Week One – January 19-22 2021

UEA Report on the 2021 Utah Legislature General Session

2021 WEEK IN REVIEW: January 19-22

Gov. Spencer Cox delivers his first State of the State address in the Utah House chamber at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021.

Governor Spencer Cox delivered his first
State of the State address on January 21, 2021.
Photo: The Salt Lake Tribune pool

 

Speeches and presentations dominated public work during the WEEK ONE of the 2021 General Legislative Session, with most of the difficult work happening behind the scenes. Few public education bills moved during the first week, but it’s unlikely that situation will last long with the number of filed and numbered bills growing daily.

In an opening speech to legislators, Senate President Stuart Adams thanked teachers, but took a jab at Salt Lake City School District for not opening to full in-person instruction. Utah Governor Spencer Cox also praised educators and called for changes in the way public education is funded during a short State of the State address.

Among things lost to the pandemic, we can now add UEA Educator Day on the Hill. For the first time in many years, a legislative Friday passed without teachers gathering on Utah’s Capitol Hill to advocate for public education.

Public Education Budget

The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee heard many reports from education entities this week and heard details of the remarkable Base Budget proposal passed in December by the Executive Appropriations Committee (SB1: Public Education Base Budgetsee more about the FY2022 education budget). Reports included funding priority presentations from the State Board of Education, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, and the School & Institutional Trust Fund Office (SITFO).

Governor, Senate President and House Speaker share praise for teachers during opening remarks

Touting it as “the shortest State of the State speech in Utah history,” newly elected Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox addressed a joint session of the Utah Legislature Jan. 21. A large portion of that speech was dedicated to education, including remarks directly to teachers. “Never in the history of our state have we felt (teachers’) influence or needed you more than right now. You have pivoted on a dime and figured out ways to do what seemed impossible,” he said. “(Teachers) deserve our respect. And they deserve a raise. I’m grateful to you legislators who agree and have pledged historic education funding this year, including $112 million dollars in bonuses for our teachers. In addition, I have proposed a nearly 6% increase in our state’s education funding — more than $400 million in all. And while I just referred to these investments as ‘historic,’ I’m looking forward to them becoming routine.”

The general theme for Speaker Brad Wilson’s opening address to the House of Representatives was, ‘Great moments are born from great opportunity.’ He stated there are three areas to build on for equality in the state: education, housing and healthcare. Specifically, in education he mentioned critical thinking, financial literacy and civics as being necessary in every classroom.

In his opening comments to the Utah Senate, Senate President Stuart Adams said he is “especially proud of our teachers. I am grateful for the efforts of those who have made the classroom clean and safe so that our children and grandchildren can get the best in-person education possible under the circumstances. They are the unsung heroes of 2020.” Pres. Adams said opening the economy has led to budget surpluses that will benefit students. “Last summer, we funded a 1.8% increase in the WPU for teachers, the only state in the nation to increase education spending during a pandemic. In December, we went a step further. The Executive Appropriations Committee recommended the full reinstatement of the 6% increase in the WPU.” Pres. Adams then directed comments to the current situation in Salt Lake City School District, saying “parents should have the option to have their kids in the classroom. We are seeing alarming reports in the Salt Lake City School District where there is not option for in-person learning.”

Education bills begin to appear and move through the process

Included among the handful of education bills publicly discussed during WEEK ONE was a resolution to recognize former educator, NEA State Director and legislator Lawanna Shurtliff. There was little public discussion on education bills the first week, but that should change quickly as the number of bills grows daily. The UEA Legislative Team has its hands full reading and prioritizing each bill, then working closely with sponsoring legislators to ensure they understand the needs and concerns of educators in crafting their bills. By the end of WEEK ONE, the number of education bills tracked by the UEA had grown to 31 (see the current UEA Legislative Tracking Sheet). Here are the UEA-tracked bills moving during the week:

 

