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UEA Report on the 2019 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK SEVEN: 


2019 WEEK IN REVIEW: March 11-14

During WEEK SEVEN, the House and the Senate each proposed bills to fund state government, including public education. The House version, which they called the “skinny budget,” would have covered student growth and provided a 3.5 percent increase on the Weighted Pupil Unit, but little else, in anticipation of allocating more after a special legislative session to address the state’s overall tax structure during the summer. The legislature ultimately passed the Senate version, SB4: Public Education Budget Adjustments. It will increase the WPU by 4 percent, fund growth, appropriate $15 million to the Teacher and Student Success Account and fund several other public education services (view the final 2019 Public Education Budget summary).

Tax reform efforts fizzle, sent to task force study

All the talk of tax reform this session wound up in a proposal for further study. HB495: Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force creates a task force to study state and local revenue systems with the purpose of making recommendations to address structural imbalances among revenue sources. The task force is required to solicit public feedback and involvement.

A surprise last-minute proposal to shift funds from education passes Senate, but was never heard in the House. SJR3 (3rd sub.): Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Income Tax Amendments took a crazy turn late Monday evening when Sen. Dan McCay abruptly replaced it with a substitute that seeks to reverse the constitutional provision dedicating all income tax to public and higher education. The resolution asks that the Utah State Constitution be changed to allow income tax, which is currently dedicated solely education, to be used “to provide services for the poor, the disabled, or the elderly.” The substitute resolution was adopted and passed by the Senate on a vote of 21-8. If the bill had passed the House, the question would have been placed on a public ballot asking voters to change the constitution.

The UEA strongly opposed this last-minute attempt to divert education funding. In a statement to the media about the proposal, UEA President Heidi Matthews said the change “would do nothing to address the structural imbalance that has been the focus of sales tax policy discussion for many months. This is akin to the 1996 constitutional change, when higher education funding was added to the Education Fund. It didn’t solve the structural problem then and it won’t solve the problem now. The legislature has the ability to fix the broken sales tax structure without cutting public education. This proposal is simply a diversion from the real crises: a broken sales tax structure and the chronic underfunding of public education.”

Partisan school board bill narrowly passes the House and other bills of interest

SB236: State Board of Education Candidacy Amendments would modify the election process for State Board of Education candidates to allow them to run as a partisan candidate, unaffiliated candidate or write-in candidate. The UEA opposes this bill. It narrowly passed on a vote of 38-37.

HB120 (6th sub.): Student and School Safety Assessment directs the State Board of Education to develop model policies and procedures for threat assessment. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously. The House then concurred with Senate changes on a vote of 45-22.

SB208: National Certification Teacher Incentive Amendments increases the stipend for National Board Certified teachers to $1,000 and $2,000 for Title 1 school. It also allows teachers to apply to have costs covered up front rather than after certification. It also covers renewals.

HB188: T.H. Bell Program Amendments changes the T.H. Bell Program from a loan forgiveness program to a scholarship program. It provides some preference to first-generation college students and provides some funds for promotion of the program. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate on a vote of 22-4.

Education ‘Policy Ambassadors’ share lobbying experiences

UEA Policy Ambassadors Sam Dixon (center) and
Warren Brodhead (right) joined 
about 60 teachers
at Educator Day on the Hill Feb. 1
This year, seven teachers volunteered to become UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA Educator Day on the Hill, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here are this week’s articles submitted by these teacher ambassadors:

Can One Voice Make a Difference? – by UEA Policy Ambassador Joanna Pace, second-grade teacher at Amelia Earhart Elementary School in Provo School District

…This year, because I took the time to be a bit more informed, I was able to be a part of the process and appreciate that some of these things and people DID work for our good. I also saw that potentially harmful measures DID NOT pass and feel that there may be hope for education and educators in this state. Can one voice make a difference? Certainly, our voices are stronger together, but each of us has the power to be an advocate for our students…read the full article from Joanna Pace

Funding, Faith and Fairness - by UEA Policy Ambassador Warren Brodhead, retired Salt Lake City School District social studies teacher

