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UEA Report on the 2016 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK THREE: 

2016 LEGISLATURE WEEK THREE SUMMARY: February 8-12

The budget remains arguably most pressing public education issue so far this session. The “base budget” was approved, but it remains to be determined how much new money will be allocated to education and how. The UEA also distributed comments provided by educators during its annual UEA member legislative priority survey.

Public Education Budget: The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee considered its prioritization of budget requests. This prioritization list is important because the Executive Appropriations Committee typically relies heavily on this list when it makes final budget decisions. The most controversial prioritization item discussed in the committee was $42 million, or about 1.5% of a WPU, to fund SB38: School Funding Amendments. Being referred to as the Equity Pupil Unit, this bill would fund charter school students incrementally more to bring them to equal funding with traditional school students. According to the co-chairs, the bill would allocate $25 million to school districts and $17 million to charter schools. The committee forwarded the priorities to the Executive Appropriations Committee. UEA Executive Director Lisa Nentl-Bloom also had the opportunity to present the UEA’s budget priorities to the committee. These priorities focus on first funding growth and adding 5% on the WPU. Other funding needs should follow.

(See more about the budget.)

 

Jordan School District teacher Janet Reed
 meets with Rep. Rich Cunningham during
UEA Educator Day on the Hill

Educator Day on the Hill: More than 40 education professionals were able to navigate through the fog and haze to participate in Educator Day on the Hill. Participants from seven districts were joined by education students from Westminster College. Participants shared with their legislators the results and comments from the #TeacherVoices Survey (see below). At lunchtime, Rep. Joel Briscoe and Rep. Sophia DiCaro spoke to the participants.

Educator Survey Results: The UEA distributed results from the 3,139 educators who responded to its 2016 legislative survey. This was the largest response ever to a UEA survey. Topping the list of priorities for teachers were opposition to tying test scores to pay, reduced class sizes, locally negotiated salary increases and additional paid time for planning. UEA members shared more than 1,700 comments they asked that we share their responses with legislators. Those comments were compiled, divided by legislative district and are being hand delivered to each legislator. View teacher comments shared with legislators.

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

HB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments is the base funding bill that sets the budget at essentially equal to the current year. Any increases to the budget will be included a supplemental budget bill recommended by the Executive Appropriations Committee. HB1 also contains language that allows for the immediate allocation of funds that remain undistributed due to an error in last year's SB96. It passed the House and Senate unanimously.

HB41: Fees for Supplemental Hours allows a district or charter school to provide additional hours of kindergarten instruction and charge for the supplemental hours. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House 47-27 and now goes to the Senate.

HB42 (1st sub.): Early Learning Amendments passed the House on a vote of 58-16 and now moves to the Senate. The bill administers a grant program to expand the number of enhanced kindergarten programs. The bill would appropriate an additional $10 million that would cover nearly 300 more schools in offering enhanced kindergarten programs.

HB45: STEM Program Amendments passed the Senate unanimously. The bill modifies the membership and duties of the STEM Action Center.

HB49: State Liability Protection for School Employees modifies certain deadlines related to public school employers' notification to employees about the schools’ participation in the Risk Management Fund. The bill passed the Senate Floor unanimously.

HB90: Criminal Background Check Amendments clarifies provisions related to background checks. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.

HB107: Early College High Schools distinguishes an early college high school from a regularly authorized charter school and exempts early college high schools from certain rules. It passed the House and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

HB110: 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. The bill passed the House Government Operations Committee unanimously.

HB142: Agency Auditing Procedures for Education provides that public school auditors report to the State Board of Education rather than the state superintendent, bringing the statute in line with current procedures. It passed the House unanimously and now moves to the Senate.

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 House unanimously and now moves to the Senate.

HB182: Concurrent Enrollment Education Amendments passed the House unanimously and will now be considered by the Senate.

HB288: Educational Records Protection Amendments would exempt certain education records from GRAMA requirements. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HB254 (1st sub.): Resident Student Tuition Amendments amends provisions regarding student tuition for military service members and their immediate family members. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HB277: Personalized Learning and Teaching Amendments creates a Digital Teaching and Learning Grant Program with a fiscal note of approximately $96 million. The grant program, based on components of a digital teaching and learning master plan, would provide money to districts to implement local technology plans. The bill passed the House Education Committee with two nay votes.

HJR5: Joint Resolution on Redistricting adopts principles and procedures for Legislative redistricting. The bill passed the House Government Operations Committee unanimously.

SB14: American Indian and Alaskan Native Amendments allows schools with at least 29% Native American populations to write grants that the State Board of Education administers. Nine Utah public schools currently meet the 29% requirement. There is a $2 million fiscal note to this bill, part of which will go to help teacher recruiting and retention in these schools. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

SB19: Phased Retirement allows state entities the opportunity to allow employees to work half time and take partial retirement without a one-year separation. The bill passed the House Retirement and Independent Entities Committee and the full House unanimously and now goes to the Governor for consideration.

