2020 UEA Legislative Summary

2020 UEA Legislative Summary

Schools to see biggest funding bump in more than a decade

In total, more than 500 educators participated in the six
Educator Day on the Hill events held in 2020.

Utah public schools can expect the largest funding increase since 2006, thanks in large part to engagement by Utah educators on Capitol Hill. Teachers played a huge role in legislative efforts this year. About 500 teachers representing nearly every Utah school district volunteered their time to meet with legislators and share stories about their classroom during UEA Educator Day on the Hill events held each Friday. An estimated 2,000 participated in the UEA ‘Education Day of Action’ and the ‘Walk for Students’ sponsored by the Salt Lake Education Association on February 28.

“Education funding increases approved by the legislature this year are a clear win for all the educators who shared stories of how the budget impacts their students and their schools,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “Educators talked with legislators, attended town hall meetings, participated in Educator Day on the Hill events, marched for students, signed our funding petition and much more. It all made a difference!”

The UEA tracked 92 education-related bills moving through the process, including bills to create a new voucher-like private school income tax credit, to expand early learning programs (OEK), to suspend school grades for two years and to add first-, second- and third-grade teachers to an existing salary bonus program.

An estimated 2,000 educators, parents, students and public education supporters gathered at the
State Capitol on February 28 as part of Salt Lake Education Association’s ‘Walk for Students.’

Here are a few results from this legislative session:

Public Education Budget—

Activities at Education Day of Action included a
photo booth for sharing on social media.

Legislators approved a 9.7% overall increase for public schools starting next fiscal year or about $331 million in new funding. Budget highlights include:

  • A 6% increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU);
  • $50.6 million to fully fund student enrollment growth;
  • $20.6 million added to the Teacher and Student Success Account to fund the Teacher and Student Success Program started in 2019;
  • $200,000 increase in the T.H. Bell teacher scholarship program to attract new teachers; and
  • $30 million one-time money to “meet school level priorities, first to address one-time student and school safety priorities and second to meet other one-time school level priorities.”

In addition, a few individual bills passed that impact district budgets. Among those are House Bill 107, which expands to grades 1-3 and increases the amount of the test-based Effective Teachers in High Poverty Schools Incentive Program and Senate Bill 104, which increases the guarantee for local property tax levies that certain districts receive.

Education Funding Reform—

UEA President Heidi Matthews joined the governor, legislative
leadership and other education stakeholders at a March 11
press event announcing a new education funding agreement.

On March 11, the UEA joined legislative leadership, the governor and other education stakeholders at a press event announcing an historic education funding agreement. The agreement includes moving forward with a bill to assure student-enrollment growth and inflation are included in future public education funding and a vote to include services for children and the disabled in income tax funding.

As a show of good faith, the legislature also committed to a 6% increase in the WPU this year (see Budget above). One news outlet said of the agreement, “As far as politics goes, this (is) one of the great coming together/compromises in recent legislative history — and that is not an exaggeration.”

Two bills are at the heart of the education funding reform:

Senate Joint Resolution 9 allows income tax revenue to be used to provide services for children and the disabled in addition to education.

House Bill 357 statutorily obligates legislators to invest in public education and provides a safety net to protect education funding from situations such as the recession in 2008 when there was not enough revenue to even fund student enrollment growth.

“All along we’ve said that a guarantee of FUNDING is much more beneficial than a guarantee of REVENUE,” wrote Matthews in an email to all UEA members prior to the announcement. “The constitutional guarantee that all income tax goes to education assures revenue, but not funding. Under the compromise reached, we get both…the constitutional revenue guarantee remains AND the legislature has committed to a guarantee of public education funding…House Bill 357 is a step in that direction and, I believe, will change the conversation around education funding for the foreseeable future,” she wrote.

Other Bills of Note—

OEK Expansion: House Bill 99 provides opportunities for more at-risk students to participate in optional extended-day kindergarten (OEK) programs. It adds $10 million to existing OEK funds and, while less than the initial $18 million request that would have provided for every at-risk kindergartener, the bill goes a long way toward enhancing student equity and access to quality education.

Grading Schools: Rep. Marie Poulson fought hard for a third straight year to eliminate single-letter school grades. House Bill 175 passed the House unanimously but never had a vote in the Senate. Senate Bill 119, however, did pass. This bill halts school letter grades for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years as a result of the testing fiasco from last spring. Single letter grades will return in 2020-21 unless the Legislature passes new legislation.

Rep. Rex. Shipp meets with Iron Education Association
members outside the House of Representatives.