…The State of Utah, in contrast to the algorithmic shenanigans of 2008, is careful to treat its revenues in a fiscally responsible manner. Over the years, the Legislature built up a rainy-day fund and made sure the budget was balanced. Even so, in the Great Recession almost everybody took a substantial hit, including public education. In subsequent years, much has been done to make amends. But public ed funding is still…read the full article from Warren Brodhead

Moving the Ball in the Right Direction – by UEA Policy Ambassador Sam Dixon, teacher at Fairfield Jr. High School in Davis School District

…This conversation got me thinking about our legislature and the state of our schools. Representative Barlow took the time to listen to the ways in which we struggle to teach in Utah schools. We did not see eye to eye on tax policy, but I do believe he cares about students and teachers. It seems as though there is a gap between the value of education within Utah’s history and culture and the reality of teaching and learning in Utah’s schools…read the full article from Sam Dixon


UEA Policy Ambassador Message – March 15, 2019

This year, the UEA has been trying something new at the legislature. Seven teachers volunteered to become UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA Educator Day on the Hill, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here is a new submission...

UEA Policy Ambassador Sam Dixon (center) joined about
60 teachers at Educator Day on the Hill Feb. 1
Can one voice make a difference?

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Sam Dixon, teacher at Fairfield Jr. High School in Davis School District

…This conversation got me thinking about our legislature and the state of our schools. Representative Barlow took the time to listen to the ways in which we struggle to teach in Utah schools. We did not see eye to eye on tax policy, but I do believe he cares about students and teachers. It seems as though there is a gap between the value of education within Utah’s history and culture and the reality of teaching and learning in Utah’s schools…


Partisan school board bill narrowly passes the House – March 14, 2019

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): The following bills passed the House and now go to the Governor for signature.

SB179 (3rd sub): Truth in Taxation Amendments requires a public meeting addressing the general business of the taxing entity that occurs on the same date as a public hearing to discuss a proposed tax rate increase to conclude before the public hearing on the proposed tax rate increase begins. It also prohibits unreasonable restriction on the number of individuals who offer public comment and prohibits a taxing entity from holding a public hearing to discuss a proposed tax rate increase on the same date as another public hearing, other than a taxing entity's budget hearing, a local district's or special service district's fee hearing, or a town's enterprise zone hearing. It passed unanimously.

SB236: State Board of Education Candidacy Amendments would modify the election process for State Board of Education candidates to allow them to run as a partisan candidate, unaffiliated candidate or write-in candidate. The UEA opposes this bill. It narrowly passed on a vote of 38-37.

SB245: School Community Awareness adds clarifying language for a school in Turnaround status about keeping the school community and public notified of potential changes. It also adds clarifications about the process for public notice and public input prior to a school closure or school boundary change. The bill passed on a vote of 66-3.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): The following bills passed the Senate and now go to the Governor for signature.

HB119 (4th sub.): Initiatives, Referenda, and Other Political Activities provides for the publication of a proposition information pamphlet to inform voters of arguments for and against proposed and pending local initiatives and referenda; amends provisions relating to a local voter information pamphlet; and enacts provisions for holding a public hearing to discuss and present arguments relating to a proposed or pending local initiative or referendum. It passed on a vote of 21-1 and the House concurred with changes.

HB303 (2nd sub.): School Community Council Amendments has school community councils incorporate safety principles within the boundaries of USBE rules. It also has them coordinate with district administrators at least one time per year on safety issues. The bill passed on a vote of 18-5.


UEA Policy Ambassador Message – March 14, 2019

This year, the UEA has been trying something new at the legislature. Seven teachers volunteered to become UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA Educator Day on the Hill, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here is a new submission...


Provo educator Joanna Pace (left), met with her
representative during Educator Day on the Hill Feb. 1
Can one voice make a difference?

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Joanna Pace, second-grade teacher at Amelia Earhart Elementary School in Provo School District

…This year, because I took the time to be a bit more informed, I was able to be a part of the process and appreciate that some of these things and people DID work for our good. I also saw that potentially harmful measures DID NOT pass and feel that there may be hope for education and educators in this state. Can one voice make a difference? Certainly, our voices are stronger together, but each of us has the power to be an advocate for our students…


School safety, NBCT stipend increase, high-needs school bills sent to the Governor – March 13, 2019

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): The following bills passed the House. All are supported by the UEA. The bills now go to the Governor for signature.

