Written by 2023 Policy Ambassador Aironn Bishop, Millard School District
The 2023 Utah Legislative Session has just begun and there is a lot centering around education once again. Why is it important for educators to be involved and how do they get involved? Educators’ plates are already full with the beginning of the second semester, grades due for the first semester, standardized testing on the horizon and mid-year testing underway. You may feel you don’t have time to track the legislative session and bills affecting education on top of everything else. You may wonder how you would find the time to voice your support or opposition for an upcoming bill or track it through the legislative process. You may also be surprised that being involved takes less time than you think and can have a great impact on education in the future.
It is imperative that educators get involved in the process. Not all elected officials have been in a classroom and few are educators themselves. Policymakers do not always fully understand the landscape of education today nor what it looks like to reach all students within your classroom walls each day. Without being on the frontlines of education, can they truly understand what it means to differentiate instruction to meet all the IEPs and 504s in your classroom? Do they understand the benefit of increased educator pay which may help some educators not need a second job to supplement their income allowing them to focus on teaching? Do they know what it means to grade a school based on standardized test scores of students? Do they understand the consequence of holding teachers accountable for outcomes without providing the necessary tools and resources to meet the basic needs of every student?
Allowing our elected officials to make all education decisions without our input is like letting the front desk receptionist at our local doctor’s office make our healthcare decisions without consulting the doctor. While all legislators have had some interaction with education, they need the input of the experts in the field, educators themselves! They need to hear about the challenges and successes of teachers today. They need first-hand accounts of what is going well and what needs to change in order to attract more educators to the field and retain the quality educators already in the classroom.
Contacting your legislator is as simple as sending a text or email and expressing your support or opposition to an upcoming bill. Tracking the bills is as easy as following along on the Under the Dome UEA website. Here, experts in education track upcoming bills which can affect education. They have clearly outlined educational priorities for the 2023 Utah Legislative Session and all priorities support Utah’s educator workforce and students. Being involved is not a time-intensive activity. Being involved, however, can change education for the better.