Week Two – January 25-29 2021

UEA Report on the 2021 Utah Legislature General Session

2021 WEEK IN REVIEW: January 25-29

The big news this week was passage of an historic Public Education Base Budget. For the first time ever, the Base Budget includes growth and inflation. It also includes a 6% increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit and bonuses of $1,500 for licensed educators and $1,000 for classified school staff.

By the end of WEEK TWO, number of education bills tracked by the UEA jumped over 40, but remained fewer than in recent years. Education bills publicly discussed this week included measures to make mental health days excusable as student absences and to prohibit schools from requiring doctor’s notes for absences.

UEA Team Met with Legislative Leadership to Urge Support for Educators

  
UEA President Heidi Matthews (right) and Government
Relations Director Sara Jones met with Senate
President Stuart Adams at the Capitol Jan. 25.

Much of the work this week happened behind the scenes. Among many other meetings, UEA President Heidi Matthews and Government Relations Director Sara Jones met at the Capitol with Senate President Stuart Adams and UEA Director of Research Jay Blain had a virtual meeting with Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, chair of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee and a sponsor of several public education bills. Matthews, Jones and other members of the UEA Legislative Team also met virtually with House Speaker Brad Wilson.

Historic ed base budget, subcommittee hears additional budget requests

Teacher bonuses and a 6% increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) are now awaiting approval from the governor after SB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments passed the House and Senate this week. In previous years, funding increases were not known until the session’s closing days. This marks the first year legislators must include student enrollment growth and inflation in the Base Budget, thanks to legislation passed in 2020 with efforts of the UEA. The bill includes a total funding increase near 6% on the Weighted Pupil Unit plus bonuses of $1,500 for licensed educators and $1,000 for classified employees who have direct contact with students.

Any additional budget increases will now be recommended by the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee to the Executive Appropriations Committee and voted on by the full legislature later in the session (see How the Public Education Budget is Set). The Subcommittee heard dozens of reports and budget request during three meetings this week.

Education Bills on the Move This Week

HB81: Mental Health Days for Students includes mental health as a reason that a parent can excuse an absence for a student. The UEA believes this bill in unnecessary. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full House.

HB105: Students with Disabilities Amendments changes the formula for the growth factor for funding students with disabilities by cutting the 2-year lag to a one-year lag. It also increases the caps in the growth. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full House.

HB116: Student Attendance Amendments prohibits school districts and charter schools from requiring a doctor’s note to excuse an absence. The UEA believes this is better handled as a local issue. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full House.

HB134: Notice of Public Education Reporting Requirement requires that the legislature indicate whether a bill will impact reporting requirements for school districts and charters. The UEA supports this bill. It unanimously passed the House and now goes to the Senate.

HB181: Personalized Competency-based Learning makes technical changes to update language and definitions regarding personalized, competency-based learning. The UEA supports this bill. It passed the House on a vote of 72-1 and the Senate Education Committee unanimously. The bill now goes to the full Senate.

HB222: School Land Trust Program Amendments makes technical changes to reporting and the website of the School Land Trust Program. The changes are all supported by the Utah State Board of Education and many other education stakeholders, including the UEA. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously and now goes to the full House.

SCR1: Concurrent Resolution on Holocaust Education continues work begun by Rep. Patrice Arent in 2020. The bill passed Senate Education Committee unanimously and now go to the full Senate.

Education ‘Policy Ambassadors’ Share Lobbying Experiences

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 are this week’s submissions…

In the Room Where It Happens – by UEA Policy Ambassador Hillary Emmer, school counselor at Copper Mountain Middle School in Jordan School District and president of the Utah School Counselor Association

“At the beginning of my endeavor as a UEA Policy Ambassador, I was intimidated, naive and completely scared out of my mind. So why did I volunteer for this? I had an epiphany that most of our political leaders really wanted to do the right thing, however, they were expected to be an expert in so many things. How could they possibly know what the right thing was when it came to work that they didn’t do every day? I wanted to be someone in their inner circle that they could reach out to and talk through issues that were being discussed. I wanted to become a person that they could rely on for times when items were out of their element but were completely in mine. Mostly, I wanted these representatives to know that I was someone who was willing to talk and listen through the issues that affect me and the work I do with students. I wanted to be “in the room where it happens”…Read the full article from Hillary Emmer

 United We Stand – by UEA Policy Ambassador Brian Barnum, school counselor at Kearns High School in Granite School District

Educator is currently synonymous with the word teacher, but there are so many more stakeholders in a school building that impact our students’ education. Over the course of the last few decades, as we have seen the impact that the evolution from guidance counselor to school counselor with the implementation of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) national model, school counselors are continuing to become noticed and valued professionals. While we have made strides, we must continue to advocate, innovate and collaborate with other school-based specialists to positively promote our impact for the betterment of Utah’s students…” Read the full article from Brian Barnum

Hacking Share Values…My Reflections on Week One – by UEA Policy Ambassador Aaron Webb, teacher at Parley’s Park Elementary School in Park City School District