  • HCR7: Concurrent Resolution Recognizing the Public Service of Representative Lawanna “Lou” Shurtliff passed both the House and Senate unanimously and now goes to the governor for signature. Rep. Shurtliff was serving as a member of the Utah House representing Ogden’s District 10 when she passed away earlier in January. She was a school teacher and previously served as president of the Ogden Education Association president and a Board member of National Education Association representing Utah.
  • HB42: Education Agency Report Process Amendments removes some existing reports and requires the Utah State Board of Education to establish a policy or procedures to evaluate the impact any report required in a rule proposed by the state board may have on reporting requirements for a local education agency. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House on a vote of 72-1 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
  • HB124: Civics Engagement Pilot Program Amendments simply changes the start date for a civics engagement pilot program created in last year’s legislative session from 2020-21 to 2021-22. It passed the House Education Committee on a vote of 13-1.
  • HB134: Notice of Public Education Reporting Requirement requires that the legislature indicate whether a bill will impact reporting requirements for school districts and charters. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously.
  • HB181: Personalized Competency-based Learning updates language and definitions regarding personalized, competency-based learning. It passed the House Education Committee on a vote of 10-1.
  • SB11: Retirement Income Tax Amendments creates an individual income tax credit for certain social security benefits and an individual income tax credit for military retirement pay. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House for consideration.
  • SB107: In-Person Instruction Prioritization states that any district or charter school that “does not provide a broad-based in-person learning option for all students in kindergarten through grade 12 by February 8, 2021” will face funding consequences including requiring the district to pay up to 75% of the cost of private school tuition for families wanting in-person instruction. The bill targets the Salt Lake City School District, the only district that does not currently have an in-person learning option for students. There was extensive committee discussion with Senate President Adams saying there is “nothing punitive about this bill.” UEA President Heidi Matthews spoke against the bill stating that SB107 is simply the legislature “flexing its muscles” and threatens the kind of collaborative efforts that achieved the historic funding proposals seen this year. The bill the Senate Education Committee passed on a vote of 5-2. It now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

UEA Policy Ambassador message

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…

 

  • As a Teacher, Your Job is Political – by UEA Policy Ambassador Hunter Clapsadl, sixth-grade teacher at Diamond Ridge Elementary School in Granite School District
    “…As we have all seen, this year has been one of the most politically charged, dividing times we have experienced as educators. We’ve seen COVID completely change the structure of our school and social communities, watched and stood with those demanding equality in our country and even witnessed an attack on our nation’s capital. As an adult I have struggled to process these events and how they affect me”…read the full article from Hunter Clapsadl

 

 


No EDOH, only one committee meeting to report – January 22, 2021

 

Among things lost to the pandemic, we can now add UEA Educator Day on the Hill. For the first time in many years, a legislative Friday passed without teachers gathering on Utah’s Capitol Hill to advocate for public education. No public education bills moved during shortened floor time in the House and Senate. The committee charged with making public education budget recommendations continued to hear requests from various agencies.

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): The subcommittee continued to hear budget request from various groups.

State Board of Education Chair Mark Huntsman and State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson presented the funding priorities from the State Board of Education. Huntsman started by explaining about Utah’s Portrait of a Graduate. Dickson said many of the Board’s requests focus on needs created or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the requests for restoration and to address disrupted learning enumerated by Dickson included:

  • $5 million ongoing for early learning
  • $8.7 million ongoing for Option Enhanced Kindergarten
  • $350,000 ongoing and $5 million one-time Expanded Access to Broadband
  • $10 million one-time Enhancement for At-Risk Students Programs (EARS)
  • $12 million one-time over three years for an intensive services pilot program
  • $4 million one-time for the LEA financial systems funding systems project

Other budget presentations shared during the subcommittee meeting included (click for the presentations):

  • The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (the governor’s full budget book is available at gomb.utah.gov)
  • The School & Institutional Trust Fund Office (SITFO) (and a handout from SITFO)
  • A USBE report on Federal COVID relief money

UEA Policy Ambassador Message – January 21, 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…

As a Teacher, Your Job is Political

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Hunter Clapsadl, sixth-grade teacher at Diamond Ridge Elementary School in Granite School District

Time and time again it seems teachers hear the following statement: “Keep politics out of the classroom!” Many outside of our profession expect us to hold a neutral position on all things political, and believe that politics and teaching do not go hand in hand. Some of us may agree with that sentiment, others may strongly oppose.

Enter the 2020-2021 school year. As we have all seen, this year has been one of the most politically charged, dividing times we have experienced as educators. We’ve seen COVID completely change the structure of our school and social communities, watched and stood with those demanding equality in our country and even witnessed an attack on our nation’s capital. As an adult I have struggled to process these events and how they affect me.

Our students are engaged in the same media that we are and are, in turn, grappling with the same resulting anxiety and stress. I have found myself, like many other educators, wondering how to best talk about these sensitive political topics with my students. Should I say nothing at all and hope it blows over? What if I take an oppositional stance? Will this topic lead to angry parent emails?

