UEA Report on the 2020 Utah Legislature General Session
2020 WEEK IN REVIEW: February 3-7
By the end of WEEK TWO, number of education bills tracked by the UEA jumped to nearly 50, with more being filed nearly every day. Education bills publicly discussed this week included measures to eliminate the use of a single letter grade for school accountability, to provide an income tax credit up to $1,000 for certain out-of-pocket teacher classroom expenses, and to expand the availability of optional extended-day Kindergarten programs.
The public education base budget passed both the House and the Senate. This base budget essentially sets the next year’s funding at the current level before any new money is considered. New for this year, this base budget includes just over $50 million for new student enrollment growth, which has been funded separately in the past. Any increases to the “base budget” will be considered in separate supplemental budget bills near the end of the session.
Educators representing more than a dozen districts converge on the Hill
About 75 education professionals joined members of the UEA Legislative Team early Friday for Educator Day on the Hill. Participants came from Alpine, Davis, Emery, Grand, Granite, Jordan, Nebo, Ogden, Park City, Tooele, Wasatch, Washington and Weber School Districts, as well as UEA-Retired, the Utah School Employees Association and the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. The group included teachers representing Hope Street Group Utah Teacher Fellows and 2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors.
Many attendees reported on their interactions with legislators and their experiences. “I was very nervous, but it turned out to be a great experience. I learned a lot,” said a first-time Educator Day on the Hill attendee. “Having UEA to provide a tracking sheet and explain everything that’s going on is priceless,” said another participant.
Committees approve bills to provide tax credit for classroom expenses, to eliminate school grades and to expand OEK
SB69: Tax Credit for Educator Expenses would provide a refundable tax credit of up to $1,000 for qualifying educator out-of-pocket for school expenses. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the Senate Education Committee and moves to the full Senate for consideration.
HB175: Education Accountability Amendments eliminates the use of a single letter grade for school accountability. The same bill easily passed the House in 2019 but was never debated in the Senate. Speaking in support of the bill, UEA Director of Education Excellence Sara Jones said the school grading program has been demoralizing to educators and students, has changed from year to year so the target for improvement has never been consistent and a single grade lacks transparency compared to the more comprehensive school dashboard. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full House for consideration.
HB99: 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. It passed the House Education Committee with one ‘no’ vote and moves to the full House.
HB152: Civic Education Testing Amendments eliminates the civics test required for high school graduation. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously and will now go to the full House.
Three bills recognizing schools and school employees moved forward this week: HB148: Utah Recognizing Inspiring School Employees Award Program, creating a program to similar to Teacher of the Year for Education Support Professionals, and HCR5: Concurrent Resolution Designating Utah Education Support Professionals, designating the Wednesday during the week prior to the Thanksgiving holiday as “Utah Education Support Professionals Day,” both passed the House and now move to the Senate for consideration. SCR5: Concurrent Resolution Recognizing Utah’s National Blue-Ribbon Schools, commending the four Utah schools that received the National Blue-Ribbon Schools award in 2019 passed both the House and the Senate.
Ed base budget passed, subcommittee hears additional budget requests
The House and Senate both unanimously passed HB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments, which provides the bulk of public education funding for Fiscal Year 2020-21. It allocates more than $5.5 billion, essentially adopting the previous year’s budget. New for this year, this base budget includes just over $50 million for new student enrollment growth, which has been funded separately in the past.
The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee is charged with making recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee for a final bill to provide any increased public education funding (see How the Public Education Budget is Set). This subcommittee heard many budget reports, including:
- Utah State Board of Education funding requests;
- More USBE funding requests, these specific to the Related to Basic program;
- A funding request for the USTAR MOST bill;
- A presentation on the Intergenerational Poverty Program and the Partnership for Student Success;
- A budget request from a private company for using data to drive better student outcomes and educator experiences; and
- USBE’s budget requests for the Minimum School Program.
SIGN AND SHARE: Petition asks the Utah Legislature to invest in Utah public schools
his week, the UEA launched a petition asking the Utah Legislature to “support investments in Utah’s future by providing significant growth in per-student public education funding, including a 6% increase on the WPU (per-student funding)” and to “reject proposals to divert income tax intended for our schoolchildren to other uses.”
Educators were urged to sign the petition and then to help share the petition with teachers, parents and other public education supporters. Here are a few ways to share the petition:
- Click here to share the petition on Facebook
- Click here to share the petition on Twitter
- Share this link: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/2020-invest-in-utah-schools
Education ‘Policy Ambassadors’ Share Lobbying Experiences
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 is a new submission…
“In today’s politics, it’s easy to despair. Utah is still last in per-pupil funding and it’s easy to feel like citizens’ voices are ignored. At times, it feels like we are being led to despair, ushered by our news media into a never-ending carnival of things to be outraged and depressed by…There’s room for all dispositions in politics and I don’t want to scold anyone for justified anger. Agitation is a crucial aspect to organizing. Just never forget, when there is a better future, it won’t be because the earth revolved and winter turned to spring. It will be because we made that future. And that makes me hopeful.”…read the full article from Taylor Layton