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UEA Report on the 2020 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK SIX:

2020 WEEK IN REVIEW: March 2-6


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

The Executive Appropriations Committee increased the proposed WPU increase for this year to 5%, up from 4% originally recommended. The legislature also introduced a significant new education funding reform package during WEEK SIX that would divert income tax constitutionally guaranteed for education to other social programs that support “children and individuals with a disability.” To offset this diverted funding, legislators propose a guarantee of public education funding to cover student enrollment growth and inflation.

In all, the UEA was tracking nearly 90 education-related bills by the end of the week. Bills of interest on the move included a new private school voucher, the permanent eliminate school grades and changes allowing educators to use large raises in calculating retirement payouts. About 50 educators participated in UEA Educator Day on the Hill. More than 500 participated in the event during 2020.

Funding committee announces 5% WPU increase

The Executive Appropriations Committee of the Legislature released preliminary numbers for the final budget that include a 5% increase on the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU). While not the 6% increase the UEA and other education stakeholders were asking, if enacted, it would be the largest increase on the WPU since 2006.


Representatives from the Utah School Employees
Association participated in EDOH events all year.
“This budget proposal is a clear win for all the educators who shared stories of how the budget impacts their students and their schools,” wrote UEA President Heidi Matthews in an email to UEA members. “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.”

In addition to the WPU increase, some proposed public education budget line items include: $100 million for a Public Education Reserve Account; $14 million Funding Equity or Teacher Student Success Account; $10 million for Optional Enhanced Kindergarten – House Bill 99; $5 million for Early Learning Training and Assessment – House Bill 114; and $6 million for Special Needs Scholarships – House Bill 332 (Note: Items tied to bills are contingent on the bill passing. These totals are NEW money, so they are added to the already-approved “base” budget, which included student enrollment growth.) View the complete appropriations sheet.

Education Funding Reform back on the agenda in the Legislature’s closing days

The Utah Legislature is considering a new proposal that would divert income tax constitutionally guaranteed for education to other programs (see more about the proposal). This is important because of the impact tax changes could have on future education funding.

There are two parts to the proposal:

  • SJR9: Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Use of Tax Revenue adds programs to support “children and individuals with a disability” to the uses for income tax revenue. It passed the Senate this week on a vote of 23-6 and now goes to the House for consideration.
  • HB357: Public Education Funding Stabilization creates a statutory guarantee of education funding to cover student enrollment growth and inflation. It also establishes a sort of “working rainy-day fund” to help ensure growth and inflation are covered even when the current year income tax revenues are insufficient. It passed the House on a vote of 62-10 and now goes to the Senate.

Enacting these changes requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature to place the constitutional language on the ballot. A public vote in November would determine if there is a change to the Utah constitution. The measure would then take effect on January 1, 2021.

The Utah State Board of Education, the Utah Superintendents Association and the Utah School Boards Association all voted this week to support the changes.

In an email to UEA members, UEA President Heidi Matthews wrote, “We recognize there may be ways to safeguard and grow education funding beyond the existing constitutional guarantee, but we’re concerned a massive change that could impact generations of children needs more deliberation and time and shouldn’t be decided with only a few days left in the session (the session ends March 12). We are pushing hard to defer this bill to special session in order to provide time to get answers and to have a meaningful dialogue about how best to strengthen public education funding.

New private school voucher bill passes the House

HB332: Special Needs Scholarship Amendments would create the Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship Program and provide an income tax credit. The UEA strongly opposes this bill because it operates like a voucher, taking money from the education fund and sending it to private schools with little taxpayer accountability. The bill passed the House on a vote of 46-24 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Bill to permanently eliminate school grades hijacked in legislative maneuver

HB175: Education Accountability Amendments unanimously passed the House and was oddly assigned to the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee. The bill permanently eliminates the single letter grade for schools while maintaining the dashboard accountability system. UEA President Heidi Matthews and others from the education community spoke in favor of the bill. Senate President Stuart Adams substituted HB175 with language duplicating SB119 (see below), requiring a reprieve from letter grades for one year, but not going forward. The substitute bill passed in the committee with only Sen. Kathleen Riebe voting no.

SB119 (3rd sub): School Accountability Amendments removes the requirement for USBE to issue school letter grades for the 2018-19 and the 2019-20 school years. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full House where it is expected to pass easily.

