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2013 Legislative Interim Sessions

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Edcuation Interim Committee – November 20, 2013

Education Interim Committee (Reported by Jay Blain): Rep. Steve Eliason and a representative from NAMI Utah presented revisions to a suicide prevention bill to the Education Interim Committee. This bill will help ease liability concerns when counseling with students who may be suicidal. Rep. Jim Nielson raised the concern that intervening might raise suicide rates if done by untrained individuals. Rep. Becky Edwards endorsed the type of things Rep. Eliason is requesting, including QPR (question, persuade, refer) training.

Sen. Howard Stephenson asked when we are going to train teachers to create a climate that is emotionally safe for students. “We need to do more than just this reactive approach,” he said. He said he has heard from many students that when bullying and shaming happens the teacher just moves on and does nothing.

State Supt. Martel Menlove says the bill does not change what teachers and other school employees can and can’t say or do. He also said that they are seeking funding to improve school climate and anticipate Sen. Stephenson’s support as that goes forward. Rep. Eliason requested that this be a Committee bill.

There was a lot of discussion about schools asking every student suicide questions. An amendment was made to remove survey portion of the draft bill. A motion to pass the bill out as a Committee bill as amended passed in both houses, with nays from Sens. Stephenson and Mark Madsen and Reps. Dan McCay and Keven Stratton.

Rep. Rich Cunningham gave a summary of School Community Councils (SCC) and their need for continued training. Sen. Pat Jones commented that until the Councils have enough funds at stake, schools will lack the interest from communities to participate in them.

Rep. Marie Poulson asked if Rep. Cunningham has taken parent input. He said ‘yes.’ Parents say biggest problem is when principal just takes over SCC. Nielson why would you turn to outside group to train SCC’s on how to do their jobs? Rep. Nielson said he would be much more comfortable if the training is done by USOE because that is their role. Paula Plant gave a presentation on the current training accessible now. Everything is available at, she said.

Sen. Madsen said he would like SCC’s to have a role in hiring school principals. Sen. Stephenson recounted Draper experiences going up against Jordan School District. He said some of their experiences led to split. He claims that their attitude continues today as evidenced by a ‘no’ vote on the bond issue. He claims that district trains how they want SCC’s to behave.

Ben Horsley from Granite District said that the legislation’s intent is to change the source of the training not the content. Cunningham, we need to look and see how many districts have someone like Ben Horsley doing what he is doing before I propose legislation. Sen. Reid encouraged Rep. Cunningham to talk with USOE and USBE about how districts currently train SCCs.

Sen. Stuart Reid referenced several annual reports on the agenda, noting that the reports are available online.

Education Interim Committee – September 18, 2013

Education Interim Committee
(Reported by Jay Blain): The Education Interim Committee heard a presentation on the demographics of Utah school districts and charters given by the Office of Legislative Research. This presentation gave information on the distribution of minorities, economically disadvantaged and English Language Learner (ELL) students. Economically disadvantaged was defined as those students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. The report highlighted stark differences between districts and charter schools in numbers or ethnic minority, low income and ELL student.
Another presentation was given by representatives from the Utah Council of Education Deans on teacher preparation. On average, education students come from the top third of student entering college, they said. The presentation focused on what universities are doing to address the achievement gap for minority students. Some of the items presented included:

  • Integrating into all methods courses strategies for diverse learners.
  • ELL minors, ELL endorsement programs, including online endorsements.
  • Student teaching in Title 1 schools.

State Supt. Martell Menlove gave his recommendations about teacher preparation and reducing the achievement gap. He said the state must recruit a more diverse population into the teaching profession and make more of an effort in mentoring and coaching to meet the diverse needs of students, especially between the novice and career teacher level.

Chad Carpenter, Ogden School District human resources director, said teachers there are working harder and smarter. He reported that Ogden hired 123 new teachers this year from 28 universities and colleges. Ogden has hired and retained more than 30 teachers from Michigan over the past six years. Teachers are nervous and anxious about turning classrooms over to student teachers because of high stakes testing. McKell Withers, Salt Lake City School District superintendent reported that they are now a minority majority district. He said, “We use data frequently but not as a weapon.”

