Legislative report 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. The day started at 7 a.m., for a meeting with our UEA Legislative team. Heidi, Jay, Chase, Sara and Mike all helped facilitate an excitement in the air that morning. It can be a bit intimidating. We are fortunate to have them looking out for our interests and guiding us in the legislative process.
The week prior to this, I had sent an email to my representative and senator, as well as Governor Cox. I did not get a response from either of my legislators via email, so I persisted by reaching out to them via text message. Both of them said that they had not read my message but would make time to find it in their email. (I think they are bombarded with email.) I let them know that I would be at the Capitol on January 28 and would really appreciate just five minutes of their time.
After the meeting with the other UEA Policy Ambassadors, I received a text from my senator telling me that he would like me to come sit on the floor with him at 11 a.m. I was thrilled, it would be my chance to really advocate for our profession in a meaningful way. I kept shooting texts back and forth with my representative who agreed to meet with me that morning. We hadn’t really nailed down a time, but I was feeling confident we would connect at some point.
I waited by the House floor, figuring that is likely where I would meet up with my representative. As it got closer to 11, I was starting to get nervous that I would not be able to meet with my representative because of the invitation with my senator. At 10:56 my representative finally showed up. Right when he arrived, I got a call from my Senator, wondering if I was coming. When I explained what was going on he invited us to go in a room behind the Senate floor and have a meeting all together.
This is so awesome I thought! I am going to get to “kill two birds with one stone.” It was a great experience to talk to both of my legislators. I told stories about how we are not attracting young people to go to college for careers in education, and how we are forced to continually hire unqualified people. I talked about teacher burnout and “COVID fatigue”. We talked about the detrimental effects of House Bill 234 and Senate Bill 114 (the transparency bills). I pleaded with them to please continue to do what they can to help us with education funding, especially on the WPU.
When we were walking out, from behind the Senate floor, my representative invited me to come sit with him on the House floor. I was able to sit with him until they dismissed for the weekend at noon. During this time, we were really able to connect, and I gained an appreciation for the work my representative is doing for his constituents.
The Policy Ambassadors met back in the Aspen Room to debrief the day’s activities. Everyone seemed to have had positive experiences with the various people they had communicated with that morning. 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.