Curriculum posting bill gets Senate committee approval – January 27

The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee continues to hear funding requests.

The UEA Legislative Team delivered its weekly update this evening, highlighting the status of the public education budget and many bills. Tomorrow’s email will include a link to the meeting recording. A bill requiring school districts to post curriculum for review (SB114) passed a committee and now goes to the full Senate. Notably, a UEA petition opposing another curriculum transparency bill (SB234) received 20,000 signatures in just over 24 hours. The petition is still open at myUEA.org/petition.

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Three UEA tracked bills were presented in the Senate Education Committee.

SB114 (1st sub.): Public School Curriculum Requirements has received a lot of attention as one of two bills addressing “curriculum transparency”. The bill requires an “open process involving parents of students enrolled in an LEA to review and recommend instructional materials for board approval” and that these recommendations be posted online, discussed and voted on in a public board meeting.

Sen. Michael McKell questioned the need for the bill because there is a locally elected school board that can respond to parent concerns and ensure parent involvement without legislation. There were dozens of comments from the public. UEA President Heidi Matthews highlighted educator concerns with the bill stating “educators, district leaders and parents work together to review and recommend instructional materials aligned with adopted state standards. This brings the expertise of education professionals together with the interests and concerns of parents. The goal of transparency and parental involvement is important, but we also don’t want to lose the expertise of professional educators. And, we recognize that our smaller rural districts will have additional burdens on personnel already stretched so thin”.

In preparing to vote, Sen. McKell said he would oppose the bill because it “sends the wrong message that the legislature is going to continue to micromanage teachers” and Senator Riebe stated she opposed the bill because “I do not think we need another layer of bureaucracy” when local school boards already have processes in place to involve parents in the adoption of curriculum

The bill passed on a vote of 4-2.

SB118: Students with Disabilities Funding Amendments  makes changes to provisions related to funding for students with disabilities. It passed unanimously.

HB42: Education Sunset Extensions extends a repeal date related to the State Instructional Materials Commission and extends a repeal date related to a provision that allows for resolution of criminal conduct by a student. It passed unanimously. The UEA supports this bill.

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

HB125: State Transient Room Tax Modifications eliminates the scheduled repeal of the State Transient Room Tax Act. There was another bill (HB43) that extended the sunset date of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Career and Technical Education Pilot Program until 2025. This bill completes elimination of the sunset.

Many members of the public from rural counties spoke in favor of the bill pointing out the benefits for their counties. I spoke in favor of the bill pointing out that high school students have different interests and if students can develop an interest in a career in the travel and tourism industry that is growing in Utah, especially in rural areas, that is a good thing. If this program can be paid for by out-of-state visitors, then that is a good thing. This bill eliminating the sunset both for the program and the tax funding it is a good thing. The bill passed out of committee unanimously.

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): The subcommittee continued to hear presentations:

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB1 (1st sub.): Public Education Base Budget Amendments passed unanimously and now goes to the Governor. The bill provides the bulk of the funding for public education. Additional funding will be included in a final budget bill voted on later in the session. In accordance with a law passed in 2020, the base now includes funding for student enrollment growth. It also includes an additional increase of 2.6% on the WPU.

LegTeam Insights

Your UEA Legislative Team is on the Hill every day, working behind the scenes to represent educators. Here are some insights:

Reported by Legislative Team Member and UEA President Heidi Matthews: The good news is that I finally got to wash my hair today. It’s been a ridiculous week. Thank you to all of you who signed and shared the petition to stop HB234 in its tracks. In my many conversations with UEA leaders and the media, I really try to balance the specific and the cumulative impacts of even introducing legislation like this.

It is just so very out of touch with what we do in our classrooms each and every day to adapt, change, seize a teachable moment differentiate. And that’s just when things are going well! Add in power outages, absences of staff and students like we have never seen, and yeah, a global pandemic – the workload issues alone are egregious, not to mention the professional distrust. And when you add that to the deluge of education bills already passed with little or no input, the cumulative impact is great. In little more than 24 hours, there were over 20K signatures. We struck a chord.

Our UEA Legislative Team continues to have behind-the-scenes meetings working to clarify and influence bills throughout the process. I join them here and there, especially when my educator voice is needed. Our UEA Legislative Team is an amazing and respected voice on the hill; we are fortunate!

One of the UEA President’s roles is to be a spokesperson, and oh my do people want to know what you/we have to say about proposed bills and impact on those in our schools.  From newspapers to television to radio, I have interviewed more than a dozen times just this week! Today alone, I had six media interviews with my freshly washed hair (it made a big difference with the radio).

Without fail, I am asked about how YOU are feeling, what issues are most concerning to YOU – and I tell them. We are tired, both physically and emotionally. We need time. We expect respect. We need funding increases to keep the investments moving forward to meet the needs of all our students and to make our profession viable. We don’t need more bills that don’t help us become better educators for our students. We don’t need bills that ignore our professional expertise.

It’s an honor serving as the President of the UEA and bringing your voices to the Hill. Thank you for all you do!

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:

Baby Steps

Submitted by UEA Advanced Policy Ambassador Hillary Emmer, school counselor at Copper Mountain Middle School in the Jordan School District

…Many times we forget that as employees in the school system, many legislative decisions can actually have a very direct impact on us in our day-to-day jobs. With that said, we are all at different levels of how much of this we want to take on as well. This article is for those who are at a point where they are a little curious and want to understand about the government side to working at a school. Understanding legislative decisions and the process behind them can feel overwhelming at first, but you can navigate this process in smaller pieces. UEA is also here to support and help you…