HB120 (6th sub.): Student and School Safety Assessment directs the State Board of Education to develop model policies and procedures for threat assessment. The House concurred with Senate changes on a vote of 45-22.

SB37: Interventions for Reading Difficulties Sunset Amendments renames the Interventions for Reading Difficulties Pilot Program as the Interventions for Reading Difficulties Program and repeals outdated provisions. It also extends the sunset date for the program from July 1, 2019, to July 1, 2024.

SB112: Public Education Information Systems Uniformity Act would begin the funding for a Student Information System for the Utah State Board of Education. This would form the base for a possible end-to-end system in the future.

SB166 (3rd sub.): School Readiness Amendments allows LEA’s to run Pre-K programs. It allows UPSTART to be used in daycare if a provider chooses to do so. The UEA supports this bill. It passed on a vote of 68-3.

SB173: Dual Language Immersion Amendments creates a pilot program to allow LEA’s to enroll students in online language programs to catch-up in languages so that they can enroll in dual immersion programs.

SB208: National Certification Teacher Incentive Amendments increases the stipend for National Board Certified teachers to $1,000 and $2,000 for Title 1 school. It also allows teachers to apply to have costs covered up front rather than after certification and covers renewals.

SB115 (1st sub.): High Need School Amendments brings first-year teachers to a high-need school to create lower class sizes for the cooperating teacher and the new teacher.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): The following bills passed the Senate. Unless otherwise noted, the bills now go to the Governor for signature.

HB495: Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force creates a task force to study state and local revenue systems with the purpose of making recommendations to address structural imbalances among revenue sources. The task force is required to solicit public feedback and involvement. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate on a vote of 23-5 and now goes back to the House to approve a substitute.

HB120 (6th sub.): Student and School Safety Assessment directs the State Board of Education to develop model policies and procedures for threat assessment. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously. The House then concurred with Senate changes on a vote of 45-22.

HB375: School Employee Background Checks eliminates a duplicate requirement for two different background checks for educators working in district pre-school programs. The UEA supports this bill.

HB227 (1st sub.): Utah Computer Science Grant Act establishes a grant program for schools to improve computer science course offerings and provide professional learning for educators. The grants would be for professional development and curriculum.

HB409: Changes to the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind provides for some clarifying language and technical changes.

HB344: Student Relief Amendments allows a school to make stock albuterol available in a school. In addition, it allows authorized adults to obtain a prescription for stock albuterol and administer it to students.

HB291 (1st sub.): Concurrent Enrollment Modifications seeks to create consistent standards for teachers teaching concurrent enrollment courses. The UEA supports this bill.

HB208: Safe Routes to School Program requires the Department of Transportation to establish a program to promote safe routes for walking and bicycling to schools. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate on a vote of 24-2 and now goes to the House to concur with amendments. The UEA supports this bill.

HB195: Initiative and Referendum Amendments modifies signature thresholds for statewide initiatives and referenda and bases the thresholds on a percentage of active voters rather than the number of voters in a previous presidential election. The UEA supports this bill.


UEA Policy Ambassador Message – March 13, 2019

This year, the UEA has been trying something new at the legislature. Seven teachers volunteered to become UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA Educator Day on the Hill, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here is a new submission...

Funding, Faith and Fairness

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Warren Brodhead, retired Salt Lake City School District social studies teacher

UEA Policy Ambassador Warren Brodhead (right) joined
about 60 teachers at Educator Day on the Hill Feb. 1
Under our present economic system, money is rather unreal. Money has become virtual, it is digital. The Federal Reserve, a consortium of private bankers which serves as the U.S. version of a central bank, has two main functions: to control the money supply and manipulate interest rates. When the Fed decides to expand the money supply, it ‘creates’ money by punching numbers on a computer. The process bears comparison to the Book of Genesis: "Let there be a trillion dollars!" Click! "And lo, there was a trillion dollars."

