UEA Report on the 2020 Utah Legislature General Session
2020 WEEK IN REVIEW: March 9-12
UEA President Heidi Matthews joined the governor, legislative
leadership and other education stakeholders at a press event
announcing a significant new education funding agreement.
The big news during WEEK SEVEN was an agreement announced between the UEA, legislative leadership, the governor and other education stakeholders on significant new education funding reform. In addition to a 6% increase on the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU), legislators voted to assure student-enrollment growth and inflation are included in future public education funding and will put a vote on the ballot to add services for children and the disabled to education as uses for income tax funding.
Other measures passing this week include a new private school income tax credit, early learning program (OEK) expansion, a two-year suspension of school grades and adding first, second and third grade teachers to an existing salary bonus program based on student test scores.
‘Historic’ education funding agreement and 6% WPU increase
The UEA joined legislative leadership, the governor and other education stakeholders at a press event announcing an historic education funding agreement. The agreement includes moving forward with a bill to assure student-enrollment growth and inflation are included in future public education funding and a vote to include services for children and the disabled in income tax funding.
“All along we’ve said that a guarantee of funding is much more beneficial than a guarantee of revenue,” wrote UEA President Heidi Matthews in an email to all UEA members just prior to the formal announcement. “The constitutional guarantee that all income tax goes to education assures revenue, but not funding. Under the compromise reached, we get both…the constitutional revenue guarantee remains AND the legislature has committed to a guarantee of public education funding. The proposed House Bill 357 is a step in that direction and, I believe, will change the conversation around education funding for the foreseeable future.”
As a show of good faith, the legislature is also committing to a 6% increase in the WPU this year and to include $200K in ongoing funding for the T.H. Bell Scholarship Fund for future educators.
The three bills at the heart of this agreement all passed both houses and are headed to the Governor for signature:
SJR9 (1st sub.): Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution – Use of Tax Revenue places a vote on the November ballot changing Utah’s constitution to add programs to support “children and individuals with a disability” to the uses for income tax revenue. The Senate passed the resolution late in Week Six on a vote of 23-6. The House passed it on a vote of 67-5.
HB357: Public Education Funding Stabilization creates a statutory guarantee of education funding to cover student enrollment growth and inflation. It also establishes fund to help ensure growth and inflation are covered even when the current year income tax revenues are insufficient. The House passed the bill late in Week Six on a vote of 62-10. The Senate passed it on a vote of 27-1.
SB2: Public Education Budget Amendments is the bill to approve the new public education appropriations recommended by the Executive Appropriations Committee. The bill was amended to add one additional percent to the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU), making the value $3,745 per student for fiscal year 2021, an increase of 6% from the previous year. It also includes $100 million for a Public Education Reserve Account; $14 million Funding Equity or Teacher Student Success Account; $10 million for Optional Enhanced Kindergarten (HB99); $5 million for Early Learning Training and Assessment (HB114); and $6 million for Special Needs Scholarships (HB332). The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously.
New voucher scheme on the way to the governor
HB332: Special Needs Scholarship Amendments shifts public money to private schools through a voucher-like scholarship program using income tax credits. ‘Scholarship Granting Organizations’ can make tax-deductible donations to provide ‘scholarships’ for students with IEP’s to attend private schools under the program. The UEA opposes this bill (see more about the UEA’s position). The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and the Senate on a vote of 17-12. It now goes to the Governor to determine if the new bill becomes law.
Bill to expand kindergarten passes
HB99 (1st sub.): Enhanced Kindergarten Amendments clarifies assessment and reporting requirements for optional extended-day Kindergarten programs and seeks to expand the availability of OEK programs with an additional $18 million in funding. The UEA supports this bill because a key UEA legislative priority is to improve student equity and access to quality education for students at academic risk, which the OEK program has been very successful in doing. It passed unanimously in the Senate. The House then concurred with Senate amendments on a vote of 47-23. It now goes to the Governor.
Suspension of school grades for two years among bills passing the final week
HB58 (3rd sub.): Electronic Cigarettes in Schools Amendments adds vaping to existing substance use prevention programs, requires schools to create plans to help prevent substance use and provide stipends to school personnel to administer the plan and requires districts to adopt discipline policies about possessing or using a vaping product on school grounds. The Senate passed the bill unanimously and the House concurred with a Senate amendment. It now goes to the Governor.
HB80 (1st sub.): School Fees Data Collection directs the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) to gather data on what fees are collected by LEA’s and the usage of fee waivers. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor.
HB141: Educator Salary Incentive Program Amendments allows the Utah State Board of Education flexibility in funding the Teacher Salary Supplement program if more teachers apply and are approved than is funded by legislative appropriation. It also allows school social workers licensed by DOPL and not USBE to qualify for the educator salary adjustment money. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor.
