Today was the final day of Standing Committee meetings. From now through the session close at midnight on Friday, it’s primarily floor voting in the House and Senate. A bill that cleared a committee today (SB62) would extend the special needs scholarship voucher program to the siblings of scholarship recipient students. The “sensitive materials” bill (HB374) banning certain materials in schools, passed the House and now goes to the Senate.
House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Just one bill was heard in the final House Education Committee meeting for this session. SB191 (2nd sub.): Regulatory Sandbox in Education creates an innovation school program, modeled after ALEC legislation and a similar program in Colorado. UEA opposes the bill because of concerns with how special education funding can be diverted and the use of waivers for rules abouts “teacher employment, educator evaluations, employee compensation…or retirement or other benefits.” There were extensive committee questions and public comment about the impact to special education funding. The bill passed on a vote of 7-3.
House Judiciary Committee (reported by Jay Blain): Two UEA-tracked bills passed this committee and now go to the full House:
- SB21: School Standards Committee Sunset Review simply extends the sunset review for the committee until 2028. It passed unanimously.
- SB62 (4th sub.): Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship Program Amendments provides a ‘scholarship’ to special needs students. The sponsor said the bill is necessary to provide the opportunity for siblings to go to the same school together. The UEA, Utah State Board of Education and the Utah PTA spoke against the bill. It passed on a vote of 8-2.
House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): Three UEA-tracked bills passed the House and now go to the Senate for consideration:
- HB475 (1st sub.): Use of Public Education Stabilization Account One-time Funding appropriates funding for teacher flex hours, for small district capital project fund (limited to counties of the 4th, 5th, and 6th class), and provides a general distribution to LEA’s for capital and technology on a base-plus model. It passed unanimously and now goes to the Senate.
- HB478 (1st sub.): Minimum Basic Tax Rate Reduction removes two add-ons to the basic rate, one that funds property tax equalization and one that funds the Teacher and Student Success Account (Program). The UEA opposes this bill. It passed on a vote of 56-13.
- HB374 (5th sub.) Sensitive Materials in Schools defines certain instructional materials as “sensitive materials” and prohibits those in a public school. It also requires the State Board of Education, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, to provide guidance and training to public schools on identifying sensitive material. The UEA opposes this bill. It passed on a vote of 59-16.
Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): Several UEA-tracked bills passed the Senate today, all but one unanimously:
- HB113 (1st sub.): Students with Disabilities Funding Revisions amends a formula for special education funding. This change is one of UEA’s budget priorities for this year.
- HB162: Period Products in Schools provides for free period products in certain restrooms in schools. Private donations will provide for the dispensers and the legislative appropriation will provide for the products. The bill is supported by the UEA.
- SB211: Income Tax Fund Amendments changes the name of the Education Fund to the Income Tax Fund.
- SB245: School Turnaround Program Revisions revises the existing School Turnaround program.
- SB244 (1st sub.): Ethnic Studies Amendments creates a legislative Ethnic Studies Commission to make recommendations to the State Board on incorporating ethnic studies into the core standards, among other duties.
- SB251: Grow Your Own Teacher and School Counselor Pipeline Program corrects a technical error that excluded some participants from the Grow Your Own educator program last year.
- SB2: Public Education Budget Amendments is the primary funding bill for new public education funding. It sets the value of the WPU at $4,038 (a 6.1% increase) and funds items included in the Executive Appropriations Committee recommendations.
- HB193 (5th sub.): Full-day Kindergarten was substituted once again, returning it closer to the original bill supported by the UEA. It passed the Senate on a vote of 24-3. It now returns to the House to approve the substituted bill.
Policy Ambassador Messages
In 2022, 15 educators were selected as UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and agree to engage with legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here is an excerpt from a new submission:
Submitted by UEA Advanced Policy Ambassador Sarah Nichols, National Board Certified special education teacher at Highland High School in Salt Lake City School District
“What do my dues do? I found myself asking that question when I first considered joining Salt Lake Education Association a few years ago and I find myself answering that question for potential members at my school. Until this year, I mentioned things like liability protection, increased wages through bargaining power and discounts that membership in UEA/NEA offer. It turns out I was missing one of the most important things that UEA does for me as a teacher—lobbying and advocacy at the state level. This year, I got to see that in action at one of the UEA Educator Days on the Hill events…”