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UEA Report on the 2020 Utah Legislature General Session

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WEEK TWO: 


2020 WEEK IN REVIEW: February 3-7

By the end of WEEK TWO, number of education bills tracked by the UEA jumped to nearly 50, with more being filed nearly every day. Education bills publicly discussed this week included measures to eliminate the use of a single letter grade for school accountability, to provide an income tax credit up to $1,000 for certain out-of-pocket teacher classroom expenses, and to expand the availability of optional extended-day Kindergarten programs.

The public education base budget passed both the House and the Senate. This base budget essentially sets the next year’s funding at the current level before any new money is considered. New for this year, this base budget includes just over $50 million for new student enrollment growth, which has been funded separately in the past. Any increases to the “base budget” will be considered in separate supplemental budget bills near the end of the session.

Educators representing more than a dozen districts converge on the Hill

About 75 education professionals joined members of the UEA Legislative Team early Friday for Educator Day on the Hill. Participants came from Alpine, Davis, Emery, Grand, Granite, Jordan, Nebo, Ogden, Park City, Tooele, Wasatch, Washington and Weber School Districts, as well as UEA-Retired, the Utah School Employees Association and the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. The group included teachers representing Hope Street Group Utah Teacher Fellows and 2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors.

Many attendees reported on their interactions with legislators and their experiences. “I was very nervous, but it turned out to be a great experience. I learned a lot,” said a first-time Educator Day on the Hill attendee. “Having UEA to provide a tracking sheet and explain everything that’s going on is priceless,” said another participant.

Committees approve bills to provide tax credit for classroom expenses, to eliminate school grades and to expand OEK

SB69: Tax Credit for Educator Expenses would provide a refundable tax credit of up to $1,000 for qualifying educator out-of-pocket for school expenses. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate Education Committee and moves to the full Senate for consideration.

HB175: Education Accountability Amendments eliminates the use of a single letter grade for school accountability. The same bill easily passed the House in 2019 but was never debated in the Senate. Speaking in support of the bill, UEA Director of Education Excellence Sara Jones said the school grading program has been demoralizing to educators and students, has changed from year to year so the target for improvement has never been consistent and a single grade lacks transparency compared to the more comprehensive school dashboard. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full House for consideration.

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. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House Education Committee with one ‘no’ vote and moves to the full House.

HB152: Civic Education Testing Amendments eliminates the civics test required for high school graduation. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously and will now go to the full House.

Three bills recognizing schools and school employees moved forward this week: HB148: Utah Recognizing Inspiring School Employees Award Program, creating a program to similar to Teacher of the Year for Education Support Professionals, and HCR5: Concurrent Resolution Designating Utah Education Support Professionals, designating the Wednesday during the week prior to the Thanksgiving holiday as "Utah Education Support Professionals Day," both passed the House and now move to the Senate for consideration. SCR5: Concurrent Resolution Recognizing Utah's National Blue-Ribbon Schools, commending the four Utah schools that received the National Blue-Ribbon Schools award in 2019 passed both the House and the Senate.

Ed base budget passed, subcommittee hears additional budget requests

The House and Senate both unanimously passed HB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments, which provides the bulk of public education funding for Fiscal Year 2020-21. It allocates more than $5.5 billion, essentially adopting the previous year’s budget. New for this year, this base budget includes just over $50 million for new student enrollment growth, which has been funded separately in the past.

The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee is charged with making recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee for a final bill to provide any increased public education funding (see How the Public Education Budget is Set). This subcommittee heard many budget reports, including:

An Informal Science Education Enhancement (iSEE) presentation and iSEE funding request;

SIGN AND SHARE: Petition asks the Utah Legislature to invest in Utah public schools

This week, the UEA launched a petition asking the Utah Legislature to “support investments in Utah’s future by providing significant growth in per-student public education funding, including a 6% increase on the WPU (per-student funding)” and to “reject proposals to divert income tax intended for our schoolchildren to other uses.”

Educators were urged to sign the petition and then to help share the petition with teachers, parents and other public education supporters. Here are a few ways to share the petition:

Education ‘Policy Ambassadors’ Share Lobbying Experiences

Nineteen teachers volunteered to become 2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA Educator Day on the Hill, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here is a new submission...

