Legislative report submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Jennifer Jenkins, kindergarten teacher and early learning coach at Duchesne Elementary School in Duchesne School District
Can you remember when you first became a teacher? I can remember the day I was hired for my first teaching position; I was ecstatic. Such a prestigious profession! I had so many ideas and couldn’t wait to get into my classroom to teach. Then, my real education began. I just wanted to teach my students, yet I felt the imposing hand of politics creeping its way into my classroom.
Now that I am a more experienced and wiser educator, I understand the connection. Better yet, I know that I have a voice and the responsibility as a professional to take action for our profession. We are the experts in our classrooms. Our senators and representatives come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are former educators, but many are not. Yet, we entrust them with making decisions that impact our profession. This is where our voice and our responsibility come into play.
Throughout the legislative session, educators from across the state have the opportunity to participate in UEA Educator Day on the Hill. This is an opportunity to get involved and share your story with your representatives, giving them insight to help make the best decisions for education. I’d like to encourage you to get involved.
I was terrified when I stepped out of my classroom to advocate for education at my first Educator Day on the Hill. Sure, I am an expert in my classroom, but I am not an expert in politics. But, I learned I don’t need to be one! I learned that my representatives wanted to hear my story and my thoughts on current education legislation. I went in feeling terrified and came out feeling empowered and heard.
Since then, I have spoken with my representatives every year! This year I spoke with my representative, Christine Watkins. She greeted me by saying she would not be voting for HB234, which would have required educators to post curriculum materials for each day of instruction. We also talked about the benefits of all-day kindergarten. Then, she texted me to share the good news when HB234 was withdrawn.
Yes, politics are a part of our profession, but you can join those who are out there advocating for us! I watched UEA President Heidi Matthews and UEA Legislative Team member Jay Blain address the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee regarding education budget priorities, asking for an increase in the WPU, 5 days of flexible time for educators to fulfill their increased responsibilities, and expanding optional full-day kindergarten, among other things. This is just one example of how the UEA advocates for our profession.
The staff at UEA as well as fellow teachers spend each legislative session tracking bills that concern education, promoting bills that uphold and support our jobs as educators, and fight bills that undermine and complicate our responsibilities. You can and should be part of this as a professional. You should be advocating for us too. You won’t regret it!