Telling Our Stories – Legislative post by UEA Advanced Policy Ambassador Bianca Mittendorf

Legislative report submitted by UEA Advanced Policy Ambassador Bianca Mittendorf, Title IX Coordinator in Davis School District

As an educator, I have always looked forward to UEA Educator Day on the Hill. Joining with other educators and Utah Education Association members for an empowering day of sharing our stories with elected officials has been a transformative experience which has bestowed upon me the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of advocacy.

On January 28, 2022, Policy Ambassadors from the UEA gathered for a debriefing before beginning the Day on the Hill. We were informed about the state of various bills in the legislature, such as HB234 that, if passed, would have a devastating impact on public education in Utah. In addition to this information, we Policy Ambassadors also had the opportunity to hear from Rep. Robert Spendlove who spoke briefly about the bill he was sponsoring, HB32: Health Care Worker Protection Amendments, which expands the protection area for health care workers who have been verbally and physically assaulted while completing their duties. Rep. Spendlove also spoke of his desire to sponsor a similar bill for educators.

After the debriefing, we were on our way. I partnered with a fellow Advanced Policy Ambassador, and we created a plan for tackling the day. We would attend the Higher Ed Appropriations Committee hearing, then later a House session. In between this activity, we had planned to meet with our elected officials. Taking a moment to strategize ensured we would accomplish our objectives.

After attending the appropriations committee meeting and watching part of the House session, I had an opportunity to meet with my representative in the House, Steve Waldrip of District 8. While meeting with him, I thanked him for his strong support of education and his sponsorship of HB193: Full-day Kindergarten which, if it passes, will begin to improve education outcomes by providing additional instructional time to kindergartners. I also shared with Rep. Waldrip a document prepared by UEA which shared the needs and concerns of educators from his district. Rep. Waldrip expressed gratitude for receiving the feedback and seemed to take the educator concerns seriously.

This brief interaction with Rep. Waldrip reminded me that even though across the country, not just here in Utah, there is a concerted effort to undermine public education, meeting with elected decision makers and sharing our stories is a one way to challenge the attack. Our representatives and senators should be aware of the burdens currently facing public education. In conclusion, if you have not yet attended UEA Educator Day on the Hill to share your story, you must do so. The vitality and longevity of the UEA depends on it.