House votes unanimously to eliminate school grades – February 12, 2020

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Five UEA-tracked bills passed the committee and now go to the full Senate for consideration.

SB73: Reading Assessment Expansion Amendments was presented by Sen. Jerry Stevenson. The bill seeks an additional $1.5 million to expand Acadience (formerly DIBELS) assessment currently required in grades 1-3 to grades 1-6. It passed unanimously.

SB93 (1st sub.): Math and Science Opportunities for Students and Teachers requests an additional $4.8 million to expand the USTAR program and changes the name to the Math and Science Opportunities for Students and Teachers (MOST) program. The MOST program allows schools to offer expanded science and math programing for secondary students. Currently 95% of funds must go to teacher salaries and benefits. This bill expands the definition of “teacher” to “educator” to include coaches and other instructional personnel. It passed unanimously.

SB104: Local Education Levy State Guarantee Amendments was presented by Sen. Lincoln Fillmore. The bill increases the number of increments the state guarantees for certain education levies as a means of equalization. UEA has supported property tax equalization in other bills because they raised new revenue through property tax for schools. However, UEA opposes this bill because it funds the increased guarantees using $33 million in Education Fund monies that could otherwise go to the WPU. The WPU is the most equitable distribution source because it goes to all districts and charters and the guarantees do not. The bill passed with one no vote.

SB99: School Leadership Development Amendments was presented by Sen. Ann Milner. The bill requests $15 million for districts and charters to apply for grants to provide professional learning, training and mentoring for new principals and “aspiring” principals to improve principal leadership. During committee discussion it was clarified that the grant program could be scaled if the bill was funded at a level less than the requested $15 million. Sen. Kathleen Riebe raised the concern of how the grants would be prioritized to districts or charters that have the greatest need. It passed unanimously.

HJR2: Joint Resolution Recognizing School Bus Drivers was presented by Rep. Elizabeth Weight. The resolution supports the recognition of Utah school bus drivers for their dedication, leadership, student and parent relationships and technical skills. It passed unanimously.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB175: Education Accountability Amendments eliminates the use of a single letter grade for school accountability. It passed the House unanimously. The same bill easily passed the House in 2019 but was never debated in the Senate, which will be the challenge again this year.

HB99: Enhanced Kindergarten Amendments 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. While the UEA emphasizes significant increases to the WPU as the most flexible source of funding, the UEA supports this bill because 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 House on a vote of 48-21 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB21: Education Amendments removes language requiring qualified teachers to submit an annual application for the through the Teacher Salary Supplement Program provided their situation doesn’t change. It also removes a requirement in the Educational Improvement Opportunities Outside of the Regular School Day Grant Program that matching funds be private. In addition, the bill amends a definition regarding a waiver of immunity related to sexual battery and sexual assault against a student under certain conditions. It passed the Senate unanimously and now moves to the House. The UEA supports this bill.

SB79: Regional Education Service Agencies changes existing Regional Service Centers to Regional Education Service Agencies, giving them a status similar to districts. For example, they would now be allowed to receive grants and manage programs that currently only flow to districts and charter schools and their employees could participate in the Utah Retirement System. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House.