On the Bright Side of Politics – by UEA Policy Ambassador Taylor Layton, second-grade teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Granite School District

“In today’s politics, it’s easy to despair. Utah is still last in per-pupil funding and it’s easy to feel like citizens’ voices are ignored. At times, it feels like we are being led to despair, ushered by our news media into a never-ending carnival of things to be outraged and depressed by…There’s room for all dispositions in politics and I don’t want to scold anyone for justified anger. Agitation is a crucial aspect to organizing. Just never forget, when there is a better future, it won’t be because the earth revolved and winter turned to spring. It will be because we made that future. And that makes me hopeful.”…read the full article from Taylor Layton


Bill would provide teacher income tax credit for out-of-pocket classroom expenses – February 7, 2020

Educator Day on the Hill (reported by Mike Kelley): About 75 education professionals joined members of the UEA Legislative Team early Friday morning for Educator Day on the Hill at the State Capitol. Participants came from Alpine, Davis, Emery, Grand, Granite, Jordan, Nebo, Ogden, Park City, Tooele, Wasatch, Washington and Weber School Districts, as well as UEA-Retired, the Utah School Employees Association and the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. The group included teachers representing Hope Street Group Utah Teacher Fellows and 2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors.

Meetings began early with instructions on how to speak to legislators, a discussion of current education issues and visits by Rep. Dan Johnson and Rep. Lowry Snow. Rep. Snow explained his bills to expand funding for Optional Extended-day Kindergarten (HB99) and to collect data on school absences and truancy (HB14). Attendees then participated in a morning meeting of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

During floor time in the House and Senate, EDOH participants took the opportunity to meet with their legislators. At lunchtime, Rep. Marie PoulsonRep. Joel BriscoeRep. Marsha Judkins, and Sen. Kathleen Riebe stopped by to share information about bills. Rep. Poulson shared information about her bill to eliminate the requirement to publish school grades (HB175). Sen. Riebe, who is a member of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, said she has heard no opposition to adding 6 percent on the Weighted Pupil Unit. “I think we may be able to do it,” she said.

Many attendees reported on their interactions with legislators and their experiences. “I was very nervous, but it turned out to be a great experience. I learned a lot,” said a first-time Educator Day on the Hill attendee. “Having UEA to provide a tracking sheet and explain everything that’s going on is priceless,” said another participant.

Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee (reported by Jay Blain): SB69 Tax Credit for Educator Expenses would provide a refundable individual income tax credit up to $1,000 that an eligible teacher may claim for certain out-of-pocket classroom expenses. The bill passed the committee unanimously and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

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

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HCR5: Concurrent Resolution Designating Utah Education Support Professionals designates the Wednesday during the week prior to the Thanksgiving holiday as "Utah Education Support Professionals Day." It passed unanimously.


Bills to recognize schools and school employees approved by House – February 6, 2020

House Education Committee (reported by Mike Kelley): HB14 School Absenteeism and Truancy Amendments amends provisions related to truancy. It would standardize terms, allowing for more accurate data collection. The bill passed unanimously and now goes to the full House.

HB114 Early Learning Training and Assessment Amendments provides programs and assessments to improve early learning in literacy and mathematics. It passed on a vote of 11-2 and now goes to the full House.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): Two bills recognizing schools and school employees were heard in the House. Both passed unanimously.

HB148: Utah Recognizing Inspiring School Employees Award Program, as the name implies, creates a program to recognize inspiring school employees. The program would be similar to a Teacher of the Year for Education Support Professionals. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

SCR5: Concurrent Resolution Recognizing Utah's National Blue-Ribbon Schools commends the four Utah schools that received the National Blue-Ribbon Schools award in 2019.


UEA Policy Ambassador Message – February 6, 2020

Nineteen teachers volunteered to become 2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA Educator Day on the Hill, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here is a new submission...


2020 UEA Policy Ambassador Taylor Layton (far left),
pictured here with faculty from his school.
On the Bright Side of Politics

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Taylor Layton, second-grade teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Granite School District

“In today’s politics, it’s easy to despair. Utah is still last in per-pupil funding and it’s easy to feel like citizens’ voices are ignored. At times, it feels like we are being led to despair, ushered by our news media into a never-ending carnival of things to be outraged and depressed by…

… There’s room for all dispositions in politics and I don’t want to scold anyone for justified anger. Agitation is a crucial aspect to organizing. Just never forget, when there is a better future, it won’t be because the earth revolved and winter turned to spring. It will be because we made that future. And that makes me hopeful.”


SIGN AND SHARE: Petition asks the Utah Legislature to invest in Utah public schools – February 5, 2020

The UEA has launched a petition asking the Utah Legislature to “support investments in Utah’s future by providing significant growth in per-student public education funding, including a 6% increase on the WPU (per-student funding)” and to “reject proposals to divert income tax intended for our schoolchildren to other uses.”

