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UEA Report on the 2018 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK SEVEN: 

2018 LEGISLATURE WEEK SEVEN SUMMARY: March 5-8

The final week of the 2018 UEA Legislative Session saw a last-minute school funding compromise, an attempt to eliminate the State Board of Education and passing a school funding equalization plan. 


'Our Schools Now' compromise on its way to the Governor – March 8, 2018

The House and Senate passed critical components of the Our Schools Now school funding proposal, paving the way for significant new public education funding. The House defeated a resolution to replace the State Board of Education with a panel appointed by the Governor.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): Critical measures in the House included passage of components the Our Schools Now school funding proposal and defeat of a measure to replace the State Board of Education with a panel appointed by the Governor.

HB491: Election Law Changes and HJR20 (1 sub.): Joint Resolution Submitting a Question to Voters allow a non-binding question to be placed on the November 2018 ballot asking voters if they would support a 10 cent per gallon gas tax to fund education. These bills lay the foundation to advance the Our Schools Now alternative and are supported by the UEA. HJR20, which would put the gas tax question on the ballot, passed the House on a vote of 55-17 and the Senate on a vote of 24-4.

SB144: Local Funding of Education Technology would allow school districts to use revenue from debt service or a capital local levy to fund “technology programs or projects.” The UEA supports this bill. It passed unanimously and goes to the Governor.

HB293 (5th sub.): Education Funding Amendments became a central part of the Our Schools Now compromise. It equalizes property tax funding for schools using new property tax revenue and reduces the state Income Tax from 5 percent to 4.95 percent. It passed the Senate on avote of 25-3 and the House on a vote of 45-26.

SB145: School Funding Revisions originally would have equalized school funding by taking money from the Education Fund, which the UEA opposed. The bill was substituted on the final day of the session to expand the definition for at-risk funding to include homelessness and chronic absenteeism. It passed the House on a vote of 67-4 and the House on a vote of 25-2.

SJR16 (1st sub.): Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Public Education GovernanceReplaces the State Board of Education with a board appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate. The UEA opposes this resolution. It failed in the House on a vote of 18-54.

SB173 (1st sub.): State Charter School Board Amendments requires the State Charter Board to add one member who has expertise in “personalized learning” and who “supports innovation in education.” According to the sponsor, the purpose of the bill is to try to improve outcomes for charter schools. The bill passed the House on a vote of 67-1.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): In addition to passing the Our Schools Now components, the Senate also agreed with the House on bills to enhance school readiness and allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they will turn 18 before the general election.

HB491: Election Law Changes and HJR20 (1 sub.): Joint Resolution Submitting a Question to Voters allow a non-binding question to be placed on the November 2018 ballot asking voters if they would support a 10 cent per gallon gas tax to fund education. These bills lay the foundation to advance the Our Schools Now alternative and are supported by the UEA. HJR20, which would put the gas tax question on the ballot, passed the House on a vote of 55-17 and the Senate on a vote of 24-4.

HB293 (5th sub.): Education Funding Amendments became a central part of the Our Schools Now compromise. It equalizes property tax funding for schools using new property tax revenue and reduces the state Income Tax from 5 percent to 4.95 percent. It passed the Senate on avote of 25-3 and the House on a vote of 45-26.

HB286 (2nd sub.): Reproductive Education Amendments amends and enacts provisions related to instruction in child sexual abuse prevention and reproductive health. It modifies instruction in health to include instruction in the harmful effects of pornography and refusal skills amends definitions for required parental consent. The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 17-3.

HB281 (1st sub.): Voter Eligibility Amendments provides that an individual who is 17 years of age may register for and vote in a primary election if the individual will be 18 years of age on or before the date of the general election. The bill passed unanimously. The UEA supports this bill.

HB380 (2nd sub.): Utah School Readiness Initiative Amendments enhances the School Readiness Initiative with entry and exit assessments, program requirements and funding. It passed on a vote of 22-1. The UEA supports this bill.


'Our Schools Now' compromise passes first hurdle – March 7, 2018

Public education will see significant new revenue under a proposed alternative to the Our Schools Now initiative. A dozen bills of interest passed House and Senate votes, including one to add elementary school counselors.

House Political Subdivisions Committee (reported by Heidi Matthews): One bill and one resolution designed to generate new revenue for public education passed the committee and now go to the full House and Senate for consideration.

