2020 Special Sessions

UEA prods legislature to restore USDB funding, teacher prep scholarships, National Board stipend – August 20, 2020

Sixth Special Session (reported by Jay Blain): The Utah Legislature called themselves into special August 20, 2020, to deal with a whole host of issues, mainly related to COVID-19 matters. Three bills with relevance to public education and funding passed during the session. The bills included several items that likely would not have received funding without UEA lobbying efforts, including funding for Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB) teacher salary increases, teacher preparation scholarships and stipends for National Board certification.

HB6002: Supplemental Budget Balancing and Coronavirus Relief Appropriations is a huge funding bill that contains two items for which UEA had strongly advocated:

 

  • $250,000 for teacher preparation scholarships and
  • $1,145,000 for USDB teacher steps, lanes and salaries. This was necessary because those increases are not included as part of the WPU, which was increased by 1.8% in June.

Also of interest in this bill was this section: “The Legislature intends that the State Board of Education use $3.9 million of the $19.0 million Coronavirus relief funding distributed to the Board to pay for personal protective equipment and other allowable expenses for schools. The Legislature further intends that the Board use $3.9 million from federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to support the expansion of students in online charter schools.” It passed the House 72-3 and the Senate 28-0.

HB6004: School Emergency Drills Amendments requires schools to provide monthly age-appropriate fire evacuation instruction in lieu of emergency evacuation drills for a portion of the 2020-21 school year (before March 1, 2021) and a monthly emergency evacuation drill for the remainder of the school year. The reasoning being that students wouldn’t be social distancing in congregating during these drills. The bill passed the House 71-3 and the Senate 29-0

HB6012: Public Education Funding and Enrollment Amendments does several things:

 

  • Permits the State Board of Education (state board) to use a different date or dates for counting average daily membership when calculating the growth factor for the 2020-2021 school year. Gives LEA’s (districts and charters flexibility). Refer to the Board rules for more details.
  • Amends the distribution of small district base funding for necessarily existent small schools, this bill basically helps one district, Piute.
  • Creates a salary supplement for teachers who hold a certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; $2000 in a Title 1 school, $1000 otherwise. This was cut in a previous special session.
  • Appropriates money to the state board to allocate to local education agencies to pay for software licenses for English language learner student instruction;
  • Allows a charter school to give enrollment preference for the 2021-2022 school year to a student who withdrew from the charter school to attend an online school or home school in the 2020-2021 school year due to the COVID-19 emergency; and
  • Allows the state board to use federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency funds and non-lapsing Minimum School Program funds for charter school local replacement funding in the 2020-2021 school year.

HB6012 passed both the House and the Senate unanimously.


 

Victory for education! Legislators increase public education budget by 2.2% thanks to UEA – June 19, 2020

After all the doom and gloom about cuts up to 10%, the legislature voted during a Special Session to grow the public education budget by 2.2% over the current year, including a 1.8% increase in the per-student Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) and full funding of student enrollment growth. While not the 6% WPU increase passed during the General Session, the growth is significant in a post-COVID-19 environment.

“This was not an easy win…far from it,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews in an email to UEA leaders. “Even legislators in leadership are saying this increase would not have happened without the UEA. The groundwork laid by UEA members participating at Educator Day on the Hill during the General Session was critical, along with a lot of long hours and hard work by our UEA Legislative Team.”

In addition to the budget increase for the upcoming school year, the legislature previously added statutory guarantees to automatically fund student enrollment growth and inflation in all future years, guarantees we’ve never had before. During the Special Session, legislators also included a make-up increase (HB5011), designating 10% of all new Education Fund revenue to the WPU before any other budget items are considered. These guarantees are conditional on voter approval this November of a Constitutional amendment allowing Income Tax to be used for certain Social Services programs, primarily to benefit children.

The news from the Special Session was not all good for education. There were cuts to the Flexible Allocation Line item (-$7.8 million), Administrative Cost Factor of Small Districts and Charter Schools (-$13.3 million) and the Math and Science Opportunities for Students and Teachers program (MOST – formerly USTAR, -$6.2 million). The UEA indicated they are still working with the legislature to restore some of these. In speaking to HB5011 on the House floor, Rep. Mike Shultz said, “As we have been working on this with education stakeholders and the UEA, there’s been a lot of concerns brought up. A lot of those are valid concerns with some of the cuts that have been made. I have made my commitment to work with (the UEA) and the Legislature and other stakeholders to try to fix some of those cuts that still need to be addressed.”

View the full budget cuts and additions adopted during the Special Session here (Public Education budget is on page 9).

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