Week Four – February 8-12 2021

UEA Report on the 2021 Utah Legislature General Session

2021 WEEK FOUR IN REVIEW: February 8-12

The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee made its final recommendation for education funding during WEEK FOUR. The recommendation included items requested by the UEA. Bills moving through the legislative process this week would make it more difficult for citizens to be involved in the political process and make it easier for students to be excused for mental health concerns.

Public ed funding committee submits final budget recommendations

2021 Utah Teacher of the Year John Arthur,
shown here addressing the Capitol Insights
legislative briefing, was recognized on the
Senate floor February 11 for being named a
National Teacher of the Year finalist.

During its final meeting of the 2021 General Session, the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee presented its final recommendations for education funding priorities. The recommended priorities include $8.6 million for Optional Enhanced Kindergarten, $5 million for HB114: Early Learning Training and Assessment Amendments (defunded in 2020), $900,000 for EARS, $7.5 million for Utah K-12 Computer Science Initiative, $700,000 for USDB additional FTE, $4 million for the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, $5 million for UPSTART and $4 million for MOST. All subcommittee recommendations will be considered by the Executive Appropriations Committee, with final funding decisions made in a few weeks (see How the Public Education Budget is Set).

 

Bill barring transgender youth from girls’ sports moves forward on narrow vote

Following a lengthy debate, a bill to define gender and prohibit individuals who are male at birth from participating in athletic programs designated for girls narrowly passed the House Education Committee. HB302 (1st sub.): Preserving Sports for Female Students requires public schools to designate athletic activities as either “boys”, “girls” or “coed” and prohibits male students at birth who identify as female from participating in girls’ sports. The UEA opposes this legislation because it would supersede existing UHSAA policy that already provides protection regarding transgender participation in sports. Following the vote of 8-6 in the committee, the bill will now be considered by the full House.

 

Switching political parties and initiating a public initiative or referenda could become more difficult

Two bills, both opposed by the UEA, would make it make it more difficult for citizens to be directly involved in the political process:

 

  • HB197 (3rd sub): Voter Affiliation Amendments makes it more cumbersome for voters to change their party affiliation in even-numbered years. The UEA opposes the bill because voters should have the flexibility to affiliate with a political party as they see fit. It passed the House on a vote of 41-30 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
  • HB136: Initiative and Referenda Modifications makes several changes to the initiative and referenda process. The UEA opposes this bill because it makes it more difficult for the public to participate directly in creating and changing legislation. It passed the House on a vote of 42-30 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

 

Other education bills on the move during WEEK FOUR

 

  • HB38: School Technology Amendments requires a digital resource provider to ensure that the digital resource provider’s products used in public schools block “obscene or pornographic material.” The UEA believes this bill is unnecessary because adequate filters already exist to block inappropriate material. It passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously.
  • HB81: Mental Health Days for Students adds mental or behavioral health as a valid excuse for a school absence. The UEA believes this bill is unnecessary. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full Senate.
  • HB105: Students with Disabilities Amendments amends a formula related to add-on weighted pupil units for students with disabilities. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full Senate.
  • HB116: Student Attendance Amendments prohibits requiring documentation from a medical professional for an absence due to mental or physical illness. The UEA believes this is better handled as a local issue. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full Senate.
  • HB177: Health Education Amendments requires the Utah State Board of Education to establish curriculum requirements that include instruction on consent and what does not constitute consent. The bill also includes curriculum on and sexual violence behavior prevention. A motion passed to hold the bill in the House Education Committee to make changes in an attempt to gain more support. The UEA supports this bill.
  • HB222: School Land Trust Program Amendments amends provisions related to reporting and the administration of the School Learning and Nurturing Development Trust Program. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full Senate.
  • HCR3: Concurrent Resolution Regarding Native American Mascots and Equality in Public Schools recognizes “the harm done by using Native American mascots and encourages schools in the public education system to retire those mascots.” The bill also encourages the State Board of Education and local education agencies to provide instruction in Native American culture and history. The UEA supports this resolution. The resolution passed the House Education Committee by a 6-5 vote.
  • HCR8: Concurrent Resolution on Education reaffirms existing code about flexibility and school choice options for parents and families. The UEA opposes the resolution because it ignores the importance of high educational standards and taxpayer accountability. It passed the House on a vote of 53-14 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
  • SB72: Open and Public Meetings Amendments prohibits a vote in a closed meeting, except to end the closed portion of the meeting and provides that a motion to end the closed portion of a meeting may be approved by a majority vote. The bill passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.
  • SB115: Retirement System Transparency Requirements requires certain employers that participate in the URS to disclose employee compensation information through the Utah Public Finance Website or the employer’s own website. The UEA opposes this bill. It passed the Senate Business and Labor Committee on a vote of 5-3.
  • SB118: State School Board Candidate Amendments lowers the signature threshold for Utah State Board candidates from 2,000 voter signatures to 1,000 signatures. The bill was held by the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee on a vote of 4-2. The UEA supports this bill.
  • SB142: Public Education Funding Amendments requires the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee to complete an evaluation of public education funding and to make recommendations for future legislation. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House.
  • SB154: Teacher Salary Supplement Program Amendments adds educators with a deaf education license to the TSSP. This would be a small adjustment, affecting seven educators employed at USDB. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now moves to the House. UEA supports the bill.
  • SCR1: Concurrent Resolution on Holocaust Education highlights the importance of Holocaust and genocide education and encourages the State Board of Education and local education agencies to emphasize the importance of this course of study. It passed the House Education Committee and the full House unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature. The UEA supports this resolution.