Sarah Wright, a BYU graduate who served a full-year internship in Nebo School District, Nebo Education Association member, and current full-time teacher at Salem Hills High School in Nebo addressed the Committee. She said Salem Hills High has a population that is 11-15 percent minority and a very small percentage ELL. She was of the opinion that she did not receive enough preparation to teach diverse students. She asserted that math teachers receive perhaps a month’s worth of teaching experience out of BYU. Sen. Stuart Reid asked if she would to go into Ogden and would she be prepared to do so. Her answer was ‘no’ to both questions. Reid followed up by asking, if she felt she is representative of her colleagues. She said she was. She then qualified that if she knew that she would have the support, the time built in to work with others and collaborate, she would be less reluctant.

A report on the UPSTART program was presented to the Committee.

Education Interim Committee – July 17, 2013

Education Interim Committee
(Reported by Kory Holdaway): Wednesday, July 17, was the regularly scheduled interim day for the Utah Legislature. There was also a special session held to deal with some non-education bills. The UEA Legislative Team worked to have Senate Bill 271: School Grading Amendments from last session placed on the agenda in hopes of delaying its implementation due to some challenges we have identified.

The UEA has been working together with the Public Education Coalition to encourage changes to SB271, however, any changes identified as improving the bill have been rejected as unnecessary and simply an attempt to delay implementation. We continue to make recommendations to the bill and, with the collaboration of the other education groups, are hopeful to see adjustments made. Additional meetings will be held with the Governor and the bill sponsor in hopes of seeing these adjustments adopted as the bill is implemented.

On a brighter note, we had 10 excellent teachers, many of whom are UEA members, provide testimony to the Education Interim Committee about the challenges they face as teachers in the classroom. The focus by many of the teachers was on trusting the teacher to be more independent and not to have so many tests that identify nothing about the individual children in their class.

The teachers also stressed the challenges of having large class sizes and being able to meet the needs of the children they work with when the class sizes are so large. This portion of the meeting took up the majority of the time and comments were made by many of the legislators that this was the most useful feedback they had receive in a long time.

A BIG tip of the hat to the following teachers: Kim Bayles , Jennifer Graviet, Sara Hacken, Katie Hipple, Jennifer Jacobson, Tim Jones, Kim Knettles, Dan Rozanas, Brandy Valdez and Mary Ward for their willingness to share their classroom experiences and professional expertise.


Education Interim Committee – May 15, 2013

Education Interim Commitee
(Reported by Jay Blain): The Education Interim Committee received a report on State School Trust Lands. According to the report, the fund has grown from $18 million in 1983 to about $1.3 billion in 2012. Distribution amounts to schools have grown 6-fold.
Reports were also given on the Smart School program and its continuance this year and the STEM Action Center. A STEM Action Center Board has been appointed and has met. Sen. Stephen Urquhart said he wants data by next legislative session. Rep. Patrice Arent pointed out that we can’t ask teachers to do more things for free. We can’t just ask them to attend a seminar in the summer, she said.

An update was given by State Supt. Martel Menlove on implementation of legislation by the Utah State Office of Education (USOE).

Rep. Dan McCay asked about the upcoming resolution at the State Republican Convention concerning the Common Core. Supt. Menlove responded by saying that the resolution contained misinformation. Utah State Board of Education Chair Debra Roberts added that these standards are simply benchmarks. She also said that the Board would never relinquish their constitutional control of education in the state. Supt. Menlove reported that there are no new data reporting requirements under the Common Core. Reporting requirements are the same as we were under NCLB, he said.

The final update was on HB318: Classroom Size Revisions. Supt. Menlove submitted the USOE interpretation of what plans and reporting districts and charters will need to submit to receive funds in the 2014-15 school year.

The Committee ended with members prioritizing various items for interim study. Rep. Carol Moss asked for an item that was not on the list regarding the excessive amount of testing and its encroachment on instructional time. Committee Chair Francis Gibson said she would have to take the request to the Legislative Management Committee because it wasn’t previously approved for interim study.