HB491: Election Law Changes and HJR20 (1 sub.): Joint Resolution Submitting a Question to Voters allow a non-binding question to be placed on the November 2018 ballot asking voters if they would support a 10 cent per gallon gas tax to fund education. Each passed easily. HB491 passed unanimously and HJR20 with only a single dissent. Pushing hard to have language that solidifies the commitment and distribution of the Our Schools Now initiative funding to schools, UEA President Heidi Matthews said, “I am sure that you understand the moment of pause we as have teachers to abandon a popular citizen’s initiative that we KNOW would make a dramatic difference for our students that does not fully specify details.” (listen to audio, Heidi’s testimony begins at 31:30). These decisions lay the foundation to advance the Our Schools Now alternative.

The bills will be considered by the full House and, if successful there, the Senate on the session’s final day. Another leg of the compromise – the new money for property tax equalization via Rep. Brad Last’s bill HB293: Education Funding Amendments, will also be considered. (See more about Our Schools Now and the proposed alternative.)

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): A bill to nullify the signature gathering process if Count My Vote fails was among several approved by the House today.

HB338 (2nd sub.) Election Amendments provides that if the Count My Vote initiative fails to become law, 2014’s SB54, the law that allowed candidates to get on the primary ballot through signature-gathering, would be immediately repealed. The UEA opposes this bill. It passed the House on a vote of 53-19 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

HB313 (3rd sub.): Public School Revisions changes how the state charter school board is appointed. Under the bill, all appointments to the charter board would be made by the governor, subject to the consent of the Senate. It passed the Senate with amendments and those amendments were approved by the House. The UEA opposes this bill. It now goes to the Governor.

SB209 (2nd sub.): 529 Savings Plan Amendments permits the Utah Educational Savings Plan to use another related name for business and modifies the eligibility criteria for a beneficiary of the Student Prosperity Savings Program. It passed unanimously and now goes to the Governor.

SB74 (2nd sub.): Voter Privacy Amendments amends provisions related to a date of birth on a voter registration record. It passed unanimously and now goes to the Governor.

SB232: School Transportation Amendments provides additional funding for transportation for certain district schools and charter schools in rural areas. The cost is estimated to be about $4 million. It passed on a vote of 51-19 and will go to the Governor, provided it is funded.

SB171 (1st sub.): Intervention as a Matter of Right Amendments passed by a vote of 61-8. This bill gives the Utah Legislature a right to intervene in state lawsuits. It now goes to the Governor.

SB194 (1st sub.): Early Literacy Program renames the K-3 Reading Improvement Program the Early Literacy Program. It amends requirements for a school district or charter school plan related to early literacy and provisions related to the consequences of a school district or charter school failing to meet a goal described in the school district or charter school's plan related to early literacy. The UEA supports this bill. It passed on a vote of 61-7 and now goes to the Governor.

SB198: Public School Disciplinary Action Amendments requires the State Board of Education to work with school districts, charter schools and law enforcement agencies to compile an annual report regarding disciplinary actions related to students and statewide information regarding the race, gender, age and disability status of a minor or student involved in certain law enforcement and disciplinary actions. It passed on a vote of 56-14 and now goes to the Governor.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): Four House bills of UEA interest passed the Senate and now go to the Governor for signature, including one to fund counselors or social workers in elementary schools.

HB408: Public Education Amendments creates the program Utah Leading through Effective, Actionable, and Dynamic Education (ULEADE). Representatives from the STEM Action Center and the Utah State Board of Education spoke in favor of the bill. It passed unanimously.

HB218 (6th sub.): Modifications to Election Law was stripped of provisions that would have created automatic voter registration when someone receives a driver's license, but it still contains provisions that reinstitute election-day voter registration, simplify the driver-license registration process and mandates in-person voting centers in vote-by-mail counties. It passed unanimously. The UEA supports this bill.

HB264: Elementary School Counselor Program creates a grant program for up to 28 elementary schools to hire a counselor or social worker to provide targeted school-based mental health supports. The grant would be available to schools with a high percentage of students exhibiting risk factors for childhood trauma and schools with a high percentage of students experiencing intergenerational poverty. The UEA supports this bill. It passed on a vote of 22-3 and will go to the Governor provided it receives funding.

HB231: Charter School Funding Amendments would not allow charters that go over their enrollment cap to receive additional funding until every school under their enrollment cap gets funded. Currently, when a charter school goes over its enrollment cap, every charter gets less funding. The UEA supports this bill. It passed on a vote of 24-3.


Our Schools Now, legislators in talks to increase public ed funding – March 7, 2018

Leaders of the Our Schools Now initiative are talking with legislators about a proposal to make significant new investments in education funding without the need to go to a costly public Our Schools Now vote in November. Under the proposal, public education funding will increase by an estimated $299 million in Fiscal Year 2019, and increase each year to nearly $600 million in new funding by Fiscal Year 2023.