500 attend Educator Day on the Hill during 2020


Sen. Lyle Hillyard shared an overview of the budgeting
process with Educator Day on the Hill participants.
About 50 educators from a dozen school districts, along with several retired educators and representatives from the Utah School Employees Association, met early for the final Educator Day on the Hill of the 2020 Legislative Session.

UEA Research Director Jay Blain shared information about the new education funding reform proposal that would divert income tax constitutionally guaranteed for education to other social programs that support “children and individuals with a disability” (see above). Public Education Appropriations subcommittee co-chair Sen. Lyle Hillyard stopped by and provided an overview of how the public education budget is developed and goes through the process.

In all, more than 500 educators attended the six Educator Day on the Hill events held in 2020. As teachers participate in the legislative process, they gain greater understanding about the importance of being politically involved in order to protect public education and to advocate for students

Bill allowing educators to use large raises in calculating retirement payouts among bills moving this week

HB289: Public Education Retirement Amendments creates an exemption to the retirement code so that an employee can apply an increase of more than 10% on their salary for the years used in the calculation of their final average salary, if that increase was part of a negotiated increase for a group. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House on a vote of 65-3 and the Senate Education Committee unanimously. It now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

HB77: Education Funding Amendments would cap the “WPU value rate,” which was created as part of the TSSA program, at 4%. The WPU value rate provides that for every 1% increase in the WPU there would be a corresponding increase in local property tax rates to be used for equalization efforts. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.

HB241 (2nd sub): Kindergarten Attendance Amendments makes kindergarten mandatory for students who are five years of age before Sept. 2 of a school year. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House Education Committee on a vote of 6-5 and will now be considered by the full House.


Teachers from the Cache Education Association met with
Rep. Casey Snider during Educator Day on the Hill.
HB242 (2nd sub.): Charter School Operations Amendments
clarifies procedures for approval, oversight and closure of charter schools. The bill creates an “initial approval” for a three-year review period to ensure proper accounting controls and oversight are in place before granting either final approval or termination of a charter. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House unanimously.

HB323 (2nd sub.): School Mental Health Funding Amendments creates a grant program for LEAs to opt-in to a program providing a mental health screening for students. In participating LEAs, parents must opt-in their child for the screening and LEAs must notify parents of the screening results. If an intervention is indicated and able to be provided by the LEA, parents must provide their consent. Screening data would be prohibited from becoming part of a student’s school record. The UEA supports this bill. It passed on a vote of 44-28.

HB334: Civics Education Amendments creates a civics engagement pilot program to assess the benefits of and methods for implementing a requirement to complete a civics project as a requirement for high school graduation. The bill requests $65,000 from the Education Fund and estimates an additional $192,000 from LEAs to be able to participate in the pilot. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee unanimously.

HB355: Standards and Graduation Requirements Amendments amends provisions regarding high school graduation requirements. The UEA opposes this bill because it lowers graduation standards. It passed the House Education Committee on a vote of 6-2.

HB372 (1st sub.): Digital Wellness, Citizenship, and Safe Technology Commission creates a commission to identify best practices and compile resources for training students in healthy behavior related to technology use. Representatives from the PTA, school districts, the UEA spoke in favor of the bill in the Senate Education Committee where it passed unanimously.

SB69 (4th sub.): Tax Credit for Educator Expenses provides an individual income tax credit up to $500 that an eligible teacher may claim for certain out-of-pocket classroom expenses. It passed the House Revenue and Taxation Committee unanimously and now goes to the full House for consideration.

SB104 (2nd sub.): Local Education Levy State Guarantee Amendments increases the number of increments the state guarantees for certain education levies as a means of equalization. The UEA opposes this bill because it funds increased guarantees using $33 million in Education Fund monies that could otherwise go to the WPU. The WPU is the most equitable distribution source because it goes to all districts and charters and the guarantees do not. The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 23-5 and now goes to the House.

SB113 (1st sub.): Arts Program Funding Amendments provides for an annual appropriations review for the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts Learning Program. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.

SB198: Substitute Teacher Training Requirements would require a “sensitivity training” for any substitute hired through an employment agency. The bill does not specify whether the training is one time only or needs to be repeated annually and does not define “sensitivity training.” The bill passed the Senate Education Committee with one no vote, then failed in the Senate on a vote of 12-15. A motion to reconsider the bill then passed in the Senate.

