$800 million in additional revenue and an anti-voucher press conference – February 18

More than two-thirds through…31 days done, 14 days remaining in the 2022 General Legislative Session. Remarkably, new bills are still being released. Some highlights from today:

  • New budget numbers indicate revenue sufficient to fund the 7.5% WPU increase requested by the UEA and other education groups.
  • 50 educators gathered for UEA Educator Day on the Hill.
  • A coalition of groups supporting equity in Utah public schools and opposing the private school vouchers held a press conference.

Educator Day on the Hill (reported by Mike Kelley): With attendance capped due to pandemic protocol, another 50 educators, representing schools from Logan to St. George and everywhere in between came to share classroom experiences with their representatives. Participants this week also included representatives from the Utah School Employees Association, UEA-Retired and education students from Westminster college.

UEA Legislative Team members provided details about the lobbying process and issues of interest during an early morning meeting. Rep. Jefferson Moss, Sen. Michael McKell and Rep. Lowry Snow stopped by to thank the group for participating in the legislative process and answer questions.

After the morning briefing, participants attended committee meetings, met with legislators and participated in the lawmaking process. During a lunchtime debrief, attendees shared the many experiences they had speaking with legislators. Several noted comments from their representatives that the new tax proposals are going to pass and there is little that can be done about it. Many stayed to attend an afternoon press conference opposing private school vouchers organized by UEA (see below).

Press Conference Opposing School Vouchers (reported by Mike Kelley): A coalition of groups supporting equity in Utah public schools and opposing the private school voucher program proposed in House Bill 331 addressed the media this afternoon. Coordinated by the UEA, the coalition included representatives from the following groups:

  • The Utah Education Association
  • The Utah PTA
  • The Utah Association of Secondary School Principals
  • The Utah Association of Elementary School Principals
  • AFT Utah
  • Ogden NAACP
  • The Progressive Clergy Coalition of Utah

“School vouchers are not good for our state, for our country, for our society nor for our religion,” said Curtis Price, pastor at the First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City representing the Progressive Clergy Coalition of Utah. “These vouchers subsidize private and in many cases religious school for a very few affluent families along the Wasatch front at the expense of the poor and rural families in our state.”

Updated Budget Numbers Announced (reported by Jay Blain):

Today the legislature reported updated revenue numbers and lawmakers have even more tax revenue than expected:

                                                  One-time                                              Ongoing
   General Fund                     $128 million                                          $123 million
Education Fund                 $304 million                                          $261 million

This is over and above the more than $1 billion in new revenue reported in December that was used to build the current proposed budgets. This provides more money to build into the state budget, including for public education. The current recommended increase in the WPU (the basic education funding distribution unit) is 5%. With these new projections, there appears to be sufficient additional revenue to push this number to the 7.5% that has been requested by the UEA and other education groups in the state.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB302: Educational Language Services Amendments requires districts and charter schools to adopt certain policies to support students learning English and engagement with families of students learning English as well as creating an advisory council related to translation and interpretation services. The UEA supports this bill. It passed on a vote of 69-1 and now goes to the Senate.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): Three UEA-tracked bills passed the Senate unanimously and now go to the governor for signature:

HB230 (2nd sub.): Refugee and Immigrant Student Policies Amendments requires the State Board of Education to create a repository for immigrant students’ and foreign exchange students’ transcripts and amends requirements for when: an individual enrolling a student in a school is unable to produce the student’s birth certificate; and a student’s birth certificate does not accurately reflect the student’s age. It also amends requirements related to conditional enrollment when a school has not received a student’s complete immunization record. The UEA supports this bill.

HB241: School Epilepsy Training Amendments requires a school district or charter school to provide training on seizure first aid to a school administrator and teacher of student with epilepsy or other seizure disorder.

HB251: School Dropout Prevention Amendments gives school districts and charter schools options in dropout prevention programs, allowing them to do their own thing instead of hiring a third-party provider.

 

Upcoming Legislation to Watch

Six UEA-tracked bills are on the agenda for the Senate Education Committee at 8 a.m., Feb. 22:

Four UEA-tracked bills are on the agenda for the House Education Committee at 4 p.m., Feb. 22:

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