Private School Scholarships: After the statewide rejection of vouchers in 2007, several proposals have surfaced attempting to divert public money to private schools. This year it was House Bill 332. It creates a scholarship program where companies and individuals can receive tax credits for contributions up to $6 million. Students with Individual Education Plans (IEP) would then qualify to receive a scholarship, generally equal to the value of 2 WPU’s, to be used for private school tuition, private tutoring and therapies, and other expenses. Parents must acknowledge they are signing away their rights under federal special education law when they accept the scholarship.

Reduced Graduation Standards: House Bill 355 would have reduced the graduation requirement that students must “exceed” three units of English Language Arts, and two units each of math and science, and instead required that students “meet or exceed” those requirements. Lowering the standard would create more opportunity for elective courses, according to the sponsor. The proposal passed the House Education Committee but failed on the House floor.

Civics Education: House Bill 152 would have eliminated the requirement that all students pass a civics test to graduate. The sponsor argued that a “bubble test” doesn’t teach authentic civics learning or engagement and can be a barrier to graduation. Currently, the civics test is the only statewide standardized test for which parents cannot opt-out their child because it is required for graduation. The bill passed the House Education Committee but failed on the House floor. However, another civics bill, House Bill 334, passed. This bill creates a “civics engagement” pilot program. Districts electing to participate will work with the State Board of Education for three years to determine the benefits of and methods for implementing a civic engagement “project” for students. If the pilot is successful, the Board may recommend such a project as a requirement for high school graduation.

Mental Health: House Bill 323 funds an optional program for districts to implement a “mental health screening tool” for students. Based on an existing program used by some districts, parents must choose to opt-in their child, the screening tool must be age appropriate and results must be shared with parents. The goal is to help identify student mental health needs that would benefit from intervention either in a school-based setting or through community resources.

Charter School Accountability: One major charter school bill passed this session. House Bill 242 was a response to the recent closure of schools and some mismanagement of funds. This bill creates an initial review period before a charter school receives ongoing approval and requires a charter school to use the same accounting methods as district schools.

State Board Governance: The Legislature again dealt with the issue of governance for the Utah State Board of Education. The UEA supports direct non-partisan elections for State Board members. In 2016, legislation was passed that transitioned these to partisan elections. The UEA was involved in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of partisan State Board elections. Unfortunately, the lawsuit was unsuccessful and the court validated partisan elections. House Joint Resolution 13 would have put a constitutional question to the voters to allow the Governor to appoint members of the State Board and eliminate the elections altogether. The bill was held in committee. This means Utah State Board of Education elections will be partisan in 2020. Expect this issue to be back at the Legislature next year.

School Breakfast: House Bill 222 requires public schools to participate in an alternative breakfast model if a certain percentage of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. The bill failed to pass in a Senate committee a few senator comments received considerable media attention. The bill was brought back a week later and passed the committee, then later passed the full Senate and House.

Vaping and E-cigarettes: Educators see and understand the negative effects of electronic cigarettes by minors in schools. These devices are addictive and a distraction from teaching and learning. House Bill 58 addresses these issues. UEA originally had concerns about the prescriptive nature of the language and the role educators might play in the confiscation and destruction of these devices. UEA worked with the sponsor to make several educator-friendly amendments. The improved bill requires each school to develop a plan to address the causes of student use of these electronic devices and provides for a stipend for a specialist to administer the plan.

Policy Ambassadors—

Nineteen educators volunteered as 2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors.

Nineteen teachers volunteered to become 2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team, participated in UEA Educator Day on the Hill and engaged with their legislators. They then shared their experiences. These policy ambassadors are Lori Buhr, Tooele; Annette Croucher, Washington; Ashlyn Drew, Tooele; CJ Gebhardt, Granite; Carol Gregory, Nebo; Sarah Jones, Davis; Taylor Layton, Granite; Katharine McGinn, Park City; Courtney Miller, Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind; Beth Niederman, Granite; Alexis Redford, Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind; Lauren Rich, Davis; Jacob Rollins, Jordan; Megan Ruff, Jordan; Justin Shaw, Weber; Patricia Shay, Granite; Alexandra Smith, Weber; Hilary Ward, Salt Lake City; and Angela Wickel, Duchesne.

Legislation of Note in the 2020 Legislative Session

The UEA tracked nearly 100 bills dealing directly or indirectly with education during the 2020 Legislative Session.
Here are a few bills of note and their final status:

J = Outcome favorable to the UEA position K = Outcome neutral L = Outcome unfavorable



Result (Yea-Nay)

HB58 Electronic Cigarettes in Schools Amendments
(S. Pulsipher)

Adds vaping to existing substance prevention programs and requires districts to adopt policies for vaping products on school grounds.