SB29: Retirement System Amendments is the annual technical cleanup bill for state retirement issues. It passed the House Retirement and Independent Entities Committee unanimously.

SB36: Postretirement Employment Exemptions will roll back the window from one year to 60 days for licensed educators, firefighters and public safety employees to return to full-time employment after retirement. The Senate Retirement and Independent Entities Committee voted 5-1 to advance the bill to the full Senate.

SB38: Education Funding Amendments would change the formula of the funds that charter schools receive from school districts in that charter schools would receive as part the property taxes approved by local school boards. UEA opposes this bill because it diverts property taxes to charter schools with no accountability to the elected school boards. It passed the Senate 17-11 and now goes to the House for consideration.

SB43 (1st sub.): Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention in Public Schools creates a pilot program to provide instruction to certain public school students on firearm safety and violence prevention. The bill passed the Senate 22-5 and now moves to the House for consideration.

SB51: Teacher Leader Role directs the State Board of Education to define the role of teacher leader and make rules for a teacher leader endorsement. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

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 passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and now moves to the full Senate.

SB131: Utah College of Applied Technology Governance Amendments makes changes to operations of the Utah College of Applied Technology. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and now moves to the full Senate.

SB139: Board of Education Approval Amendments would update current statute requiring the State Board of Education to approve teacher preparation programs based on standards such as those for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards or Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and now moves to the full Senate.


February 8, 2016

House Education Committee (reported by Jay Blain): SB14: American Indian and Alaskan Native Amendments allows schools with at least 29% Native American populations to write grants that the State Board of Education administers. Nine Utah public schools currently meet the 29% requirement. There is a $2 million fiscal note to this bill, part of which will go to help teacher recruiting and retention in these schools. The bill is an attempt to close the achievement gap for this group. It passed the committee unanimously.

House Retirement and Independent Entities Committee (reported by Jay Blain): SB29: Retirement System Amendments is the annual technical cleanup bill for state retirement issues. One change of note is the definition of year of service for calculation for final average salary. For educators it is the fiscal year. Here is a summary sheet for the bill. It passed the committee unanimously and was placed on the House Consent Calendar.

SB19: Phased Retirement allows, at the employer option, a phased retirement. An employee may continue working half-time and retire half-time; that is receive 50% of their monthly retirement allowance or pension. They would not continue to receive retirement credits. Also, there are no COLA increase to the employee’s retirement benefit while they are in the program. It is a pilot program and would have a sunset date in five years. The bill passed out of committee unanimously.

House Floor (reported by Jay Blain): HB41: Fees for Supplemental Hours allows a district or charter school to provide additional hours of kindergarten instruction and charge for the supplemental hours. Rep.  Johnny Anderson complained that this bill is creating unfair competition for private providers. He listed a litany of analogies to state services offering private services, like UDOT charging to plow private parking lots. Rep. Jake Anderegg wondered if this was just expanding taxpayer supported daycare.

Reps. Brad Last, Sophia DiCaro and Lowry Snow and spoke in favor of the bill, listing the advantages of children attending extended-day kindergarten. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House 47-27 and now goes to the Senate.

HB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments is the base funding bill that sets the budget at essentially equal to the current year. Any increases to the budget will be included a supplemental budget bill recommended by the Executive Appropriations Committee. HB1 also contains language that allows for the immediate allocation of funds that remain undistributed due to an error in last year's SB96. It passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Floor: SB38: Education Funding Amendments would change the formula of the funds that charter schools receive from school districts in that charter schools would receive as part the property taxes approved by local school boards. UEA opposes this bill because it diverts property taxes to charter schools with no accountability to the elected school boards. It passed the Senate 17-11 and now goes to the House for consideration.


February 9, 2016

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): UEA Executive Director Lisa Nentl-Bloom presented the UEA’s budget priorities, which focus on first funding growth and adding 5% on the WPU. Other funding needs should follow.

Sen. Howard Stephenson presented information on SB38: School Funding Amendments. This bill would divert property tax funds from school districts to charter schools in an effort to equalize funding. Sen. Stephenson requested funding for this bill come partially from last year’s SB97 equalization bill.