My biggest takeaway is this: not talking and caring about politics in our classrooms is a direct disservice to our students…

  • Read the full article from Hunter Clapsadl
  • Read all the 2021 UEA Policy Ambassador messages

In State of the State speech, Governor says teachers deserve respect and a raise – January 21, 2021

Utah Governor Spencer Cox called for changes in the way public education is funded during a short State of the State address in front of the Utah Legislature. A House committed forwarded three UEA-tracked education bills to the full House.

House Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Today the committee met for its first meeting of the 2021 Legislative Session. Three bills tracked by UEA were on the agenda. Rep. Dan Johnson presented two bills. HB124: Civics Engagement Pilot Program Amendments simply changes the start date for a civics engagement pilot program created in last year’s legislative session from 2020-21 to 2021-22. It passed the committee on a vote of 13-1HB181: Personalized Competency-based Learning updates language and definitions regarding personalized, competency-based learning. It passed on a vote of 10-1. Finally, HB134: Notice of Public Education Reporting Requirement was presented by Rep. Susan Pulsipher. This bill requires that the legislature indicate whether a bill will impact reporting requirements for school districts and charters. It passed the committee unanimously.

State of the Union (reported by Mike Kelley): Touting it as “the shortest State of the State speech in Utah history,” newly elected Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox addressed a joint session of the Utah Legislature Jan. 21. A large portion of that speech was dedicated to education.

After sharing information about that state’s response to the pandemic and sacrifices made by “healthcare professionals, public health servants, first responders, businesses, workers, seniors and children,” he turned to teachers.

“Never in the history of our state have we felt (teachers’) influence or needed you more than right now. You have pivoted on a dime and figured out ways to do what seemed impossible,” he said. “(Teachers) deserve our respect. And they deserve a raise. I’m grateful to you legislators who agree and have pledged historic education funding this year, including $112 million dollars in bonuses for our teachers. In addition, I have proposed a nearly 6% increase in our state’s education funding — more than $400 million in all. And while I just referred to these investments as ‘historic,’ I’m looking forward to them becoming routine.”

Gov. Cox also proposed a change in the way education is funded. “Education has always been called the great equalizer, but it can’t be that way if our kids are not treated equally. Ladies and gentlemen, I truly believe that this concept of educational equity is at the heart of so much of the pain and division in our country right now. A high-quality education can change everything.”

“Over the past year we have had some critical conversations around race and justice. And if I can be so bold, putting up a sign or joining a rally isn’t enough. The best way we can bring to life the American promise — of liberty and justice for all — is to make sure that every single child, brown or Black, rural or urban has the same opportunity as every other child.” He suggested a way to ensure those opportunities is to ensure “every child in this state deserves a great education from a high-quality, well-compensated teacher.”

Gov. Cox said his agenda also includes providing an $80 million tax cut targeted at senior citizens and Utah families, while “investing in transportation, water, recreation and broadband infrastructure that will benefit every Utahn on and off the Wasatch Front for generations to come.”


Bill targeting Salt Lake City School District moves forward – January 20, 2021

A bill passed by a committee today would take funding from any district or charter school that “does not provide a broad-based in-person learning option for all students” and transfer it to a private, charter or other district school. In another committee, the UEA praised the public education Base Budget but opposed language that could exclude some educators from a receiving stipend.

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): Today was the first meeting of the committee for the 2021 session with new members present. The committee introduced themselves and shared a presentation on the Public Education budget. Then they did a deep dive into the public education Base BudgetSB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments is the bill.

In public comment, UEA President Heidi Matthews gave praise and appreciation to the legislature for the great funding in the Base Budget. She added that the weighted pupil unit (WPU) is the best mechanism for funding because it allows for the most local control. The structure we now have in place allows for progress, growth and stabilization of public education funding, she said.

While there is much to celebrate in the Base Budget as proposed, Matthews expressed concern about language in the bill that could potentially exclude Salt Lake City School District educators from receiving the school employee stipend outlined in the bill. “I hate to see the goodwill and progress (from additional funding) usurped by unnecessary language that alienates important educators and undercuts the local control of school boards. It was so disappointing in December when this Base Budget was revealed and the very worthy celebrations were thwarted with exclusionary language. It is so important to recognize the efforts of all teachers, all educators all school staff – as well as respect for the local control of school districts.”

