Answers to questions about HB396: Paid Professional Hours for Educators

UEA Legislative Team member Jay Blain and Rep. Dan Johnson present the UEA’s request to fund educator-directed time

During the 2022 General Legislative Session, the UEA was instrumental in creating and passing a law (House Bill 396) that provides licensed educators with self-directed, paid time for most work-related duties performed outside contract hours. Here are a few answers to questions about this new legislation (NOTE: this document will be updated as new information is available):

Q: Who is eligible to receive the money? The bill specifically identifies general education and special education teachers, counselors, school administrators, school specialists, student support, school psychologists, speech and language pathologists and audiologists.

Q: How will the money be distributed? The Utah State Board of Education will distribute funds to each school district and charter school in proportion to the number of educators described above.

Q: How much time will each educator receive and at what rate? The Utah State Office of Education will allocate funding to local school districts based on the district’s number of eligible educators. We anticipate each eligible educator will receive an estimated 32 hours of paid time. The number of hours may vary depending on local school district salary rates. The intent is for each educator to be paid at their contracted or ‘daily rate’ salary, however, individual school districts may negotiate different rates.

Q: What is the accountability process? The legislative intent is for each individual educator to determine how they use these hours. The process may vary by school district, but each educator should meet with their principal or supervisor to create a plan. At the end of the year the educator will report on how the hours were used. Any infringement on the educator control of the hours should be reported to your association building representative or UniServ Director and will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Q: How can the hours be used? A school district or charter school shall use funding…”to provide paid professional hours that provide educators with the knowledge and skills necessary to enable students to succeed in a well-rounded education and to meet the challenging state academic standards.” The bill specifically says this may include activities that:

  1. Improve or increase an educator’s:
    – Knowledge of the academic subjects the educator teaches;
    – Time to plan and prepare daily lessons based on student needs;
    – Understanding of how students learn;
    – Ability to analyze student work and achievement from multiple sources, including how to adjust instructional strategies, assessments, and materials based on the analysis;
  2. Are an integral part of broad school-wide and LEA(district)-wide educational improvement plans;
  3. Allow personalized plans for each educator to address the educator’s specific needs identified in observation or other feedback;
  4. Advance educator understanding of:
    – Effective and evidence-based instructional strategies;
    – Strategies for improving student academic achievement or substantially increasing the knowledge and teaching skills of educators;
  5. Are aligned with, and directly related to, academic goals of the school or LEA (school district);
  6. Include instruction in the use of data and assessments to inform and instruct classroom practice.

Q: How can educators or a school district provide documentation? The UEA has created two template forms a school district can adapt for collecting the information required in Utah Code 53F-7-202. One form, to be submitted prior to the first day of instruction, is for educators in indicate how they anticipate using the educator-directed time. The second form could be used to account for the hours. The law states that hours must be documented “in a written statement to the educator’s principal” of how the hours were used in accordance with the acceptable uses. This documentation may look different in each school district.

Q: Is the program created by House Bill 396 ongoing or for one year only? House Bill 396 was funded with “one-time” money for next school year. However, legislative leaders have given assurances that the program will be first in line to get funded next year, similar to the way teacher supply money was funded for many years before it became ongoing money. It will be up to us to hold legislators to this commitment.

Q: Will funding provided by House Bill 396 apply toward retirement credit? Yes. The funding is applied as any other compensation. It is taxable and eligible for retirement credit.

Q: What is the history of House Bill 396? The UEA approached Legislators early in the 2022 General Legislative session asking $57 million for Educator-directed Flexible Time. Over the previous few years educators had expressed frustration with high stress, low morale and lack of time. The UEA collaborated with Rep. Dan Johnson and Rep. Jefferson Moss to create the bill for which the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee initially prioritized $25 million. By the end of the session, this was increased to $64 million. The bill passed with unanimous support from legislators. “Since when does the UEA ask for something and the legislature gives us more?” said UEA President Heidi Matthews after passage of the bill. “This result is another testament to the influence of our hard-working educators and a welcomed acknowledgment by the legislature of the stress educators are experiencing.”

This graphic shows a timeline of the evolution of House Bill 396 (view graphic as a printable pdf):