Overview of the Proposal:

  • New revenue would be generated by a 10 cent per gallon gas tax increase* and by adjusting the property tax rate rather than by increasing sales and income taxes as in the original Our School Now proposal.
    • Estimated cost of gas tax increase to the average driver is $48 per year.
    • Estimated cost of adjusting the property tax rate is less than $3 for each $100,000 in home value.
  • *The gas tax increase would be placed on the November 2018 ballot.
  • Additionally, the legislature is making a long-term commitment to use the growth in state revenues to bring the total to over $600 million per year.

UEA President Heidi Matthews said the proposal “represents a significant and long-overdue increase in school funding. “But let me be clear…this proposal, and the Our Schools Nowinitiative itself for that matter, falls short of providing ALL the tools and resources our students need to be successful. But it is a good start.”

Should the new funding not come through from the legislature, Our Schools Now would move forward with getting the initiative on the ballot and approved in November. “Either way, we’ve made significant progress in rallying the public to the cause of education,” said Matthews.

“It’s important to note that we would not have legislative backing for this significant increase without the hard work and dedication of those who gathered Our Schools Now signatures,” said Matthews. “Our success was a wake-up call. It demonstrated to legislators that there is substantial public support for additional school funding.”

In the News


Special ed supplement bill passes the Senate – March 6, 2018

The pace of bills receiving votes quickened significantly as the 2018 Legislature’s final day approaches. The UEA Legislative Team is working frantically behind the scenes on priority billsand the budget. A revised bill to provide a salary supplement for special ed teachers passed the Senate.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): Nearly a dozen UEA-tracked bills passed the House and are on their way to the Governor or back to the House to consider revisions.

SB127 (1st sub.): Reading Software Program Amendments eliminates usage requirements for schools that use interactive software for early reading programs but also asks the State Board of Education to acquire analytical software to monitor, for an individual school, the use of interactive reading software and the impact on student performance. The UEA opposed this bill. It passed the House on a vote of 46-18 and now goes to the Governor.

SB176 (1st sub.): Student Internship Liability removes a distinction to broaden the class of student interns that the State Risk Fund covers. It passed unanimously and now goes to the Governor.

SB132: Competency-based Education Amendments removes a cap limiting participation in a planning grant process to three LEAs to allow the Board flexibility to consider more grants to qualifying LEAs. It passed unanimously and now goes to the Governor.

SB179: Education Code Modifications makes technical corrections to the public education code. It passed unanimously and now goes to the Governor.

SB207 (2nd sub.): Student Data Protection Amendments amends provisions related to student data protection. It passed unanimously and now goes to the Governor.

SJR2: Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Property Tax Exemptions puts on the November 2018 ballot another provision (SB76) that provides for a property tax exemption for real property that is leased entirely to the state or a local government entity. It passed on a vote of 55-14.

SB117: Language Immersion Program Amendments ends the critical language program because it is no longer needed and allows for growth of the dual language immersion programs. It passed unanimously. The UEA supports this bill.

SB162 (2nd sub.): Intergenerational Poverty Matching -- Education Savings Plan modifies the Student Prosperity Savings Program which supports “economically disadvantaged” students access to higher education by removing age restrictions currently limiting the savings program to Utah students in grades 10-12. The bill passed on a vote of 68-1.

SB104 (1st sub.): Talent Development and Retention Strategy allocates $2.5 million from the Education Fund to provide incentive loans to students who intend to work in qualifying jobs. It passed on a vote of 49-14.

SB202: After School Program Amendments authorizes a grant program to provide funding for certain programs offered to elementary and secondary students outside of the regular school day. The UEA supports this bill. It passed on a vote of 46-21.

SB122: Bond Elections Amendments provides that a local political subdivision may not receive from the issuance of certain bonds approved by the voters at an election, an aggregate amount that exceeds by a certain percentage the maximum principal amount stated in the bond proposition. It passed on a vote of 40-28.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): A revised salary supplement for special ed teachers passed the Senate and was sent back to the House.

HB233 (5th sub.): Teacher Salary Supplement Revisions adds about 1,500 special education teachers to the existing Teacher Salary Supplement Program. The bill has gone through several changes. Unlike some previous versions, the fifth substitute holds the supplement at $4,100, but keeps it in retirement calculations. Requirements for math and science teachers to qualify remain the same. Special education teachers must have a degree in and teach special education to qualify (does not include speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, etc.). The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 26-2 and now goes back to the House to concur with the Senate changes.

HB308 (1st sub.): Telehealth Mental Health Pilot Program requires the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to create a telehealth mental health pilot project grant program. It passed unanimously and now goes to the Governor. The UEA supports this bill.