 

UEA Legislative Team delivers legislative update

The UEA Legislative Team provided its weekly Capitol Insights virtual update to UEA members on Thursday, February 11. The Team provides the briefings each Thursday at 4:30 p.m. during the Legislative Session.

 

 

UEA Policy Ambassadors share messages

Eleven educators were selected to become 2021 UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA legislative activities, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here is an excerpt from a new submission…

 

  • Every Voice is Needed – by UEA Policy Ambassador Elliott Tupea, business teacher at Hunter High School in Granite School District
    “…We live in a great country and state that has provided opportunity for all. The United States is a Federal Constitutional Republic. What this means, in essence, is that your “voice” is significant to the future of Utah and even the country. We hold the authority but our “representatives” exercise that on our behalf. We need your voice! I became an educator many years ago because I wanted to impact the future. As I began teaching, I noticed several inequities for our students. Many students, because of where they live, were not given the opportunities that others of a different ZIP code had. I became a member of the Utah Education Association to give voice to these inequities. My choice has impacted many lives in a positive way…”
  • Stand Up and Speak Out – by UEA Policy Ambassador Brian Barnum, school counselor at Kearns High School in Granite School District
    “Did you wake up this morning thinking, ‘I really want to advocate today?’ Most educators do not start their careers thinking that a day at the capitol for a legislative session or advocating for school counseling positions at a state school board meeting is a part of their job description. I am sure many of us are even unaware of the great impact we can have by making an impression in a committee hearing or with a state representative. However, doing these things is integral to how we, as educators, do our job…”
  • Teaching, Learning and ‘Finding Zen’ During COVID -19 – by UEA Policy Ambassador Kristine Martin, math teacher at Grand Middle School in Grand County School District
    “…Students are coming and going in our blended online/in-person classrooms (home sick, traveling, concerns about COVID exposures). Families and teachers have made headway for students and teachers to stay in touch while the student is not present. Daily we adapt to changes and go with the flow. Teachers are there to teach. We get joy from the kiddo who says, “I got it” or “I don’t get it.” It says they are engaged and participating in their future. My kiddos know when they are out of balance and will ask for a moment of Zen (which is a bell I ring and give them something to think about, like what you hear during the bell sound in a darkened classroom) then they share. It takes 2-3 minutes, and they are relaxed and ready to learn…”
  • Following the Money – by UEA Policy Ambassador Victoria Mauro, science teacher at Northwest Middle School in Salt Lake City School District
    “I’m betting many of you, like me, were brought up on the adage, ‘there are three things you should never talk about: money, religion, and politics.’ Clearly, as I write this UEA Policy Ambassador message I have overcome any aversion I may have possessed to talking about politics, but it still felt a little uncomfortable to talk about money. That is, until I watched my first Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting and recognized the power of money to make vital changes to our educational institutions. Whether we talk about it or not, money is the life blood of our capitalist system and in order to affect any meaningful change in education, we need the funding to support it. Learning about the state education budget was one of the most empowering things I have ever done as an educator…”

 


House passes bill making it more difficult to switch political parties to vote – February 12, 2021

The Senate will now consider a bill that increases the difficulty for voters to switch political parties during legislative election years after the House passed it 41-30. A bill that adds what the UEA believes are unnecessary additional restrictions on blocking access to technology resource materials also moved forward.

