1st sub.): Strategic Workforce Investments establishes a process for investing strategically in workforce development. It appropriates $5 million from the Education Fund. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now moves to the House.

SB109: State Institutional Trust Land Amendments and SJR12: Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Changes to School Funds are companion bills to allow a change in the formula for distribution of State Institutional Trust Lands funds. The change would have the Trust operate more like an endowment and would require a vote to change the Utah Constitution. The UEA supports these bills. Both passed the Senate and now go to the House for consideration.


February 23, 2016

House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): HB201: Student Testing Amendments was presented by Rep. Marie Poulson. The bill would prohibit the use of end-of-level assessments (SAGE) in educator evaluation. Rep. Poulson noted a number of problems with tying SAGE scores to educator evaluations, including high testing opt-out rates in some schools and districts, student disengagement, questions about the developmental appropriateness of computer based tests in early grades, etc. She said that this calls in to question the reliability and validity of the test and that teachers being held accountable for something they have no control over is a significant reason teachers are leaving the profession. Three UEA members and Utah Teachers of the Year, Gay Beck, Mohsen Gaffari and Melody Apezetuiga spoke in favor of the bill. There was extensive committee discussion and public comment. The bill passed with one no vote.

SB72: School and Institutional Trust Lands Management Act Amendments was presented by Sen. Margaret Dayton. The bill would clarify procedures related to trust lands. There was no committee discussion or public comment. The bill passed unanimously.

HB175 (2nd sub.): Public Education Employment Amendments was presented by Rep. Kraig Powell. The bill would amend provisions related to employment and licensing in public education. Rep. Powell stated that he had worked extensively with a large group of stakeholders and this bill represented a consensus position. There was no committee discussion or public comment. The bill passed unanimously.

HB164: Educational Testing Amendments was presented by Rep. Powell. This bill had previously been heard in committee and Rep Powell brought three versions for the committee to consider. He said the first substitute was the proposal supported by the USOE which had been previously held in committee. The second substitute would make a single change to allow the use of SAGE scores in determining a course grade. The third substitute would completely repeal SAGE testing. There was a motion to move to the next item on the agenda. A number of legislators commented on the motion raising concerns that such a significant change as presented in the third substitute needs more study before being brought to a vote. Rep. Powell commented that if SAGE is not used in grading teachers (given the earlier vote on HB201) and is not used in grading students (given the legislation last year that prohibits the use of SAGE in determining a course grade) why is SAGE required? The committee voted to move to the next item on the agenda so no action was taken on the bill.

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): HB107 (1st sub.): Early College High Schools was presented by Rep. Val Peterson. The bill would define an “early college high school” and restrict the use of the term to those schools meeting certain criteria. There was extensive debate among the committee members about the impact of the legislation on existing “early college” programs and why this issue was being addressed in statute rather than through rule by the State Board of Education. After a lengthy discussion and strong testimony from several charter school representatives, Sen. Mark Madsen said that this legislation raises legal issues and might need to be solved through the courts. A motion to table the bill passed 5-1 so no further action will be taken.

SB176 (1st sub.): Office of the State Board of Education Employment Amendments was presented by Sen. Howard Stephenson. The bill would allow the State Board of Education to create a program to incentivize IT and Finance staff at USOE to volunteer to give up career status and become exempt employees for higher pay. The stated goal is to be able to pay higher salaries to retain employees. The original bill would have required all USOE staff to move to exempt status or no longer be eligible for pay raises or promotions. While the substitute is much more narrow, Sen. Stephenson said that he felt this bill is “a good start and then we can come back” and address other employees. Sen. Jim Dabakis spoke against the bill saying it makes substantial changes to hiring practices so that any new superintendent can easily “clear house” because employees become at-will. The bill passed 4-1.

SB191: School Turnaround and Leadership Development Act Amendments was presented by Sen. Ann Millner. The bill makes two technical and clarifying changes to the Turnaround program created last year. It slightly extends deadlines required for in the program and clarifies that turnaround consultants will only receive a final payment if a school improves at the end of three years rather than just showing improvement for a single year. The bill passed unanimously.

HB142: Agency Auditing Procedures for Education was presented by Rep. Bruce Cutler. It changes the reporting procedures for the USOE auditing staff to report to the State Board of Education rather than the superintendent. There was no committee discussion and the bill passed unanimously.

Senate Floor: SB93 (2 sub.): Computer Science Initiative for Public Schools provides for Computer Science instruction and collaboration between USBE and the STEM Action Center. The bill appropriates $770,000 from the General Fund. It passed the Senate unanimously and now moves to the House.

House Floor: HB288: Educational Records Protection Amendments would exempt certain education records from GRAMA requirements. The bill passed the House on a vote of 62-9.


February 24, 2016

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): SB143 (1st sub.): Competency-based Learning Amendments was presented by Sen. Howard Stephenson. The bill creates a grant program for up to three districts or charter schools to participate in the development of competency-based learning. The bill appropriates $369,000 in ongoing money to support the development, implementation and expansion of competency-based learning programs. The bill passed unanimously.