HB313 (3rd sub.): Public School Revisions changes how the state charter school board is appointed. Under the bill, all appointments to the charter board would be made by the governor, subject to the consent of the Senate. It passed the Senate on a vote of 20-6 and now goes back to the House for concurrence with amendments. The UEA opposes this bill.

HB317: Special Education Amendments amends various pieces of special education code to allow students to stay until the end of the school year when they turn 22. It passed unanimously. The UEA supports this bill.


Changing public school governance – March 5, 2018

A bill to create a governor-appointed charter school board and a resolution to replace the State Board of Education with a governor-appointed superintendent both moved forward.

House Education Committee (reported by Jay Blain): Two bills which previously passed the Senate unanimously also passed the House Education Committee unanimously and now go to the full House for consideration.

SB194 (1st sub): Early Literacy Program renames the K-3 reading program the Early Literacy Program. It also changes the program so that if an LEA doesn’t make sufficient progress they don’t lose their funding but rather they receive more support to make progress. It also requires the Utah State Board of Education to use a digital reporting platform. A representative from Prosperity 2020/SL Chamber spoke in favor of the bill saying that having 90% of students reading at proficiency by 2020 is an important goal. The UEA also supports the bill.

SB207: Student Privacy Act Revisions allows directory information to be shared with the Utah System of Higher Education for contact purposes. It also allows coordination with juvenile justice and the release of personal information to the Utah Registry of Autism and Developmental Disabilities.

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Despite some reservations expressed during committee discussion, two UEA-tracked bills passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and now go to the full House for consideration.

HB313 (3rd sub.): Public School Revisions was presented by Rep. Dan McCay. It changes how the state charter school board is appointed. This bill was previously titled Charter School Revisions and has been modified several times. Last week, the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) proposed a number of amendments that, if included in the bill, would allow them to support it. Amendments included the ability of USBE to directly appoint three members to the state charter board. However, the third substitute would have all appointments to the charter board made by the governor, subject to the consent of the Senate. In public comment there was not consensus among the USBE, the state charter school board and charter school organizations on the preferred substitute bill. This led to some discussion about the need to study the issue further during the interim.

HB286 (1st sub.): Reproductive Education Amendments was presented by Rep. Justin Fawson. The bill modifies instruction in health to include instruction in the harmful effects of pornography, among other issues. During committee discussion, both Sen. Lyle Hillyard andSen. Howard Stephenson raised concerns that instructing students in the harmful effects of pornography could inadvertently lead students to become interested in pornography. They asked for clarification in how such a sensitive topic would be addressed with students. Sen. Stephenson also asked that there be an interim study to determine if an online course could be created to allow parents to choose which topics in health education they felt were appropriate for their child. Rep. Fawson stated this was the original focus of the bill but due to problems related to Utah procurement law and the ability of parents to vet appropriate curriculum the bill took a much narrower approach.

Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee (reported by Jay Blain): A bill to remove the sales tax on food failed in committee.

HB148 (1st sub.): Tax Revisions removes the state sales tax from most food items and raises the state general sales tax a small amount to make up the difference. Bill sponsor, Rep. Tim Quinn said this is not a revenue issue but a moral issue. People with more means can spend around 8 or 9 percent of their income on food but lower income people spend 35 or 40 percent, he said. Many representatives from groups representing the poor spoke in favor of the bill. The bill failed on a vote of 2-4.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): Bill to change how citizen initiatives are enacted fails, then passes.

HB471: Initiative Amendments requires the effective date of certain laws enacted by a statewide initiative petition to be one year after the initiative is approved by voters. The bill initially failed 34-39 on the House floor, but was reconsidered and passed on a vote of 46-25. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

HB408: Public Education Amendments creates the program Utah Leading through Effective, Actionable, and Dynamic Education (ULEADE). Representatives from the STEM Action Center and the Utah State Board of Education spoke in favor of the bill. It passed unanimously and now goes to the Senate.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): Bill to take money from existing funds to equalize school property tax funding passes the Senate.

SB145 (2nd sub.): School Funding Revisions attempts to equalize property tax funding for schools by taking money from the Education Fund, money that could otherwise be used for the WPU or other school uses. The UEA supports the concept of property tax equalization through new revenue as proposed in another bill, HB293. SB145 passed the Senate on a vote of 20-8and now goes to the House for consideration.

SB232: School Transportation Amendments provides additional funding for transportation for certain district schools and charter schools in rural areas. The cost is estimated to be about $4 million, although funding was not prioritized by the public education appropriations subcommittee. It passed the Senate unanimously.

SJR16: Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Public Education Governance eliminates the State Board of Education's general control of the public education system and moves it to the state superintendent of public instruction. The state superintendent is to be appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate. The UEA opposes this resolution. It passed the Senate on a vote of 22-6 and now goes to the House for consideration.