House Judiciary Committee (reported by Chase Clyde): HB38: School Technology Amendments was heard in the House Judiciary Committee. This bill requires a digital resource provider to ensure that the digital resource provider’s products used in public schools block “obscene or pornographic material.” The UEA believes this bill is unnecessary because adequate filters already exist to block inappropriate material. It passed the committee unanimously.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB197: Voter Affiliation Amendments makes it more cumbersome for voters to change their party affiliation in even-numbered years. Although the bill was substituted making some of the provisions less mundane, the UEA still opposes the bill because voters should have the flexibility to affiliate with a political party as they see fit. It passed the House on a vote of 41-30 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB154: Teacher Salary Supplement Program Amendments adds educators with a deaf education license to the TSSP. This would be a small adjustment, affecting seven educators employed at USDB. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now moves to the House. UEA supports the bill.

 


UEA Policy Ambassador Message – February 12, 2021

Eleven educators were selected to become 2021 UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA legislative activities, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here is an excerpt from a new submission…

 

Every Voice is Needed

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Elliott Tupea, business teacher at Hunter High School in Granite School District

In a letter to Thomas Mercer, Edmund Burke said, “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” As the landscape of the nation changes and politics heads to a boiling point, every voice is needed. Every voice counts in the fight for educational rights. Who will be that voice of reason that represents, “We the People”? Who will be the voice that advocates for education? Who will be the voice that speaks against tyranny? Your voice truly matters.

We live in a great country and state that has provided opportunity for all. The United States is a Federal Constitutional Republic. What this means, in essence, is that your “voice” is significant to the future of Utah and even the country. We hold the authority but our “representatives” exercise that on our behalf. We need your voice!

I became an educator many years ago because I wanted to impact the future. As I began teaching, I noticed several inequities for our students. Many students, because of where they live, were not given the opportunities that others of a different ZIP code had. I became a member of the Utah Education Association to give voice to these inequities. My choice has impacted many lives in a positive way…

 


Bill barring transgender youth from girls’ sports moves forward on narrow vote – February 11, 2021

Following a lengthy committee debate, a bill to define gender and prohibit individuals who are male at birth from participating in athletic programs designated for girls. Salt Lake Education Association member and Utah 2021 Utah Teacher of the Year John Arthur was recognized on the Senate floor for being nominated as one of five finalists for the 2021 National Teacher of the Year.

 

 

House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): The committee heard just one bill today, spending more than two hours debating HB302 (1st sub.): Preserving Sports for Female Students, sponsored by Rep. Kera Birkeland. The bill requires public schools to designate athletic activities as either “boys”, “girls” or “coed” and prohibits male students at birth who identify as female from participating in girls’ sports. The UEA opposes this legislation because it would supersede existing UHSAA policy that already provides protection regarding transgender participation in sports. UEA President Heidi Matthews spoke saying the bill is “harmful and unnecessary” and hurts our most vulnerable students. After extensive discussion, and before a vote could be taken, there was a motion to adjourn which would effectively kill the bill. That motion failed. A motion to hold the bill in committee, stating that it needed further clarification and work, also failed. The bill narrowly passed the committee by a vote of 8-6. It will now be considered by the full House.

 

HB300: Reporting Requirements for Local Education Agencies, which requires the State Board of Education to review reports required in statute and rule, was also on the agenda but was not considered before the committee adjourned.

 

2021 Utah Teacher of the Year John Arthur,
shown here addressing the Capitol Insights
legislative briefing on Jan. 28, was recognized
on the Senate floor for being named a finalist
for the National Teacher of the Year.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SCR1: Concurrent Resolution on Holocaust Education highlights the importance of Holocaust and genocide education and encourages the State Board of Education and local education agencies to emphasize the importance of this course of study. It passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature. The UEA supports this resolution.

 

HCR8: Concurrent Resolution on Education reaffirms existing code about flexibility and school choice options for parents and families. The UEA opposes the resolution because it ignores the importance of high educational standards and taxpayer accountability. It passed the House on a vote of 53-14 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB154: Teacher Salary Supplement Program Amendments adds educators with a deaf education license to the TSSP. This would be a small adjustment, affecting seven educators employed at USDB. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House. UEA supports the bill.