Passed House 66-0
and the Senate 28-0

HB70 Repeal of Single-Mark Straight Ticket Voting
(P. Arent)

Removes provisions allowing an individual to vote for all candidates from one political party without voting for the candidates individually.


Passed House 46-26
and the Senate 25-1

HB99 Enhanced Kindergarten Amendments
(L. Snow)

Clarifies assessment and reporting requirements and expands the availability of OEK programs with an additional $10 million in funding.


Passed House 48-21
and the Senate 27-0

HB107 Effective Teachers in High Poverty Schools Incentive (M. Winder)

Making teachers in grades 1-3 eligible for the High Poverty Schools Incentive Program and increases the annual salary bonus.


Passed House 54-16
and the Senate 27-0

HB152 Civics and History Education Study Group
(E. Weight)

Repeals the requirement to pass a basic civics test as a condition for receiving a high school diploma.


Failed in the House 18-50

HB175 Education Accountability Amendments (M. Poulson)

Eliminates the A through F school letter grade. Substituted in a Senate committee to be for just the 2018-19 school year.


Passed House 70-0 but not heard in the Senate

HB205 Students with Disabilities Amendments
(M. Judkins)

Amends a formula related to add-on weighted pupil units for students with disabilities.


Passed House 71-0
but was not funded

HB222 Start Smart Utah Breakfast Program
(D. Johnson)

Creates the Start Smart Utah Program to expand access to school breakfast in public schools.


Passed House 51-20
and the Senate 25-1

HB241 Kindergarten Attendance Amendments
(L. Shurtliff)

Requires enrollment in kindergarten at age five.


Failed in the House 23-46

HB242 Charter School Operations Amendments
(J. Moss)

Enacts provisions to improve the approval process, oversight, accounting methods, and closure procedures for charter schools.


Passed House 71-0
and the Senate 24-2

HB289 Public Education Retirement Amendments
(C. Hall)

Allows an employee to apply a salary increase of more than 10% to be used in the calculation of their final average salary.


Passed House 65-3 but not heard in the Senate

HB332 Special Needs Scholarship Amendments
(M. Schultz)

Shifts public money to private schools through a voucher-like scholarship program using income tax credits.


Passed House 46-24

and the Senate 17-12

HB334 Civics Education Amendments (D. Johnson)

Creates a pilot program to assess the benefits of completing a civics engagement project as a condition for receiving a high school diploma.


Passed House 61-4 and the Senate 26-0

HB355 Standards and Graduation Requirements Amendments (K. Lisonbee)

Amends provisions regarding high school graduation requirements by reducing required credits in math and science.


Failed in the House 28-40

HB357 Public Education Funding Stabilization
(R. Spendlove)

Creates a guarantee to cover student enrollment growth and inflation and establishes a contingency fund to address years when revenue is short.


Passed House 70-2
and the Senate 27-1

HB416 Penalties for Misconduct with Students
(C. Pierucci)

Imposes penalties for an educator who engages in sexually explicit conduct with a student who is not a minor.


Passed House 65-5
and the Senate 22-0

HB420 Turnaround Program Amendments (B. Last)

Amends the criteria for a low performing school to exit the school turnaround program.


Passed House 70-0
and the Senate 23-0

HCR3 Resolution Encouraging a Later Start for High School (S. Harrison)

Encourages school districts and charter schools to consider the possible benefits and consequences of a later start high schools.


Passed House 51-20
and the Senate 22-1

HJR13 Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution – State Board of Ed (M. Ballard)

Proposes to amend the Utah Constitution to allow State Board of Education members to be appointed by the Governor.


Held in a House committee

SB69 Tax Credit for Educator Expenses (J. Anderegg)

Enacts a refundable income tax credit for certain educator expenses.


Passed Senate 17-9
but not heard in the House

SB104 Local Education Levy State Guarantee Amendments (L. Fillmore)

Provides for an increase in the guaranteed amount per guaranteed local levy increment in certain circumstances.


Passed Senate 23-3
and the House 58-14

SB119 School Accountability Amendments (D. Henderson)

Removes the requirement for the Utah State Board of Education to issue school letter grades for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.


Passed Senate 26-0
and the House 69-0

SB200 Redistricting Amendments (C. Bramble)

Addresses provisions relating to the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission and



Passed Senate 25-0
and the House 67-4

SJR9 Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution – Use of Tax (D. McCay)

Constitutional amendment to expand the uses for income tax to include programs to support children and individuals with a disability.


Passed Senate 26-2
and the House 67-5