The State of Utah, in contrast to the algorithmic shenanigans of 2008, is careful to treat its revenues in a fiscally responsible manner. Over the years, the Legislature built up a rainy-day fund and made sure the budget was balanced. Even so, in the Great Recession almost everybody took a substantial hit, including public education. In subsequent years, much has been done to make amends. But public ed funding is still…


After public blow back, tax reform ends up in task force – March 12, 2019

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): All UEA-tracked bills heard in the House today passed unanimously. The UEA supported all these bills. Senate bills now go to the Governor for signature. HB495 goes to the Senate for consideration.

HB495: Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force creates a task force to study state and local revenue systems with the purpose of making recommendations to address structural imbalances among revenue sources. The task force is required to solicit public feedback and involvement.

SB4: Public Education Budget Adjustments is the primary funding bill for public education. It will increase the WPU by 4 percent, fund growth, appropriate $15 million to the Teacher and Student Success Account and fund several other public education services.

SB164: Student Data Privacy Amendments amends provisions related to the State Board of Education sharing student data with the Utah Registry of Autism and Developmental Disabilities and repeals provisions related to the State Board of Education sharing student data with the State Board of Regents.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): All UEA-tracked bills heard in the Senate today passed. Unless otherwise noted, the vote was unanimous. House bills now go to the Governor for signature. Senate bills go to the House for consideration.

HB48 (2nd sub.): School Trust Fund Modifications amends provisions related to school and institutional trust fund management, advocacy and distribution of funds. The UEA supports this bill.

HB213 (1st sub.): Promotion of Student Loan Forgiveness would require that public employees, including educators, be notified annually of the federal student loan forgiveness program for public employees.

HB260 (4th sub.): Access Utah Promise Scholarship Program creates a new scholarship program for students attending Utah public colleges and universities.

HB48 (2nd sub.): School Trust Fund Modifications amends provisions related to school and institutional trust fund management, advocacy and distribution of funds. The UEA supports this bill.

HB145 (3rd sub.): Citizen Political Process Amendments modifies signature sheets, deadlines, signature removal requests, the signature certification process and criminal penalties. The UEA opposes this bill. It originally failed but was reconsidered and passed on a vote of 19-6.

HB236 (1st sub.): Teacher Salary Supplement Amendments allows teachers who have taught 10 years in an approved subject to receive a TSSA salary supplement.

HB188: T.H. Bell Program Amendments changes the T.H. Bell Program from a loan forgiveness program to a scholarship program. It provides some preference to first-generation college students and provides some funds for promotion of the program. The UEA supports this bill. It passed on a vote of 22-4.

HB463: Early Literacy Amendments allows all students in a classroom to use the early literacy software, not just those below grade level.


Surprise last-minute proposal to shift funds from education passes Senate, moves to the House – March 12, 2019

Senate Joint Resolution 3 took a crazy turn late Monday evening when Sen. Dan McCayabruptly replaced it with a substitute that seeks to reverse the constitutional provision dedicating all income tax to public and higher education. The resolution asks that the Utah State Constitution be changed to allow income tax, which is currently dedicated solely education, to be used “to provide services for the poor, the disabled, or the elderly.”

The substitute resolution was adopted and passed by the Senate on a vote of 21-8. It now goes to the House for consideration. Should the bill pass there, the question would be placed on a public ballot asking voters to change the constitution.

The UEA strongly opposes this last-minute attempt to divert education funding. In a statement to the media about the proposal, UEA President Heidi Matthews said:

“This represents a significant fundamental shift in the way we fund public education and public assistance in Utah. Such a sweeping change requires careful consideration, study and stakeholder input before being placed on a public ballot. Initiating something this big with barely two days left in the session, when there’s no time whatsoever for a committee hearing or public input, is absurd and certainly not good lawmaking practice.

“This change would do nothing to address the structural imbalance that has been the focus of sales tax policy discussion for many months. This is akin to the 1996 constitutional change, when higher education funding was added to the Education Fund. It didn’t solve the structural problem then and it won’t solve the problem now.

“The legislature has the ability to fix the broken sales tax structure without cutting public education. This proposal is simply a diversion from the real crises: a broken sales tax structure and the chronic underfunding of public education.”

The income tax was dedicated to fund only public education prior to a constitutional change in 1996 that allowed higher education expenses, previously paid from the General Fund, to be included. From 1996 until now, higher ed expenses have shifted until they are 100 percent paid from the Education Fund.