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Today the committee met for the first time in the 2021 Legislative Session. SB107: In-Person Instruction Prioritization was presented by Sen. Todd Weiler. The bill states that any district or charter school that “does not provide a broad-based in-person learning option for all students in kindergarten through grade 12 by February 8, 2021” will face funding consequences including requiring the district to pay up to 75% of the cost of private school tuition for families wanting in-person instruction. The bill targets the Salt Lake City School District, the only district that does not currently have an in-person learning option for students. There was extensive committee discussion with Senate President Adams saying there is “nothing punitive about this bill.”

UEA President Heidi Matthews spoke against the bill stating that SB107 is simply the legislature “flexing its muscles” and threatens the kind of collaborative efforts that achieved the historic funding proposals seen this year.

The bill passed on a vote of 5-2 with Senators Katheen Riebe and Derek Kitchen opposing. It now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB11: Retirement Income Tax Amendments creates an individual income tax credit for certain social security benefits and an individual income tax credit for military retirement pay. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House for consideration.


Senate President thanks teachers, jabs at SLC School District during opening remarks – January 19, 2021

House Floor (reported by Jay Blain): The general theme for Speaker Brad Wilson’s opening address to the House was, ‘Great moments are born from great opportunity.’ He indicated that the legislature needs to broaden the state’s economic success by finishing the $80 million in tax relief that they started in the 2019 session. They also must do a legislative review of regulation reform. He added that we need to maintain our commitment to infrastructure, connecting people and goods by roads and rails. He included outdoor recreation as well, noting that state parks are a great resource and have infrastructure needs.

He noted that there are three areas to build on for equality in the state, education, housing and healthcare. Specifically, in education he mentioned critical thinking, financial literacy and civics as being necessary in every classroom. He promoted the college adviser program. Another program he wants to develop that will benefit education is a comprehensive approach to mental health treatment.

As far as bills, opening day is typically for bills previously recommended by interim committees. The following education-related bills passed the full House:

HCR7: Concurrent Resolution Recognizing the Public Service of Representative Lawanna “Lou” Shurtliff passed both the House and Senate unanimously and now goes to the governor for signature. Rep. Shurtliff was serving as a sitting member of the Utah house serving Ogden’s District 10 when she passed away earlier in January. She was a school teacher and previously served as president of the Ogden Education Association president and a Board member of National Education Association representing Utah.

HB42: Education Agency Report Process Amendments came from the Education interim committee. It removes some existing reports and requires the Utah State Board of Education to establish a policy or procedures to evaluate the impact any report required in a rule proposed by the state board may have on reporting requirements for a local education agency. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House on a vote of 72-1 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): In his opening comments to the Utah Senate, Senate President Stuart Adams introduced five new senators: John D. Johnson (District 19), Michael S. Kennedy (District 14), Michael K. McKell (District 7), Derrin R. Owens (District 24) and Chris H. Wilson (District 25).

Regarding education, Pres. Adams said opening the economy has led to budget surpluses that will benefit students. “Last summer, we funded a 1.8% increase in the WPU for teachers, the only state in the nation to increase education spending during a pandemic. In December, we went a step further. The Executive Appropriations Committee recommended the full reinstatement of the 6% increase in the WPU. We allocated $95 million to fund growth and inflation in the public education base budget and provided educators with a one-time COVID stipend, a bonus. Because our state took a balanced approach for protecting lives and livelihoods, and kept our economy open, we were able to fund education and we are now in a position to fund and reduce taxes.”

“I am especially proud of our teachers,” said Pres. Adams. “I am grateful for the efforts of those who have made the classroom clean and safe so that our children and grandchildren can get the best in-person education possible under the circumstances. They are the unsung heroes of 2020. I appreciate all educators and staff for their dedication.”

Pres. Adams then directed comments to the current situation in Salt Lake City School District. “Teachers have done an amazing job with the resources they’ve been given. But parents should have the option to have their kids in the classroom. We are seeing alarming reports in the Salt Lake City School District where there is not option for in-person learning. There is a 600% increase in students failing all classes, despite teachers’ best efforts. We can’t let that happen in Utah. Our kids’ future is at risk. With teachers now having vaccine priority, Salt Lake City School District needs to start face-to-face instruction now and give each student the best opportunities to learn.”

As he concluded, Pres. Adams said “education and education funding will always be our top priority. We will continue to demonstrate this by increasing education funding, even during a pandemic. We also need to explore more equitable education funding distribution and parents need to be given more control.”

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