Education ‘Policy Ambassadors’ share lobbying experiences

Nineteen teachers volunteered to become 2020 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. Here are excerpts from this week’s new submissions...


  • Ashlyn Drew, here meeting with Sen. Scott Sandall,
    is one of nineteen 2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors
    Looking Forward and Backward
    by UEA Policy Ambassador Lori Buhr, English learner specialist at Northlake Elementary School in Tooele County School District
    “…I was particularly impressed with a group of pre-service college students from nearby Westminster College. They were young, fresh, enthusiastic, energetic, engaged, excited and optimistic about the future of education. It brought emotions to the surface that I have not felt for a long time. I remember being a new graduate with my diploma in hand and knowing that I was going to change the world, endowed with the personal knowledge that I would empower students’ lives forever. Looking in the eyes of these college students I was reminded of the purpose I had aspired to long ago”…Read the full article from Lori Buhr
  • Your Voice, Their Story – by UEA Policy Ambassador Ashlyn Drew, special education teacher at Overlake Elementary School in Tooele County School District
    “My students could not be up on the hill with me the days that I attended (Educator Day on the Hill) but I know I was making an impact for them by sharing their stories through my voice. Each time I went up, I challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to representatives. This process is an important way for legislators to see inside a classroom and how their votes impact students daily. Educator Day on the Hill has made it possible for my students’ stories to be heard and they sure are some amazing stories”…read the full article from Ashlyn Drew
  • Read all the 2020 UEA Policy Ambassador messages

Funding committee announces 5% WPU increase – March 6, 2020

The Executive Appropriations Committee of the Legislature released the preliminary numbers for the final budget. This appropriation list includes a 5% increase on the WPU. While not the 6% increase the UEA and other education stakeholders were asking, if enacted, it would be the largest increase on the WPU since 2006.

“This budget proposal is 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.”

In addition to the WPU increase, some proposed public education budget line items include the following:

    $100 million for a Public Education Reserve Account
  • $14 million Funding Equity or Teacher Student Success Account
  • $10 million for Optional Enhanced Kindergarten – House Bill 99
  • $5 million for Early Learning Training and Assessment – House Bill 114
  • $6 million for Special Needs Scholarships – House Bill 332

View the complete list. (Note: Items tied to bills are contingent on the bill passing. It’s also important to note these totals are all NEW money, so they are added to the already-approved “base” budget, which included student enrollment growth.)

“While not final, items on this appropriation list give us an outline to what the final budget may look like,” said UEA Director of Research and Legislative Team Member Jay Blain. “There certainly can be additions and changes during the rest of the session and the budget will not be final until then close of the session on Thursday, March 12, at midnight.


Parts of a significant new education funding proposal pass separately in House and Senate – March 6, 2020

HB357: Public Education Funding Stabilization and its companion SJR9: Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Use of Tax Revenue (see below) are part of a sweeping change to the way education is funded (see more about the proposal). HB357 creates a statutory guarantee of education funding to cover student enrollment growth and inflation. It also establishes a sort of “working rainy-day fund” to help ensure growth and inflation are covered even when the current year income tax revenues are insufficient. It passed on a vote of 62-10 and now goes to the Senate for consideration. SJR9 would change Utah’s constitution to add programs to support “children and individuals with a disability” to the uses for income tax revenue. SJR9 passed on a vote of 23-6 and now goes to the House for consideration.


Bill will allow educators to use large raises in calculating retirement payouts – March 6, 2020

Educator Day on the Hill (reported by Mike Kelley): About 50 educators from a dozen school districts, along with several retired educators and representatives from the Utah School Employees Association, met early for the final Educator Day on the Hill of the 2020 Legislative Session.

The participants heard about bills the UEA is watching and were encouraged to speak to their representatives and senators about those bills and the education budget.

UEA Research Director Jay Blain shared information about the new tax reform proposal that would divert income tax constitutionally guaranteed for education to other social programs that support “children and individuals with a disability.” To offset this diverted funding, legislators propose a guarantee of public education funding to cover student enrollment growth and inflation. (See more about the proposal.) The UEA Legislative Team is working closely with education stakeholders, legislators and the Governor’s office to get answers to the many questions surrounding this tax reform measure and to make sure teacher voices are heard.