HB217: Small School Funding was presented by Rep. Kay McIff. The bill appropriates $2 million in ongoing money for the necessarily existent small schools program. The bill passed unanimously.

House Floor: HB200: Student Assessment Modifications would allow an LEA the option of choosing to offer the ACT test for 11th grade students in place of the SAGE exam. The bill passed the House on a vote of 70-2 and now goes to the Senate.

HB343: School Administration Amendments amends provisions for school community councils and safe technology use in schools. The bill passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Senate.

Senate Floor: HB147: State Board of Education Revisions eliminates statutory references to the State Office of Education and replaces the references with the State Board of Education, which is a constitutionally created body. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.

SB87: Administrative Rulemaking Act Modifications provides that under certain circumstances, the State Board of Education is exempt from the public hearing requirements described in the Utah Administrative Rulemaking Act. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House.

SB101 (1st sub.): High Quality School Readiness Expansion request of $9 million from the Education Fund and $2.5 million from the General Fund for a home-based technology school readiness program for eligible students. It passed the Senate 19-4 and now goes to the House.


February 25, 2016

House Floor (reported by Jay Blain) HB277 (1st sub.): Digital Teaching and Learning was presented by Rep. John Knotwell. The bill creates a Digital Teaching and Learning Grant Program with a fiscal note of $96 million, although the current proposal is to provide $10 million in ongoing and $15 million in one-time funding. The grant program, based on components of a digital teaching and learning master plan, would provide money to districts to implement local technology plans.

Rep. Francis Gibson spoke in favor of the bill saying that our kids see technology everywhere they go. He says there has been collaboration everywhere they go. It won’t be funded to $100 million, he said, but at some level and we will scale to what we can but we need to pass it to get started. Rep. Jon Stanard said that districts and teachers want flexibility and he believes this bill provides it.

Rep. Carol Moss expressed concerns about the capacity of networks and the need for IT personnel in the schools. Rep. Kay Christofferson said that everyone with whom he has spoken wants the money to be unrestricted to the districts. Rep. Justin Fawson spoke against the bill. He works in the tech sector himself and knows that students learn with devices in their hands. However, he said that if he had a single pile of money, the local level knows best how to spend that money. Rep. Marie Poulsen said it needs to be about more than devices. She wants an assurance that this goes along with a significant increase on the WPU. The bill passed the House 44-28 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

HB289 (1st sub.): HB289 (1st sub.): Charter School Closure Amendments develops procedures for closing a charter school. The bill passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Senate.

HB301 (1st sub.): HB301: School Bus Route Grant Program provides a 85% state / 15% local grant program for dangerous routes to school for routes that are under the mileages in code. The appropriation is $1 million in one-time money. The bill passed the House 66-3 and now goes to the Senate.

Senate Floor: HB95: Political Issues Committee Amendments passed the Senate unanimously. It now goes to the Governor for signature. This bill amends the definition of a political issues committee in the Campaign and Financial Reporting Requirements section of the Election Code.

HB182: Concurrent Enrollment Amendments passed the Senate and now goes to the Governor for signature.


February 26, 2016

Educator Day on the Hill (reported by Mike Kelley): More than 80 educators from Davis, Canyons, Provo, Logan, Juab, Jordan, Nebo, Alpine, Weber, Cache and Washington County school districts, in addition to representatives from the Utah School Employees Association and UEA-Retired, 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 who earned National Board Certification (NBCT) also participated in activities on the Hill.

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 coming up on March 2. The refreshments were served in the House and Senate break rooms sponsored by the UEA.

NBCT teachers were recognized in the House and Senate. The Cat in the Hat along with UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh were also presented in the House and Senate where a proclamation was read celebrating NEA’s Read Across America and Dr. Seuss. Sen. Ralph Okerlund introduced the Cat on the Senate floor and Rep. Lowry Snow 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.

During lunch, teachers reported back on what they heard from their representatives. Reps. Marie Poulson, Joel Briscoe, and Craig Hall and Sens. David Hinkins and Jim Dabakis stopped by to visit with teachers, share information about their bills and thank the teachers for their work.

There is one more Educator Day on the Hill for this session on Friday, March 4. 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.

House Floor: SB72: School and Institutional Trust Lands Management Act Amendments would clarify procedures related to trust lands. The bill passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.

HB86 (1st sub.): Postretirement Employment Amendments allows a state retiree to be reemployed with a participating state employer after a certain period from the retiree's retirement date if the retiree does not receive certain employer provided retirement benefits. The bill passed the House 45-28 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Floor: HB158 (1st sub.): Campaign Funds Restrictions for County and Local School Board Offices prohibits a personal use expenditure on a county and local school board level. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.

HB198: Ballot Proposition Amendments passed the Senate unanimously and now and now goes to the Governor for signature.

SB125: After-school Programs Amendments requires the State Board of Education to make rules that describe high quality standards for programs for elementary and secondary students that operate outside of the regular school day provides grant funding for certain programs. The bill failed in the Senate on a vote of 13-11.