Here we go again…public school attacks, school vouchers back in play – February 2

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

What a difference a day makes! After a slow Monday, Tuesday was anything but. The UEA presented its $57.5 million ask for educator “time” to the committee charged with creating the public education budget. Legislators introduced a bill creating a “Parent Bill of Rights” that the UEA will strongly oppose. School vouchers are also back on the table in a soon-to-be-released bill.

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): Today in the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, there were 18 Requests for Appropriations (RFA), some were related to bills and some were stand-alone requests.  I presented with our House sponsor, Rep. Dan Johnson, our RFA for Educator Directed Flexible Professional Time. This request is for $57.5 million of one-time money to provide educator-directed flexible time for educators. This time can be used for any professional purpose and can be used in blocks of hourly time. The intent is to compensate educators for time they spend on things like preparation, collaboration, grading, implementing programs and other professional purposes. We realize educators spend more time than this will compensate them for, but it will be of some help.

See the other appropriations requests from today’s subcommittee meeting.

House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Four bills tracked by UEA all unanimously passed the House Education Committee:

HB113: Funding for Students with Disabilities amends a formula for special education funding. Rep. Marsha Judkins has successfully passed the same bill in the last two legislative sessions, but the bill was not funded so it has never been implemented. UEA Government Relations Director Sara Jones spoke in support of the bill, thanking Rep. Judkins for her persistence over the past three years in seeking to create more equitable funding for special needs students and explaining that this change is one of UEA’s budget priorities for this year.

HB230: Refugee and Immigrant Student Policies Amendments creates procedures for enrolling refugee and immigrant students in school when they lack proof of biological age or school transcripts. UEA member Mindy Layton spoke in support of the bill.

HB251: School Dropout Prevention Amendments modifies the existing school dropout prevention program. Currently, LEA’s are required to contract with a third-party provider for dropout prevention which can be costly. The bill allows LEA’s the flexibility to also create their own dropout prevention program, a change requested by USBE.

HB241: School Epilepsy Training Amendments requires a school district or charter school to provide training on seizure first aid to a school administrator and teacher of student with epilepsy or other seizure disorder.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): Two UEA-tracked bills passed the Senate unanimously and now go to the House for consideration:

  • SB103: Special Education Licensing Amendments requires a director of special education at a charter school to hold an appropriate educator license. The UEA supports this bill.
  • SB78: School Board Expansion Requirements adjusts the size of a local school board based on student population, including increasing a board to nine members if the student population exceeds 100,000 students. Currently, only Alpine School District is close to that threshold.

New Bills: Legislators introduced one new bill and unveiled plans to release another the UEA will be strongly opposing:

  • Parent rights? Senate Bill 157: Parental Rights in Education would allow parents to sue over curriculum, textbooks and other educational material they disagree with, as well as “teacher training, rules, policies, courses of study, agreements, and programs relating to local public education” under the guise of parent rights. The UEA will address specifics of the bill after review, but issued the following initial statement:
    Here we go again…this type of legislation is an attack on public schools and pits parents against teachers. Parents and teachers are both essential to student success. Our overburdened educators do not need more attacks on their profession right now. They need support. They need parents who step up and get involved, not legislators who talk down and promote needless controversy.
  • Vouchers by any other name. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that legislators will soon introduce a “scholarship” program allowing parents to use tax dollars to send their child to a private school. Again, little detail is known yet, but the UEA released the following statement:
    Here we go again…It’s disappointing the legislature is proposing yet another voucher-type bill that would create a system to divert money intended for our public school children to privately run, for-profit institutions where there is no taxpayer accountability. Schemes like this have been tried in other states with no measurable increase in student achievement. Utahns resoundingly defeated school vouchers at the polls in 2007.


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 Sara Jones: Chase Clyde and I met with Rep. Val Peterson, House Assistant Majority Whip, this morning to talk about UEA’s budget request (see Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, above). We specifically highlighted our ask for $57 million in one-time money for educator-directed, flexible paid time. He said he recognizes the extreme stress facing educators and looks forward to seeing how Public Education Appropriations prioritizes our request.


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:

Persistence Pays Off

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Corby Briggs, technology & engineering teacher and assistant principal at North Sanpete Middle School in North Sanpete School District

“I participated with UEA Educator Day on the Hill for the second time, on January 28…I had done this once before so I kind of knew what to expect. Some of the other first timers, who had been nervous that morning, were clearly over that and had a great experience. Based on my own experience, and hearing the stories others shared, it is very clear to me that most of our legislators really do care about us but are sometimes ill informed. That is why it is sooooo important for us to stay involved! We are the ones that know what actually goes on in the schoolhouse, and it is up to us to let our legislators know how things actually are by sharing our stories and experiences.”