Public Education Appropriations subcommittee co-chair Sen. Lyle Hillyard stopped by and provided an overview of how the public education budget is developed and goes through the process. He mentioned the importance of early education and his hopes for adding funding for Optional Extended Kindergarten (OEK). “We’ve got to get kids ready for kindergarten,” he said. Hillyard also talked about efforts to address suicide prevention.

In all, more than 500 educators attended the six Educator Day on the Hill events held in 2020. As teachers participate in the legislative process, they gain greater understanding about the importance of being politically involved in order to protect public education and to advocate for students

Senate Education Committee (reported by Jay Blain): The committee unanimously passed four UEA-tracked bills. These bills now go to the full senate for consideration.

HB289: Public Education Retirement Amendments creates an exemption to the retirement code so that an employee can apply an increase of more than 10% on their salary for the years used in the calculation of their final average salary, if that increase was part of a negotiated increase for a group. Jay Blain, representing the UEA, participated in presenting the bill. He noted that because of the funding provided by the Legislature and effort by the local districts in raising taxes, we have had some districts with very good salary increases and we have run into this situation in the last couple of years. Dee Larsen of Utah Retirement System explained the fiscal impact of the bill, saying that there would be a very minor increase in the contribution rate of .05%. The bill passed the committee unanimously.

HB376: Dropout Prevention Amendments adds additional criteria for LEA’s to be exempted from the dropout prevention program. The bill passed unanimously.

HB372 (1st sub.): Digital Wellness, Citizenship, and Safe Technology Commission creates a commission to identify best practices and compile resources for training students in healthy behavior related to technology use. Representatives from the PTA, school districts, and Jay Blain from the UEA, spoke in favor of the bill. It passed unanimously.

HB360: Interactive Reading Software Amendments moves an appropriation for interactive reading software. Passed out of committee unanimously.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): In addition to HB357 (see above) four other UEA-tracked bills passed the House and now go to the Senate for consideration.

HB80 (1st sub): School Fees Data Collection directs the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) to gather data on what fees are collected by LEA’s and the usage of fee waivers. The UEA supports this bill. It passed unanimously.

HB409: Concurrent Enrollment Amendments allows the Board of Regents to work with the USBE to consider upper division courses for placement in concurrent offerings. This is mostly directed towards students in dual immersion programs. The bill passed unanimously.

HB420: Turnaround Program Amendments amends some of the exit requirements and criteria from the turnaround program.  Darin Nielson, USBE staff, helped present the bill. The UEA supports this bill. It passed unanimously.

HB323 (1st sub.): School Mental Health Funding Amendments creates a grant program for LEAs to opt-in to a program providing a mental health screening for students. In participating LEAs, parents must opt-in their child for the screening and LEAs must notify parents of the screening results. If an intervention is indicated and able to be provided by the LEA, parents must provide their consent. Screening data would be prohibited from becoming part of a student’s school record. The UEA supports this bill. It passed on a vote of 44-28.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): In addition to SJR9 (see above) one other UEA-tracked bill passed the Senate.

HB77: Education Funding Amendments would cap the “WPU value rate,” which was created as part of the TSSA program, at 4%. The WPU value rate provides that for every 1% increase in the WPU there would be a corresponding increase in local property tax rates to be used for equalization efforts. The bill passed unanimously.



New private school voucher bill passes the House, big ed funding changes pass Senate and House committees – March 5, 2020

Senate Education Committee (reported by Jay Blain): Three bills previously passed by the House were approved in the Senate Education Committee today and now move to the full Senate.

HB242 (3rd sub.): Charter School Operations and School Accounting Amendments enacts a number of provisions to improve the approval process, oversight and accounting methods, and closure procedures for charter schools. The bill passed unanimously.

HB108: Medical Specialists in Public Schools allows a district or charter school to adopt a separate salary schedule for certain personnel, such as occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists or nurses. This practice is not currently prohibited but the bill is intended to clarify what districts and charters are able to do if they choose. The bill passed with one no vote.

HB392 (1st sub.): Early Warning Program Amendments reauthorizes an existing early warning intervention program currently being piloted in the Ogden School District and several other districts and for which funding currently exists. The bill passed unanimously.

Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee (reported by Brad Bartels): SJR9: Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Use of Tax Revenue represents a “generational change” in the way public education is funded. It would place add programs to support “children and individuals with a disability” to the uses for income tax revenue. It is a companion to HB357: Public Education Funding Stabilization, below (see more about the proposal). Dr. Brad Bartels, representing the UEA, explained to the committee that because of its significant impact on public schools, the resolution needs much more discussion and debate before a decision is made. There remain questions regarding the amount of revenue which would be carved out of the education fund to fund programs for children and individuals with disabilities. With six days remaining in the session, there is not enough time to do that. Therefore, the UEA believes that a special session is appropriate for consideration of this change, and we opposed the resolution. The resolution passed on a vote of 6-2 and now goes to the full Senate.

House Revenue and Taxation Committee (reported by Jay Blain): HB357: Public Education Funding Stabilization was presented by Rep. Robert Spendlove and Sen. Ann Millner. It creates a statutory guarantee of education funding to cover student enrollment growth and inflation. It also establishes a sort of “working rainy-day fund” to help ensure growth and inflation are covered even when the current year income tax revenues are insufficient. It is a companion bill to SJR9: Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Use of Tax Revenue, above (see more about the proposal).

Sen. Millner explained that there is a fund named the Uniform School Fund that is only for K-12 education. “We want to fund inflation and growth” with this bill, she said, noting that this bill creates a public education economic stabilization fund. Money could be placed in this fund for ongoing expenses with the goal to build it up to so we could weather a 2-year downturn.

A question was asked about what items could be funded by changing the income tax to include children and individuals with disabilities. Sen. Millner replied that this will be a decades-long process and it will take time to move money from the Education Fund and to fix the General Fund. They estimate it could be as much as $600 million over time, she said.

Jay Blain, speaking on behalf of the UEA, said that we appreciate the work that had gone into the bill. We see many sound principles in the bill. We want to continue the positive discussion and interactions to get to a place that we can support the bill. We aren’t quite there yet but are committed to continue to the positive discussions and interactions, he said. The bill passed the committee on a vote of 12-1 and now goes to the full House.

House Education Committee (reported by Mike Kelley): Six bills were heard and passed in the committee and now go to the full House. All but one passed unanimously.

SB151 (1 st sub.): Accelerated Student Program Amendments amends provisions related to early college programs and a program for accelerated students. The UEA supports this bill.

HB355: Standards and Graduation Requirements Amendments amends provisions regarding high school graduation requirements. The UEA opposes this bill. It passed on a vote of 6-2.

HB386: Online Education Program Amendments includes a student who is enrolled in a course through the statewide online education program in the definition of an eligible student for purposes of concurrent enrollment.

HB434 Funding for Necessarily Existent Small Schools and Rural Schools Amendments amends provisions related to formulas for funding for necessarily existent small schools and creates a process to reimburse rural schools for expenses related to extracurricular activities. The UEA supports this bill.

SB137 (1st sub.): Partnerships for Student Success Program Amendments requires the State Board of Education to annually evaluate a partnership that receives a grant under the Partnerships for Student Success Program. The UEA supports this bill.

SB162: Educational Financial Aid for Students with a Criminal Record removes the restriction on eligibility for the Regents' Scholarship Program and New Century scholarships for students with a criminal record.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): Two bills UEA-tracked bills passed the House and now go to the Senate for consideration.

HB391: School Textbook Fee Amendments creates new definitions related to instructional materials and equipment and modifies the definition of a textbook. The purpose of the bill is to provide greater clarity for which instructional items a school may charge a fee. The UEA supports this bill. It passed unanimously.

HB332: Special Needs Scholarship Amendments would create the Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship Program and provide an income tax credit. The UEA strongly opposes this bill because it operates like a voucher, taking money from the education fund and sending it to private schools with little taxpayer accountability. The bill passed the House on a vote of 46-24 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): Two UEA-tracked bills passed the Senate and now go to the House for consideration.

SB104: Local Education Levy State Guarantee Amendments increases the number of increments the state guarantees for certain education levies as a means of equalization. UEA has supported property tax equalization in other bills because they raised new revenue through property tax for schools. However, UEA opposes this bill because it funds the increased guarantees using $33 million in Education Fund monies that could otherwise go to the WPU. The WPU is the most equitable distribution source because it goes to all districts and charters and the guarantees do not. The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 23-5.

SB202: Public Education Financial Reporting Amendments provides for a local education agency to make adjustments in certain reports to the State Board of Education. It passed unanimously.