UEA Policy Ambassador Message – February 11, 2021

Eleven educators were selected to become 2021 UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA legislative activities, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here is an excerpt from a new submission…

 

Stand Up and Speak Out

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Brian Barnum, school counselor at Kearns High School in Granite School District

Did you wake up this morning thinking, “I really want to advocate today?” Most educators do not start their careers thinking that a day at the capitol for a legislative session or advocating for school counseling positions at a state school board meeting is a part of their job description. I am sure many of us are even unaware of the great impact we can have by making an impression in a committee hearing or with a state representative. However, doing these things is integral to how we, as educators, do our job.

Many times, well-intentioned legislators take on a bill not knowing every facet of the bill or how it impacts the way that we meet the needs of our students. Often, boots on the ground are quick to blame when something goes awry, but how many are solution-focused with suggestions and support? Legislators are not always educational experts, so they are tasked with building a small circle of trusted advisers who are experts in the field. This makes it necessary that we network, build relationships and become the trusted experts they turn to when they need to understand the context and impact of any bill crossing their desks…

 


 

Education bills sail through Senate committee without opposition – February 10, 2021

Following committee votes today, the full Senate will now hear bills to add mental health as a valid excuse for a school absence and to prohibit requiring a doctor’s note to excuse absence. A UEA-opposed bill to change the Utah Retirement System also passed a Senate committee.

Senate Education Committee (reported by Chase Clyde): Four UEA-tracked bills were heard in the committee. All passed unanimously.

HB105: Students with Disabilities Amendments amends a formula related to add-on weighted pupil units for students with disabilities. The UEA supports this bill.

HB222: School Land Trust Program Amendments amends provisions related to reporting and the administration of the School Learning and Nurturing Development Trust Program. The UEA supports this bill.

HB81: Mental Health Days for Students adds mental or behavioral health as a valid excuse for a school absence. The UEA believes this bill is unnecessary.

HB116: Student Attendance Amendments prohibits requiring documentation from a medical professional for an absence due to mental or physical illness. The UEA believes this is better handled as a local issue.

Senate Business and Labor Committee (reported by Jay Blain): SB115: Retirement System Transparency Requirements requires certain employers that participate in the URS to disclose employee compensation information through the Utah Public Finance Website or the employer’s own website, if the employer is not currently required to disclose the information. Utah State Auditor John Dougall spoke in favor of the bill. UEA Director of Research Jay Blain spoke against the bill. He explained that the retirement benefits piece is already transparent because the liabilities are already published in the URS Annual Report. Taxpayers are not guaranteeing the salaries of private entities, therefore, this bill does not increase transparency for taxpayer dollars, he said. The bill passed the committee on a vote of 5-3.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB72: Open and Public Meetings Amendments prohibits a vote in a closed meeting, except to end the closed portion of the meeting and provides that a motion to end the closed portion of a meeting may be approved by a majority vote. The bill passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.


 

UEA Policy Ambassador Message – February 10, 2021

Eleven educators were selected to become 2021 UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA legislative activities, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here is an excerpt from a new submission…

 

Teaching, Learning and ‘Finding Zen’ During COVID -19

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Kristine Martin, math teacher at Grand Middle School in Grand County School District

…Students are coming and going in our blended online/in-person classrooms (home sick, traveling, concerns about COVID exposures). Families and teachers have made headway for students and teachers to stay in touch while the student is not present. Daily we adapt to changes and go with the flow. Teachers are there to teach. We get joy from the kiddo who says, “I got it” or “I don’t get it.” It says they are engaged and participating in their future. My kiddos know when they are out of balance and will ask for a moment of Zen (which is a bell I ring and give them something to think about, like what you hear during the bell sound in a darkened classroom) then they share. It takes 2-3 minutes, and they are relaxed and ready to learn.

We all need to find our moments of Zen, to appreciate the good that is going on, to acknowledge the work being done on our behalf by others while still holding our leaders accountable. I am going to make the most of my stint as a UEA Policy Ambassador, enjoying the challenging and complicated work that others are doing on our behalf in education.

 


 

Public ed funding committee meets for the final time – February 9, 2021

During its final meeting of the 2021 General Session, the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee presented its final requests for funding, which included funding requested by the UEA. A senate committee failed to pass a measure that would reduce the number of signatures for a state school board candidate to get on the ballot.