Several legislators/organizations made funding requests of the subcommittee:

  • SB101: High Quality School Readiness Expansion, request of $9 million from the Education Fund and $2.5 million from the General Fund
  • SB67: Partnerships for Student Success, request of $5 million from the General Fund
  • Special Education Intensive Services Fund, request of $10 million in new money
  • School Library Print & Digital Resources
  • UPSTART Funding, request to add new money
  • Dropout Prevention Programs, request of $2 million to create a pilot program
  • U of U Reading Clinic
  • IT Academy
  • SUU Technology Pipeline Proposal
  • Washington County Tech Pipelin
  • School Bus Route Grant Program, request to help with dangerous routes
  • Utah Anti-Bullying Commission, request for a matching program
  • Succeed at the Club
  • Online Education Enhancement, request for $1.8 million ongoing
  • DIBELS Assessment Tools Funding
  • Hospitality Workforce Education
  • Necessarily Existent Small Schools, request of $2 million additional
  • ACT Test Prep
  • Board Certified/Title I Teaching Initiative
  • Homeless Children Supplemental Funding
  • State Capitol Field Trips
  • ProStart Teen Chef Masters

Retirement and Independent Entities Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): Representatives from the Utah Education Telehealth Network presented a request for their funding priorities.

Senate Retirement and Independent Entities Committee (reported by Jay Blain): SB36: Postretirement Employment Exemptions will roll back the window from one year to 60 days for licensed educators, firefighters, and public safety employees to return to full-time employment after retirement. Concerns were expressed in testimony about creating a bifurcated system of state employees and an increase in the retirement contribution rate this would cause. Others spoke in favor. The committee voted 5-1 to advance the bill to the full Senate.


February 10, 2016

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones and Mike Kelley): Three bills were heard by the Senate Education Committee. All three passed the committee unanimously and now move to the full Senate.

SB139: Board of Education Approval Amendments was presented by Sen. Howard Stephenson. The bill would do several things related to teacher preparation programs. First, it would update current statute requiring the State Board of Education to approve teacher preparation programs based on standards such as those for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards or Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Second, it directs the Board to designate an employee to engage in on-site monitoring of teacher preparation programs and also make recommendations about the improvement of teacher preparation programs. Finally, hiring the new employee will come from monies already collected for educator licensing fees.

SB0125 After-school Programs Amendments was presented by Sen. Luz Escamilla. This bill requires the State Board of Education, in consultation with the Department of Workforce Services, to make rules that describe high quality standards for programs for elementary and secondary students that operate outside of the regular school day and creates a grant program to provide funding for certain programs.

SB0131 Utah College of Applied Technology Governance Amendments makes changes to operations of the Utah College of Applied Technology.

House Government Operations Committee (reported by Chase Clyde): HB110: Election Law Changes creates a non-partisan primary for state school board elections. According to sponsor Rep. Craig Hall, the bill was drafted as a stop gap if the House and Senate cannot come to a resolution and pass a bill on State Board of Education selection process. Rep. Hall is concerned that with the possibility of there being dozens of candidates on the General Election ballot for State Board of Education, there is potential someone could win the election with less than 10% of the vote. This bill creates a primary election to winnow the field down to two candidates. The bill passed the committee unanimously.

HJR5: Joint Resolution on Redistricting adopts principles and procedures for Legislative redistricting. In his presentation of the bill, Rep. Merrill Nelson reported that nearly all other states have some type of principles or guidelines in place to guide the redistricting process. He said wants to restore confidence in the process and that by providing some rules and guidelines the redistricting process can be improved. The principles outlined in the resolution include requiring compactness, contiguity and try to follow subdivision boundaries like counties and cities. The bill passed the committee unanimously.


February 11, 2016

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): The committee considered intent language from previous year budget bills. They then considered five budget motions. The first three motions were non-controversial and passed unanimously. Motion 5 generated the most discussion. It included intent language around teacher supplies to require LEA’s to provide a 25% match to receive money money. Rep. Marie Poulson asked where this came from and if the school districts had been consulted. Rep. Steve Eliason responded that it came from the co-chairs and that the districts had not been contacted. Rep. Bruce Cutler moved to strike the 25% match language because district had not been sought and it would be a burden to them. The motion to strike the 25% language passed and Motion 5 then passed unanimously.

Rep. Norman Thurston moved to refer to interim a study to see which below-the-line items could be moved up to the WPU. The motion passed.

The committee then discussed a prioritization list of requests. This prioritization list is important because the Executive Appropriations Committee typically relies heavily on this list when it makes final budget decisions. The most controversial prioritization item was $42 million, or about 1.5% of a WPU, to fund SB38: School Funding Amendments. Being referred to as the Equity Pupil Unit, this bill would fund charter school students incrementally more to bring them to equal funding with traditional school students. According to the co-chairs, the bill would allocate $25 million to school districts and $17 million to charter schools. The committee forwarded the priorities to the Executive Appropriations Committee.

House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): HB288: Educational Records Protection Amendments was presented by Rep. Craig Hall. The bill would exempt certain education records from GRAMA requirements. The bill passed unanimously.