Tax Reform back on the agenda in Legislature’s closing days – March 5, 2020


Click to view on YouTube

style="padding: 0px; color: #4a4a4a; font-size: 13px; font-family: "open sans", sans-serif;">In the closing days of the 2020 Utah General Legislative Session, a new tax reform proposal has surfaced that would divert income tax constitutionally guaranteed for education to other social programs that support “children and individuals with a disability.” Legislators are pushing for this change because of what they say is an imbalance between revenue available from sales tax (General Fund) and from income tax (Education Fund).

style="padding: 0px; color: #4a4a4a; font-size: 13px; font-family: "open sans", sans-serif;">To offset this diverted funding, legislators propose a guarantee of public education funding to cover student enrollment growth and inflation.

style="padding: 0px; color: #4a4a4a; font-size: 13px; font-family: "open sans", sans-serif;">The UEA Legislative Team is working closely with education stakeholders, legislators and the Governor’s office to get answers to the many questions surrounding this tax reform measure and to make sure teacher voices are heard.

The New Tax Reform Proposal—

style="padding: 0px; color: #4a4a4a; font-size: 13px; font-family: "open sans", sans-serif;">Because of the imbalance between revenue available from sales tax (General Fund) and from income tax (Education Fund), Legislative leadership is pressing hard to find ways around the constitutional guarantee directing all income tax to education. The latest proposal (First Substitute, Senate Joint Resolution 9) adds programs to support “children and individuals with a disability” to the uses for income tax revenue. This could open the Education Fund to fund things like juvenile justice, STEM services, the Action Center, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the State Office of Rehabilitation Services and the Division of Family Services.

style="padding: 0px; color: #4a4a4a; font-size: 13px; font-family: "open sans", sans-serif;">In other words, Education Fund revenues could be diverted to fund extensive social programs that would otherwise be funded with General Fund revenues.

style="padding: 0px; color: #4a4a4a; font-size: 13px; font-family: "open sans", sans-serif;">To offset this diverted funding, another bill (First Substitute, House Bill 357) creates a statutory guarantee of education funding to cover student enrollment growth and inflation. It also establishes a sort of “working rainy-day fund” to help ensure growth and inflation are covered even when the current year income tax revenues are insufficient.

style="padding: 0px; color: #4a4a4a; font-size: 13px; font-family: "open sans", sans-serif;">Enacting these changes requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature to place the constitutional language on the ballot. A public vote in November would determine if there is a change to the Utah constitution. The measure would then take effect on January 1, 2021.

UEA’s Position—

style="padding: 0px; color: #4a4a4a; font-size: 13px; font-family: "open sans", sans-serif;">The UEA’s 2020 legislative priorities and school funding goals remain unchanged. Specifically, the priorities call on the legislature to:

  • Provide a 6% increase on the WPU, prioritizing WPU before more restricted distribution methods (such as TSSA) to allow LEAs maximum flexibility, and
  • Safeguard and expand long-term revenue available for public education such as provided by the Utah constitutional guarantee directing income tax to education.

style="padding: 0px; color: #4a4a4a; font-size: 13px; font-family: "open sans", sans-serif;">Details of this new tax reform proposal are being shared late in the session with little time to discuss and debate. The UEA is asking the legislature to defer this bill to a special session of the Legislature in order to provide time to get answers and have a meaningful dialogue with legislators, education stakeholders and our members about how best to strengthen public education funding.

Moving Forward—

style="padding: 0px; color: #4a4a4a; font-size: 13px; font-family: "open sans", sans-serif;">The UEA recognizes there may be ways to safeguard and grow education funding beyond the existing constitutional guarantee. The UEA Legislative Team is working with education stakeholders, legislators and the Governor’s office to get answers to the many questions surrounding this tax reform measure and to make sure teacher voices are heard.


UEA Policy Ambassador Message – March 5, 2020


Lori Buhr (center) is one of nineteen
2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors
Nineteen teachers volunteered to become 2020 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. Here is an excerpt from a new submission...

Looking Forward and Backward – Legislative post by UEA Policy Ambassador Lori Buhr

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Lori Buhr, English learner specialist at Northlake Elementary School in Tooele County School District

“February 28 was such an exciting Educator Day on the Hill! I had attended a day on the hill earlier in the session and I learned so much, but February 28 was powerful!

“Beginning with the early morning get together, there were many first-time UEA attendees. I was particularly impressed with a group of pre-service college students from nearby Westminster College. They were young, fresh, enthusiastic, energetic, engaged, excited and optimistic about the future of education.

