As a school teacher, I am deeply concerned about the proposed legislative bill HB215 (Funding for Teacher Salaries and Optional Education Opportunities) that would redirect public education funds toward private school vouchers. This bill threatens the stability and integrity of our public education system and the students we serve.
Last year, I attended an education rally at the State Capital, organized by the Davis Education Association (DEA), and was struck by the passion and commitment of the hundreds of educators who gathered to support families, students, and other educators. Our collective voices were heard, and the private school voucher bill in question (HB331) was withdrawn. However, this experience also made me realize the importance of paying close attention to bills and laws that affect our classrooms, students, and profession. It is our responsibility as educators to be informed and engaged in the political process and to advocate for our students and our profession.
Since that cold day on the steps of the Capitol, I have become more involved in local community council meetings and joined the Utah Education Association (UEA) as a legislative ambassador. I have also met with my local state representative, Doug Owens, and sent several emails about bills and issues affecting public education in Utah. As a union member, I am more appreciative of all that the UEA and DEA do for their members and for educators and education. The UEA is a valuable resource that helps reduce the intimidation and barriers that can come with following the happenings on Capitol Hill. They provide daily email updates, weekly webinars, and a lot of other information on the Under the Dome portion of the website.
One of the most contentious bills this session is HB215, which the UEA opposes. This bill is similar to HB331 from 2022, but now includes provisions for teacher salary increases. However, the inclusion of these provisions does not change the fact that this bill would redirect public education funds away from our schools and toward private schools. This would leave our public schools underfunded, and our students without the resources they need to succeed.
The bill passed the House Education Committee on Thursday, and within 24 hours, it passed the full House of Representatives. It is now moving on to the Senate for their vote. The speed at which this bill is moving is alarming and does not leave much time for the public to give their representatives feedback or suggestions. This is why it is crucial for educators and supporters of public education to act by writing a brief five-minute email to a representative or senator, teaching others how to email their representatives, or attending a rally on Capitol Hill. We need to use our voices to stand up for bills that undermine our responsibilities and public education in Utah.
As educators, we have a unique perspective on the needs of our students and the importance of a strong public education system. We see firsthand the impact that funding and resources have on our students’ ability to succeed. We know that private school vouchers are not the solution to the challenges facing our public education system. Instead, we must invest in our public schools, teachers, and students.
By paying attention to politics, we are advocating for our students and our profession. We must speak out against this bill and call on our representatives and senators to vote against it. We must also educate our communities about the negative impact this bill would have on our public schools and our students. Together, we can ensure that public education remains strong, stable, and accessible to all students in Utah.