Debate on suspending ‘test to stay’ points out need for clarification and educator input

During its first Capitol Insights legislative briefing of 2022, the UEA Legislative Team shared updates on bills the Team is working on and insight into what is expected for education in coming weeks. If you would like to participate in future briefings, held via Zoom each Thursday at 4:30 p.m. during the Legislative Session, please register here (register once and you can use the link to join each week).

Senate Floor (reported by Jay Blain): HB183: In Person Learning Amendments codifies suspension of the test-to-stay for in-person classroom instruction as previously enacted by the Gov. Cox via executive order. Under the bill, test-to-stay can be reinstated by the Speaker of the House, the Senate President, the Governor and the State Superintendent.

In Senate debate, the bill was amended to clarify the definition of remote learning. Concerns were expressed about other clarifications needed in the bill. Sen. Kathleen Riebe asked why this bill wasn’t going to a committee and requested that the bill be circled to give time to get input from education stakeholders. The bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Todd Weiler, responded that the bill is urgent since the governor’s order is expiring and school districts need clarification and concrete policies. “We already know what the outcome of a hearing would be,” he said. Sen. Riebe’s motion to circle failed.

Sen. Weiler summed up by saying it isn’t just the transmission rate that matters, it is also the hospitalization rate and Utah is the fifth lowest in the country. A motion to have the bill read for a third time passed on a vote of 24-3-2. A final Senate vote on the bill will likely take place tomorrow. The bill has already passed the House.

State of the State Address (reported by Mike Kelley): Early on in his second State of the State address, Governor Spencer Cox expressed appreciation for teachers. “To those teachers with us tonight, I know that you are on mile 42 of what was promised to be a 26.2 mile COVID marathon. And while we can never thank you enough, I do believe that we can pay you better,” he said.

Cox pointed to his proposal to invest nearly a billion in education funding with a priority focus on at-risk and disadvantaged students. In addition, he said, “this session I am also proposing the elimination of all school fees for the basic coursework required for graduation. This legislation…will save Utah parents $55 million each year, with many of those dollars going to Utah families struggling to meet essential financial obligations.”