“It brought emotions to the surface that I have not felt for a long time. I remember being a new graduate with my diploma in hand and knowing that I was going to change the world, endowed with the personal knowledge that I would empower students’ lives forever. Looking in the eyes of these college students I was reminded of the purpose I had aspired to long ago…”


2019-20 moratorium on school letter grades approved by House committee- March 4, 2020

House Education Committee (reported by Jay Blain): HB241 (2nd sub): Kindergarten Attendance Amendments makes kindergarten mandatory for students who are five years of age before Sept. 2 of a school year. The UEA supports this bill. It passed on a vote of 6-5.

HB80 (1st sub): School Fees Data Collection directs the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) to gather data on what fees are collected by LEA’s and the usage of fee waivers. It passed unanimously.

SB119 (3rd sub): School Accountability Amendments, with the third substitute, removes the requirement for USBE to issue school letter grades for the 2018-19 year and the 2019-20 school year. The UEA supports this bill. It passed unanimously.

HB409: Concurrent Enrollment Amendments allows the Board of Regents to work with the USBE to consider upper division courses for placement in concurrent offerings. This is mostly directed towards students in dual immersion programs. The bill passed unanimously.

HB420: Turnaround Program Amendments amends some of the exit requirements and criteria from the turnaround program.  Darin Nielson, USBE staff, helped present the bill. The UEA supports this bill. It passed unanimously.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB113 (1st sub.): Arts Program Funding Amendments provides for an annual appropriations review for the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts Learning Program. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.


Bill to permanently eliminate school grades hijacked in legislative maneuver – March 3, 2020

Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee (reported by Sara Jones): HB175: Education Accountability Amendments unanimously passed the House and was oddly assigned to this committee in the Senate. The bill permanently eliminates the single letter grade for schools while maintaining the dashboard accountability system. During public comment six people spoke in favor of the bill. UEA President Heidi Matthews stated that HB175 does not eliminate accountability but eliminates a practice that does not serve students. She also pointed out that while UEA also supports SB119, which allows the state school board to not publish letter grades for the 2018-19 school year, because of RISE testing problems, SB119 would not solve the school letter grade issue going forward. 

Senate President Stuart Adams substituted HB175 with language duplicating SB119, requiring a reprieve from letter grades for 2018-19 but not going forward. He said “we are now focusing on schools that need help” because the school grading program has created a public discussion. He also said the “commitment” from the legislature was to not require grades for this year due to RISE testing problems. Rep. Marie Poulson objected to the substitute bill and stated that “all of the players in education” support HB175. The substitute bill passed with only Sen. Kathleen Riebe voting no.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB289: Public Education Retirement Amendments provides an exception to the limitation provisions for calculating the final average salary employees of a local education agency in the Utah Retirement System. It provides that the limitation for calculating the final average salary of a member employed by a local education agency may be exceeded if the member has moved to a new position at the same local education agency due to a program need or the percentage increase is due to a negotiated increase for a group of members that includes the member. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House on a vote of 65-3 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

HB360: Interactive Reading Software Amendments makes a technical change to clarify funding for an existing early intervention reading software program. The bill passed unanimously.

HB376: Dropout Prevention Amendments provides several new reasons that an LEA can be exempted from having to contract with a third-party provider for dropout prevention services. For example, currently a small LEA may be required to contract for dropout prevention services for only one or two students or an LEA serving a special population that has lower graduation rates may have to contract with an outside provider. The bill passed unanimously.


Number of ed bills moving through the process accelerates – March 2, 2020

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): On Monday, the committee heard one new Senate bill and five House bills.

Sen. Karen Mayne presented SB198: Substitute Teacher Training Requirements. She stated that the bill comes from a recent situation in a district that hires substitutes from a temp agency, but which provides no type of sensitivity training before a sub enters the classroom. The bill would require a “sensitivity training” for any substitute hired through an employment agency. The bill does not specify whether the training is one time only or needs to be repeated annually and does not define “sensitivity training”. Sen Fillmore questioned how the training requirement would be tracked since a sub may be employed by several districts and a sub may be required to repeat a training in each district. The bill passed with one no vote.

HB315: Local School Board Vacancies Amendments extends to 45 days the period of time to make an appointment when a vacancy on a local school board occurs due to the death of a local school board member. The bill passed unanimously.

