House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Two bills highlighted on the UEA Tracking Sheet and supported by the UEA passed the committee and now move to the full House for consideration:
HB99: Enhanced Kindergarten Amendments was presented by Rep. Lowry Snow. The bill clarifies assessment and reporting requirements for optional extended-day Kindergarten programs and seeks to expand the availability of OEK programs with an additional $18 million in funding. Sara Jones, UEA Director of Education Excellence, spoke in support of the bill. She stated that while UEA emphasizes significant increases to the WPU as the most flexible source of funding, a key UEA legislative priority is to improve student equity and access to quality education for students at academic risk, which the OEK program has been very successful in doing. The bill passed the committee with one ‘no’ vote.
HB175: Education Accountability Amendments was presented by Rep. Marie Poulson. This bill seeks to eliminate the use of a single letter grade for school accountability. The same bill easily passed the House in 2019 but was never debated in the Senate. Sara Jones, UEA Director of Education Excellence, spoke in support of the bill. She said that the school grading program has been demoralizing to educators and students, has changed from year to year so the target for improvement has never been consistent and a single grade lacks transparency compared to the more comprehensive school dashboard. The bill passed the committee unanimously.
Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): The subcommittee continued to hear budget presentations:
- Legislative staff provided a funding presentation on the Fine Arts Outreach/Professional Outreach in Public Schools (POPS) program and Jessica Proctor, Utah Symphony, gave a presentation on the POPS program (here is the USBE funding request for POPS);
- Hope Street Fellows made a request for $50,000 to support the program. Tabitha Pacheco gave an overview of the program explaining that teachers remain in their classrooms and receive leadership training on weekends, summers and evenings. It has been an excellent program for teacher retention, she said. Denise Willmore, second grade teacher in Davis and DEA Elementary VP, related her experience as a Utah Teacher Fellow. She related how the program reenergized her as teacher. She was almost ready to leave the classroom after 20 years. It has refueled her desire to teach. She has studied diversity and diversifying her curriculum. For her, it made the difference in keeping her in teaching.
- Legislative fiscal analyst Ben Leishman concluded his presentation on the Basic Minimum School Program then moved on to the Related to Basic Program. He recommended that the legislature consider a 4.5% WPU increase.
- Scott Jones and other USBE staff presented more funding requests, all specific to the Related to Basic program;
- A Youth in Care presentation;
- An Enhancement for Advanced Students and Concurrent Enrollment presentation;
- A funding request for the USTAR MOST bill.
Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments provides the bulk of public education funding for Fiscal Year 2020-21. It allocates more than $5.5 billion, essentially adopting the previous year’s budget. New for this year, this base budget includes just over $50 million for new student enrollment growth, which has been funded separately in the past. HB1 passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature. The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee will make recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee for a final bill to provide any increased public education funding (see How the Public Education Budget is Set).