The first week of the legislative session went by quickly. During Friday’s Educator Day on the Hill, many bills and topics that had potential impacts (positive and negative) on education and how we do our jobs were discussed. I attended the Public Education Committee meeting to hear the review budget and funding proposals for public school districts, special schools such as the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind, charter schools, and special funding allocated for supporting rural districts in Utah. District representatives could present their data on previous years, how the funding was spent, and needs for the upcoming year. The committee clearly attempted to consider how funds were previously spent and why the current needs existed for each school. It truly showed how telling a story can influence policy, funding, and perspectives when two committee members who represent rural areas of Utah spoke on the benefits they witnessed in their communities and the needs there.
Moving to the House Debate, where bills such as House Bill 261 were discussed and voted on. One theme stood out to me as I watched the debates and discussions. The call for data and accounts of personal experiences of people who would be potentially impacted by the bills up for debate. Another bill debated was House Bill 257, which UEA opposed, passed out of the House and was sent to the Senate.
Having attended Educator Day on the Hill as a UEA member over the past several years, one thing has stood out to me the most: the power of a story. When talking with legislators about the needs in education of not only our students but my fellow educators, the most impactful conversations I’ve had always surround a meaningful story about my experiences and the challenges we all face. Using your story will help you find your voice and courage as an advocate, whether you are a brand-new educator or a seasoned professional. Leaning into your story gives you the energy to fight for what’s needed and speak up when others cannot. Using your story also helps foster relationships with your legislators. Telling them your story and fostering that relationship gives them the power to speak up during debates and to support/oppose bills like HB 221 for Stipends for Future Educators or HB 103 for the Teacher Salary Supplement Program, adding speech-language pathologists.
Your voice and story have the power to influence change and make a difference, one conversation at a time.