HCR12: Concurrent Resolution on Holocaust Education highlights the importance of Holocaust and genocide education and encourages the state school board and local school boards to emphasize the importance of this course of study. The resolution passed unanimously.

HB334: Civics Education Amendments creates a civics engagement pilot program to assess the benefits of and methods for implementing a requirement to complete a civics project as a requirement for high school graduation. The bill requests $65,000 from the Education Fund and estimates an additional $192,000 from LEAs to be able to participate in the pilot. The funding was not prioritized by the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee and Sen Hillyard noted that while he supports the bill “it will have a challenge on the fiscal note”. The bill passed unanimously.

HB336: Concurrent Enrollment Certificate Pilot Program creates a pilot program for developing several new stackable credentials certificates for concurrent enrollment and career and technical education. The bill passed unanimously.

HB171: School Threat Amendments creates the crime of threats against schools. It passed unanimously.

House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Four UEA-tracked bills were passed by the committee and now go to the full House for consideration:

HB391: School Textbook Fee Amendments creates new definitions related to instructional materials and equipment and modifies the definition of a textbook. The purpose of the bill is to provide greater clarity for which instructional items a school may charge a fee. The bill passed with two no votes.

HB360: Interactive Reading Software Amendments makes a technical change to clarify funding for an existing early intervention reading software program. The bill passed unanimously.

HB376: Dropout Prevention Amendments provides several new reasons that an LEA can be exempted from having to contract with a third-party provider for dropout prevention services. For example, currently a small LEA may be required to contract for dropout prevention services for only one or two students or an LEA serving a special population that has lower graduation rates may have to contract with an outside provider. The bill passed unanimously.

SB73: Reading Assessment Expansion Amendments expands a benchmark reading assessment from grades 1-3 to grades 1-6 and requests a $1.5 million appropriation to implement. It passed unanimously.

House Revenue and Taxation Committee (reported by Jay Blain): One bill tracked by the UEA was heard in this committee today:

SB69 (3rd sub.): Tax Credit for Educator Expenses will provide a non-refundable tax credit for educators who provide instruction or counseling services up to $500. They will have to exhaust the federal credit and legislative supply money first. Sen. Jacob Anderegg said he likes the policy of this bill because the money goes straight to teachers. Rep. Mark Strong called this is a “band-aid approach” to a bigger problem but he likes it. He wondered if it incentivizes teachers to spend more money. Rep. Douglas Sagers said that this is an opportunity for the money to go where the rubber meets the road. Jay Blain, representing the UEA, and Rusty Cannon, representing the Utah Taxpayer’s Association, spoke in favor of the bill. It was held in the committee for a minor technical amendment and will be considered again tomorrow.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB242 (2nd sub.): Charter School Operations Amendments clarifies procedures for approval, oversight and closure of charter schools. The bill creates an “initial approval” for a three-year review period to ensure proper accounting controls and oversight are in place before granting either final approval or termination of a charter. The UEA supports this bill. It passed unanimously.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB137 (1st sub.): Partnerships for Student Success Program Amendments makes a technical change allowing the Utah State Board of Education to evaluate the Partnerships for Student Success program internally rather than using an external evaluator. The UEA supports this bill. It passed unanimously.

SB166: Student Data Privacy Amendments clarifies several provisions related to student data, including reporting of law enforcement incidents on school grounds and data shared by third-party contractors. It passed unanimously.


UEA Policy Ambassador Message – March 2, 2020


Ashlyn Drew, here meeting with Sen. Scott Sandall,
is one of nineteen 2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors
Nineteen teachers volunteered to become 2020 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. Here is an excerpt from a new submission...

Your Voice, Their Story

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Ashlyn Drew, special education teacher at Overlake Elementary School in Tooele County School District

“ When going to Educator Day on the Hill this year, I went knowing I had the power to make a difference for my students simply through my story because my story, like all other teachers’ stories, is a powerful one. By sharing my love for special education, I was able to talk to representatives about a bill (HB205) that has a potential to make my job and my fellow special educators job a little bit easier but would also have a huge impact for students with disabilities.

“My students could not be up on the hill with me the days that I attended but I know I was making an impact for them by sharing their stories through my voice. Each time I went up, I challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to representatives. This process is an important way for legislators to see inside a classroom and how their votes impact students daily. Educator Day on the Hill has made it possible for my students’ stories to be heard and they sure are some amazing stories.”