HB254 (1st sub.): Resident Student Tuition Amendments was presented by Rep. Marie Poulson. The bill amends provisions regarding student tuition for military service members and their immediate family members. The bill passed unanimously.

HB277: Personalized Learning and Teaching Amendments was presented by Rep. John Knotwell. The bill creates a Digital Teaching and Learning Grant Program with a fiscal note of approximately $96 million. The grant program, based on components of a digital teaching and learning master plan, would provide money to districts to implement local technology plans. There was extensive discussion about the process over the past year to develop the technology master plan. There was also significant discussion about the need for unrestricted money on the WPU versus restricted money through a technology grant program. The bill passed with two nay votes.

SB51: Teacher Leader Role was presented by Sen. Ann Millner. This bill directs the State Board of Education to define the role of teacher leader and make rules for a teacher leader endorsement. Sara Jones, UEA Director of Education Excellence and Government Relations, spoke to the bill. She stated that there are currently many teacher leaders working in schools and they have roles beyond mentoring and coaching, as described in the bill. She cautioned that the definition of a teacher leader not be too narrow or prescriptive. She also asked that the rule include direction to the board that educators be included in the process of developing and defining the teacher leader role. The bill passed unanimously.

House Floor: HB107: Early College High Schools distinguishes an early college high school from a regularly authorized charter school and exempts early college high schools from certain rules. It passed the House and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

HB142: Agency Auditing Procedures for Education provides that public school auditors report to the State Board of Education rather than the state superintendent, bringing the statute in line with current procedures. It passed the House unanimously and now moves to the Senate.

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 House unanimously and now moves to the Senate.

HB182: Concurrent Enrollment Education Amendments passed the House unanimously and will now be considered by the Senate.

HB42 (1st sub.): Early Learning Amendments passed the House on a vote of 58-16 and now moves to the Senate. The bill administers a grant program to expand the number of enhanced kindergarten programs. The bill would appropriate an additional $10 million that would cover nearly 300 more schools in offering enhanced kindergarten programs.

SB19: Phased Retirement allows state entities the opportunity to allow employees to work half time and take partial retirement without a one-year separation. The bill passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Governor for consideration.

Senate Floor: HB45: STEM Program Amendments passed the Senate unanimously. The bill modifies the membership and duties of the STEM Action Center, provides rulemaking authority to the State Board of Education related to the award of STEM education endorsement incentives and adds Utah State University Eastern to the list of educational institutions that may provide courses for endorsements.

HB49: State Liability Protection for School Employees modifies certain deadlines related to public school employers' notification to employees about the schools’ participation in the Risk Management Fund. The bill passed the Senate Floor unanimously.


February 12, 2016

Educator Day on the Hill (reported by Jenny Okerlund): More than 40 education professionals were able to navigate through the fog and haze to participate in Educator Day on the Hill. Participants from seven districts were joined by education students from Westminster College.

Participants were given direction on how to deliver and share with their legislators the results and comments from the #TeacherVoices Survey done at the beginning of the legislative session. Many attended the Higher Ed Joint Appropriations Committee and then talked with their legislators outside the House and Senate Chambers. At lunchtime, Rep. Joel Briscoe and Rep. Sophia DiCaro spoke to the participants.

Senate Floor: HB90: Criminal Background Check Amendments clarifies provisions related to background checks. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.

SB43 (1st sub.): Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention in Public Schools creates a pilot program to provide instruction to certain public school students on firearm safety and violence prevention. The bill passed the Senate 22-5 and now moves to the House for consideration.


Teacher Survey of Legislative Issues - February 8, 2016

Thank you to the 3,139 educators who responded to our legislative survey. This was the largest response ever to a UEA survey. Here are a few of the results:

LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES: Which issues should the UEA Legislative Team make its top priorities?
(NOTE: The chart below shows the number of respondents who ranked the item in their top three priorities and the number who ranked it No. 1.)

Some of the other priories mentioned by teachers included: testing (reduce testing time, change/eliminate SAGE, allow SAGE to be used in grades, etc.); teacher accountability (change/repeal current evaluation law, don’t tie to tests to evaluations, etc.); retirement, insurance and other benefits; planning and preparation time (many mentioned too much PD and not enough planning/prep. time.); parent and student accountability; and early childhood and Kindergarten concerns.

FUNDING: If there were significant new money invested in public education, which do you believe would have the most positive impact in student outcomes?
(NOTE: The chart below shows the number of respondents who ranked the item in their top three priorities and the number who ranked it No. 1.)
 

COMMENTS: We received more than 1,700 comments from UEA members who asked that we share their responses with legislators. Those comments were compiled, divided by legislative district and are being hand delivered to each legislator.