Fundamental tax change to divert ed funding passes the Senate in surprise bill substitution – March 11, 2019

House Education Committee (reported by Jay Blain): SB208: National Certification Teacher Incentive Amendments increases the stipend for National Board Certified teachers to $1,000 and $2,000 for Title 1 school. It also allows teachers to apply to have costs covered up front rather than after certification. It also covers renewals. Several spoke in favor of the bill, including UEA Director of Education Excellence Sara Jones. She informed the committee of the UEA’s efforts in this area to increase the numbers of teachers who are National Board Certified via the Jumpstart program that provides mentorship for candidates. The bill passed unanimously.

House Revenue and Taxation Committee (reported by Jay Blain): HB374: Modifications to Education Funding was presented by Rep. Norm Thurston. He said this bill is in response to HB293 from last year’s session that created the weighted pupil unit value tax rate. It establishes a limit on the amount of an increase to the value of the weighted pupil unit funded through the weighted pupil unit value tax rate. He cited the concerns of local districts that are bonding for new buildings and the impact of increased property taxes on this effort. The bill was amended to make the limit 4 percent no matter what the WPU increase is. It passed on a vote of 9-2 and moved to the full House for consideration (see below).

SB179 (3rd sub.): Truth in Taxation Amendments requires a public meeting addressing the general business of the taxing entity that occurs on the same date as a public hearing to discuss a proposed tax rate increase to conclude before the public hearing on the proposed tax rate increase begins. It also prohibits unreasonable restriction on the number of individuals who offer public comment and prohibits a taxing entity from holding a public hearing to discuss a proposed tax rate increase on the same date as another public hearing, other than a taxing entity's budget hearing, a local district's or special service district's fee hearing, or a town's enterprise zone hearing. It passed unanimously and now goes to the full House for consideration.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB374: Modifications to Education Fundingestablishes a limit on the amount of an increase to the value of the weighted pupil unit funded through the weighted pupil unit value tax rate. The limit would be 4 percent no matter what the WPU increase is. It passed the House on a vote of 59-16 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

HB363 (1st sub.): School Transportation Amendments creates a committee within the State Board of Education to study and make recommendations about hazardous walking routes. The bill failed on a vote of 37-36 (bills require 38 votes in the House to pass).

HB463: Early Literacy Amendments allows all students in a classroom to use the early literacy software, not just those below grade level. It passed the House on a vote of 62-10 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SJR3 (3rd sub.): Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Income Tax Amendments has the potential to drastically diminish education funding in Utah. As originally introduced, the resolution was intended to make minor property tax exemption changes. Late Monday evening, the sponsor substituted the bill to allow income tax to be used “to provide services for the poor, the disabled, or the elderly.” The UEA strongly opposes this last-minute attempt to divert education funding. Sen. Dan McCay stated on the floor that this would allow some social services to be funded out of the Education Fund. Sen. Lincoln Fillmore said that in this last election votes shut down a vote for education funding, but passed funding for Medicaid, which tells him that voters feel social services are as important as education. Sen. Curt Bramble said he thinks competition for education funds would be a good thing. Sen. Diedre Henderson stated that our state does not have a revenue problem, we have a structure problem and it is very clear the people of Utah don't want us to solve the problem by expanding the sales tax base to include all services. The bill passed on a vote of 21-8 and now goes to the House for consideration.

SB4: Public Education Budget Adjustments is the primary funding bill for public education. It would increase the WPU by 4 percent, fund growth, appropriate $15 million to the Teacher and Student Success Account and fund several other public education services. A competing bill, House Bill 2, is moving through the House. The House version provides a much lower level of public ed funding in anticipation of allocating more after a special legislative session to address the state’s overall tax structure during the summer.

SB236: State Board of Education Candidacy Amendments would modify the election process for State Board of Education candidates to allow them to run as a partisan candidate, unaffiliated candidate or write-in candidate. The UEA opposes this bill. It passed on a vote of 23-5 and now goes to the House for consideration.

SB245: School Community Awareness adds clarifying language for a school in Turnaround status about keeping the school community and public notified of potential changes. It also adds clarifications about the process for public notice and public input prior to a school closure or school boundary change. The bill passed on a vote of 25-2 and now goes to the House for consideration.