Show Up and Speak Out by UEA Policy Ambassador Alexis Redford
Legislative report submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Alexis Redford, USDB outreach teacher for the blind working in Canyons School District
Educator Day on the Hill is a whirlwind of suspense and excitement. Teachers from all across the state gather to meet their senators and representatives to advocate for teacher and student needs. What better person to explain such needs than teachers? While it can be uncomfortable to lobby for your needs and share your story, it is important to bridge the gap between teachers and legislators.
Alexis Redford (front left) is one of nineteen
2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors
We can’t expect change to happen in our classrooms if we don’t show up and speak out. We know what we need and what would help make a difference better than anyone. Our presence on the hill, sharing our stories and advocating for what we need has a greater impact than we think.
I spoke with my senator about his sponsorship of SB69: Tax Credit for Educator Expenses. This bill would increase the refundable tax income up to $1,000 for certain educator expenses. I explained that the current refundable tax income doesn’t begin to cover what teachers spend each year on the items their students need to succeed. We are spending our own money on basic school materials – although, not every teacher is able to do this. If it is not provided from the school, it is not required for teachers to go out and purchase materials needed.
Many teachers are spending their own money because they know if their students have the right tools, they are more likely to succeed. What teacher doesn’t want their students to succeed? If this bill is passed, more teachers would be able to get even the most basic materials needed in their classrooms. In return, student success would only increase.
My senator’s mother was a teacher. He is aware of the impact teachers have on students and the role we play in their lives. He agreed that the more support we give our teachers, the greater success our students will have. However, it was mentioned that no matter how helpful this bill would be for teachers and students, there is a lack of support for the amount the bill asks for. My senator said there was a good chance he would need to reduce the bill to $500 in order to get it to pass. It is more difficult to pass bills that put more money into teachers’ pockets than it is to add more money to ‘general education’. This is extremely vague and not often a direct benefit to teachers. He mentioned there needed to be more voices on the hill from teachers and the Utah Education Association (UEA).
If we want change, then we need to get out there and start advocating for our needs. There is only so much we can do from our classrooms. Participating in Educator Day on the Hill and talking to your representative and senator is just one way to make a difference. Be part of UEA and join your local UniServ. Become a Policy Ambassador and receive training from the UEA Legislative Team.
How many of you are willing to step out from behind the desk and fight for the necessary changes that need to be made? Teachers need more support than ever from fellow teachers. Step out of your comfort zone and make a difference today.