Stronger Together! - Legislative post by UEA Policy Ambassador Renee Pinkney
Legislative report submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Renee Pinkney, teacher at Park City High School
Do you want to feel the power of unity? Do you believe that we are stronger together than we are alone? If you said ‘yes,’ sign up for an upcoming Educator Day on the Hill (EDOH). I’m Renee Pinkney, a UEA Policy Ambassador. I’ve experienced several days on the hill. I highly recommend it. The experience is energizing, life changing and enlightening.
Park City educator Renee Pinkney (center),
pictured here with her students at the Utah
State Capitol, is a 2019 UEA Policy Ambassador
You have an opportunity to interact with teachers from across the state. You meet our UEA Legislative Team, UEA governance and our UEA staff who work endless hours during the legislative session ensuring the promise of public education for our students and ourselves. UEA isn’t an abstract idea anymore. It is tangible.
You’re part of a team from your local association or Uniserv to lobby your Utah representative and senator. In addition, members of the legislature from both parties drop by in the morning to introduce themselves and explain their bills. All of this networking is important to relationship building. This is a cornerstone of our organization. We can cultivate positive relationships and trust that can lead to transformational change in Utah’s public schools.
We learned that UEA’s legislative priorities this year include the greatest investment in our kids in Utah’s history. We are asking for a 6.5% increase on the WPU. This will allow school districts to allocate funding for critical needs that are unique to individual districts and schools.
I was fortunate to attend the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee meeting with our Utah teacher of the year Aaryn Birchell for about 30 minutes. I was impressed with the thoughtful questions posed by committee members, the sincerity of the public comments and the overall efficiency and thoroughness of the process. Although the committee meeting was not part of our education priorities, the recipients of SNAP and other social services are our students. Taking a holistic approach to caring for our most needy citizens with wrap-around services is important to their educational success.
I was able to speak to my representative and his wife about why local control is important and about my concern for the teacher shortage. His wife is a school aide and understands the importance of adequate funding that is necessary to enhance our paraprofessional staff that enables us to meet our students’ diverse needs. In addition, I asked my representative to support HB130: Public Education Exit Survey. This bill will help all stakeholders understand why teachers leave the profession so we can elevate our chosen career and make it desirable for our young people. Unfortunately, my representative voted against the measure. Rather than being down about his ‘no’ vote, I feel this will provide me with an additional opportunity to speak to him about his reservations so I understand his point of view.
My last conversation of the day was with my senator. As a team we discussed the importance of lower class sizes, local decision making, the importance of ending the teacher shortage and getting highly qualified educators into our classrooms.
Any hesitation or reservations about speaking with our state legislators vanished as I realized unity gave us power, our capacity gave us strength. Our personal stories have an important impact on crafting legislation that will benefit students and teachers alike. Please join us on Capitol Hill. You won’t be disappointed.
About UEA Policy Ambassadors—
In 2019, 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.