HB107 (2nd sub.): Effective Teachers in High Poverty Schools Incentive Program Amendments expands an existing program, making first, second and third grade teachers eligible for an existing salary bonus program based on student test scores. The UEA opposes the bill because it uses a student test score to reward a few teachers rather than investing in instructional coaches, paraeducators, counselors or librarians to create effective instruction and student support throughout an entire school. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for signature.
HB114 (4th sub.): Early Learning Training and Assessment Amendments creates a comprehensive program targeting early grades literacy and math and requests $10 million in funding. The program includes a competitive grant program for professional learning, a qualifying grant program for job-embedded coaching, establishes a math benchmark assessment for early grades and a literacy preparation assessment for elementary teacher preparation programs. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate. The House then concurred with Senate amendments on a vote of 38-33. It now goes to the Governor.
HB222 (3rd sub.): Start Smart Utah Breakfast Program creates the Start Smart Utah Program to expand access to school breakfast in public schools and requires a public school to use an alternative breakfast service model if a certain percentage of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. The Senate passed the bill on a vote of 25-1 and the House concurred with the Senate bill on a vote of 53-17. It now goes to the Governor.
HB241 (2nd sub): Kindergarten Attendance Amendments makes kindergarten mandatory for students who are five years of age before Sept. 2 of a school year. The UEA supports this bill. It failed in the House on a vote of 23-46.
HB242 (3rd sub.): Charter School Operations and School Accounting Amendments enacts a number of provisions to improve the approval process, oversight and accounting methods, and closure procedures for charter schools. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate on a vote of 24-2. The House then unanimously concurred with a Senate amendment. It now goes to the Governor.
HB334: Civics Education Amendments creates a pilot program to have a civics engagement project as part of a graduation requirement. It also repeals the requirement of a basic civics test for a graduation requirement. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor.
HB336: Concurrent Enrollment Certificate Pilot Program creates a pilot program for developing several new stackable credentials certificates for concurrent enrollment and career and technical education. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor.
HB355: Standards and Graduation Requirements Amendments amends provisions regarding high school graduation requirements. The UEA opposes this bill because it lowers graduation standards. It failed in the House on a vote of 28-40.
HB420: Turnaround Program Amendments amends some of the exit requirements and criteria from the turnaround program. It passed both the Senate Education Committee and the full Senate unanimously. It now goes to the Governor.
SB99 (1st sub.): School Leadership Development Amendments requests $15 million for districts and charters to apply for grants to provide professional learning, training and mentoring for new principals and “aspiring” principals to improve principal leadership. The House passed the bill on a vote of 61-9. The Senate then concurred with a House amendment. It now goes to the Governor.
SB104 (2nd sub.): Local Education Levy State Guarantee Amendments increases the number of increments the state guarantees for certain education levies as a means of equalization. The House passed the bill on a vote of 58-14. The Senate then concurred with a House amendment. It now goes to the Governor.
SB119 (3rd sub): School Accountability Amendments removes the requirement for USBE to issue school letter grades for the 2018-19 and the 2019-20 school years. The UEA supports this bill. Rep. Marie Poulson proposed a fourth substitute bill that would eliminate school grades entirely. The fourth substitute failed on a vote of 29-41. The original third substitute bill passed unanimously and now goes to the Governor.
SB126: School Board Vacancy Amendments extends the length of time a local school board has to fill a midterm vacancy on the local school board if the midterm vacancy is due to the death of a local school board member. The bill passed the House unanimously. It now goes to the Governor.
SB198: Substitute Teacher Training Requirements would require a “awareness” and ethics training for any substitute hired through an employment agency. The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 25-2 but failed in the House on a vote of 21-49.
Education ‘Policy Ambassadors’ share lobbying experiences
Megan Ruff, here meeting with Rep. Carol Spackman
Moss, is one of nineteen 2020 UEA Policy Ambassador
Nineteen teachers volunteered to become 2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA Educator Day on the Hill, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here are excerpts from this week’s new submissions…
The Power of Teamwork – Legislative post by UEA Policy Ambassador Megan Ruff, special education teacher at Heartland Elementary School in Jordan School District
“When I first became an educator, I never thought it would lead me to politics. I knew nothing of politics and the impact it has on education until a few years into my teaching career. So much of what happens on Capitol Hill impacts our classrooms, our workloads and our students. It can be difficult to know where to start with politics, but I have learned that step one is to know your representatives”…read the full article from Megan Ruff
Let’s Get Politically Active – Legislative post by UEA Policy Ambassador Angela Wickel, second-grade teacher at Duchesne Elementary School in Duchesne School District
“I would like to take this opportunity to inspire educators to take an active part in present and future educational issues that affect both students and teachers. One of the best ways to do this is to attend Educator Day on the Hill. You will become familiar with House and Senate bills regarding educational issues and get to really know your representatives and what they stand for. You will be able to positively impact your profession.”…read the full article from Angela Wickel