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): The subcommittee met for the final time of the session today. Members of the Utah State Board of Education staff provided reports on the USBE School Fees Project and Activity Based Costing. The Utah Anti-bullying Coalition gave a presentation. The subcommittee provided its final Motion List and a Co-Chair Prioritization list that will be delivered to the Executive Appropriations Committee for action. The prioritization list includes $54.5 million in requests. Among the requests: $8.6 million for Optional Enhanced Kindergarten, $5 million for HB114: Early Learning Training and Assessment Amendments (defunded in 2020), $900,000 for EARS, $7.5 million for Utah K-12 Computer Science Initiative, $700,000 for USDB additional FTE, $4 million for the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, $5 million for UPSTART, and $4 million for MOST.

Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee (reported by Chase Clyde): SB118: State School Board Candidate Amendments lowers the signature threshold for Utah State Board candidates. Currently, partisan candidates for USBE must gather 2,000 voter signatures to get on the ballot. This bill would lower the threshold to 1,000 signatures. Several senators raised concerns about lowering the threshold for districts with such large populations. The bill was held by the committee on a vote of 4-2. The UEA supports this bill.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB142: Public Education Funding Amendments requires the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee to complete an evaluation of public education funding and to make recommendations for future legislation. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House.


 

UEA Policy Ambassador Message – February 9, 2021

Eleven educators were selected to become 2021 UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA legislative activities, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here is an excerpt from a new submission…

 

Following the Money

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Victoria Mauro, science teacher at Northwest Middle School in Salt Lake City School District

 

UEA 2021 Policy Ambassador Victoria Mauro (second
from right)
 at the Utah State Capitol in February 2020.

I’m betting many of you, like me, were brought up on the adage, ‘there are three things you should never talk about: money, religion, and politics.’ Clearly, as I write this UEA Policy Ambassador message I have overcome any aversion I may have possessed to talking about politics, but it still felt a little uncomfortable to talk about money. That is, until I watched my first Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting and recognized the power of money to make vital changes to our educational institutions.

 

Whether we talk about it or not, money is the life blood of our capitalist system and in order to affect any meaningful change in education, we need the funding to support it. Learning about the state education budget was one of the most empowering things I have ever done as an educator…

 


Curriculum in consent, coercion, deterrence and mitigation gets three-hour debate in House committee – February 8, 2021

A bill that would require the State Board of Education to provide instruction in consent, including what does not constitute consent; coercion; sexual violence behavior deterrence; and sexual assault mitigation strategies had a three-hour debate before being held in the House Education Committee. Initiating a public initiative or referenda would be more difficult under a proposal passed by the House.

House Education Committee (reported by Chase Clyde): Three UEA-tracked bills were discussed in the committee:

SCR1: Concurrent Resolution on Holocaust Education highlights the importance of Holocaust and genocide education and encourages the State Board of Education and local education agencies to emphasize the importance of this course of study. The UEA supports this resolution. It passed the committee unanimously.

HB177: Health Education Amendments requires the Utah State Board of Education to establish curriculum requirements that include instruction on consent and what does not constitute consent. The bill also includes curriculum on and sexual violence behavior prevention. After a nearly three-hour debate the bill was amended to remove language that “oversexualized” the curriculum. A motion passed to hold the bill in the committee to make changes in an attempt to gain more support. The UEA supports this bill.

HCR3: Concurrent Resolution Regarding Native American Mascots and Equality in Public Schools recognizes the harm done by using Native American mascots and encourages schools in the public education system to retire those mascots. The bill also encourages the State Board of Education and local education agencies to provide instruction in Native American culture and history. The UEA supports this resolution. The resolution passed out of committee by a 6-5 vote. Speaking in support of the bill, UEA Government Relations Director Chase Clyde pointed to language in the UEA Minority Involvement Plan.  that calls for “work with educators and community partners to develop and implement social justice programs including those that address institutional racism. This resolution helps advance that goal,” he said. “We support this resolution because it encourages USBE and LEAs to include instruction on the history, culture and traditions of Native Americans in school curriculum.”

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB136: Initiative and Referenda Modifications makes several changes to the initiative and referenda process. The UEA opposes this bill because it makes it more difficult for the public to participate directly in creating and changing legislation. It passed the House on a vote of 42-30 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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