Please take a moment to sign the petition and then, help share the petition with teachers, parents and all public education supporters.

Here are a few ways to share:

“Our state’s strong economy has resulted in a robust education fund,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “It’s time for our legislators to invest that money where it is needed…in our students.”


Bills to eliminate school grades and to expand OEK move forward – February 5, 2020

House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Two bills highlighted on the UEA Tracking Sheet and supported by the UEA passed the committee and now move to the full House for consideration:

HB99: Enhanced Kindergarten Amendments was presented by Rep. Lowry Snow. The bill 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. Sara Jones, UEA Director of Education Excellence, spoke in support of the bill. She stated that while UEA emphasizes significant increases to the WPU as the most flexible source of funding, 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 committee with one ‘no’ vote.

HB175: Education Accountability Amendments was presented by Rep. Marie Poulson. This bill seeks to eliminate the use of a single letter grade for school accountability. The same bill easily passed the House in 2019 but was never debated in the Senate. Sara Jones, UEA Director of Education Excellence, spoke in support of the bill. She said that the school grading program has been demoralizing to educators and students, has changed from year to year so the target for improvement has never been consistent and a single grade lacks transparency compared to the more comprehensive school dashboard. The bill passed the committee unanimously.

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

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments provides the bulk of public education funding for Fiscal Year 2020-21. It allocates more than $5.5 billion, essentially adopting the previous year’s budget. New for this year, this base budget includes just over $50 million for new student enrollment growth, which has been funded separately in the past. HB1 passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature. The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee will make recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee for a final bill to provide any increased public education funding (see How the Public Education Budget is Set).


Committee hears bill to give teachers a tax credit for out-of-pocket expenses – February 4, 2020

Senate Rev and Tax Committee (reported by Jay Blain): SB69: Tax Credit for Educator Expenses would provide a refundable tax credit of up to $1000 for qualifying educator out-of-pocket for school expenses. UEA Director of Research Jay Blain spoke in favor of the bill. He noted that the average in Utah is about $500 per teacher out of pocket. Representatives from the Utah Taxpayers Association and Alliance for a Better Utah also spoke in favor the bill. The bill was held in committee for more work.

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): 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 committee unanimously and now goes to the full Senate.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments provides the bulk of public education funding for Fiscal Year 2020-21. It allocates more than $5.5 billion, essentially setting the budget the same as the current year. New for this year, this base budget includes just over $50 million for new student enrollment growth, which has been funded separately in the past. HB1 passed the House unanimously and goes to the Senate. The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee will make recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee for a final bill to provide any increased public education funding (see How the Public Education Budget is Set).


Bill to eliminate civics test requirement passes committee unanimously – February 3, 2020

House Education Committee (reported by Jay Blain): HB141: Educator Salary Incentive Program Amendments allows the Utah State Board of Education flexibility in funding the Teacher Salary Supplement program if more teachers apply and are approved than is funded by legislative appropriation. It also allows for licensed clinical social workers to receive Educator Salary Adjustment monies if they have a DOPL or education license. The bill passed out of the committee unanimously and now goes to the full House.

HB152: Civic Education Testing Amendments eliminates the civics test required for high school graduation. Bill sponsor Rep. Elizabeth Weight said during her presentation that no other test is required for graduation and the test has no relation to the student’s knowledge of civics. The UEA supports this bill.

State Superintendent Sydney Dickson said the test doesn’t encourage any good instructional practice with no reflection and nothing to guide instruction. UEA Director of Research Jay Blain spoke in favor of the bill saying every civics, government and social studies teacher he has spoken with is in favor of this bill. Passing the test gives a false sense of any achievement of civics knowledge attainment and testing anxiety prevents many kids from demonstrating their true ability and knowledge, he said. The bill passed the committee unanimously and will now go to the full House.

HB205: Students with Disabilities Amendments would change the formula that funds students with disabilities in the minimum school program. Currently, there is a two-year lag in the count for the number of students for each LEA. The bill would make it a one-year lag. There is also a cap on the growth right now and the bill would remove the cap. It appeared that the committee liked the bill and wanted to pass it out but there were questions about getting it funded. There is a fiscal note of about $9 million. Rep. Steve Waldrip, who also sits on the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, suggested the bill be held in committee until the sponsor could take the bill to the appropriations committee to present it there for funding. A motion to hold the bill passed unanimously.

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