What do I believhttps://www.myuea.org/Articles/hacking_shared_valuesmy_reflections_on_week_one_legislative_post_by_uea_policy_ambassador_aaron_webb.aspxe? I believe that education is the “silver bullet,” the great equalizer, and the vehicle for societal progression and transformation. I believe the world can be made better through better schools. How could anyone feel differently? There was no doubt in everyone’s minds — teaching and learning remotely has strained the system and put the mental health and academic success of many adolescents in jeopardy. The majority of the committee members and a few members of the public shared familiar stories of personal struggle. Many parents demanded an in-person option in Salt Lake City School District, and being offered none until recently, turned to their elected representatives…” Read the full article from Aaron Webb

Education bills sail through House committee without opposition – January 29, 2021

Four UEA-tracked bills were heard in the House Education Committee, including proposals to make mental health days excusable as student absences and to prohibit schools from requiring doctor’s notes for absences. All four bills passed unanimously and now go to the full House for consideration.

House Education Committee (reported by Jay Blain): HB116: Student Attendance Amendments prohibits school districts and charter schools from requiring a doctor’s note to excuse an absence. The bill’s sponsor said he wished that common sense would prevail and he didn’t have to run this bill. He cited an example where seven members of his family had strep throat and they all had to go to the doctor. He said requiring a doctor’s note could be an undue burden on families of lesser means. In addition, the primary role of controlling a student’s education should be in the hands of the parent, he said. The UEA believes this is better handled as a local issue.

HB222: School Land Trust Program Amendments makes technical changes to reporting and the website of the School Land Trust Program. The changes are all supported by the Utah State Board of Education and many other education stakeholders, including the UEA. UEA Director of Research Jay Blain spoke in favor of the bill saying it reduces workload and reporting requirements without diminishing transparency for parents and patrons.

Salt Lake Education Association member and
2021 Utah Teacher of the Year John Arthur
was named a finalist for the National Teacher
of the Year. He addressed the Capitol Insights
weekly legislative briefing on Jan. 28

HB81: Mental Health Days for Students includes mental health as a reason that a parent can excuse an absence for a student. The UEA believes this bill in unnecessary.

HB105: Students with Disabilities Amendments changes the formula for the growth factor for funding students with disabilities by cutting the 2-year lag to a one-year lag. It also increases the caps in the growth. UEA Director of Research Jay Blain spoke in favor of the bill explaining that the growth factor is a very positive thing for children with special needs because it gets the funds into the system faster. Raising the caps is also beneficial to the students, especially in rural areas of our state, he said.

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Educator bonuses, 6% WPU increase on the way to the Governor – January 28, 2021

Teacher bonuses and a 6% increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) are now awaiting approval from the governor after passing the House. In previous years, funding increases were not known until the session’s closing days. This marks the first year legislators must include student enrollment growth and inflation in the Base Budget, thanks to legislation passed in 2020 with efforts of the UEA.

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): The subcommittee continued to hear reports and presentations.

The state fiscal analyst’s office provided a report on the iSEE science outreach program. Here is an infographic about the impact of iSEE.

The Utah State Board of Education provided an overview of a public education funding study and shared information about a forthcoming bill addressing some study findings, especially funding inequities for students at-risk.

Many education stakeholders gave public comment. UEA Director of Research Jay Blain said the UEA and Utah teachers are always concerned about equal and equitable funding. “The UEA supports the enhancement for at-risk students. We also stand ready to collaborate with the committee and all legislators in working on these and all funding issues,” he said.

Senate Education Committee (reported by Sara Jones): Two UEA-tracked and supported bills were heard in the committee. Both passed unanimously and now go to the full Senate.

SCR1: Concurrent Resolution on Holocaust Education was presented by Sen. Evan Vickers. The resolution continues work begun by Rep. Patrice Arent. In 2020, then-Rep. Arent sponsored HCR12, which passed the House and a Senate committee but time ran out before it could be passed by the full Senate.

HB181: Personalized Competency-based Learning was presented by Rep. Dan Johnson. The bill makes technical changes to update language and definitions regarding personalized, competency-based learning.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): The House passed SB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments on a vote of 59-14. It now goes to the governor for signature. During floor discussion, Rep. Joel Briscoe expressed concern about restrictions the bill places on federal COVID money (lines 409-431). The bill includes funding for growth and inflation in the Base Budget, which was not the case prior to passage of 2020 legislation connected to Constitutional Amendment G. The bill includes a total funding increase near 6% on the Weighted Pupil Unit plus bonuses of $1,500 for licensed educators and $1,000 for classified employees who have direct contact with students. “I believe this is a historic bill,” said House sponsor Rep. Steve Eliason. “It probably won’t end up on the front page of the national newspapers, but I believe that (the bill is) worthy of such headlines because of the tremendous effort that this is putting towards funding in public education in the midst of a national recession.”

The House unanimously passed HB134: Notice of Public Education Reporting Requirement. This bill requires that the legislature indicate whether a bill will impact reporting requirements for school districts and charters. The UEA supports this bill.


 

Historic education Base Budget passes the Senate – January 27, 2021

Teacher bonuses and a 6% increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) are well on their way to approval with only seven working days completed in the 2021 General Legislative Session. In previous years, funding increases were not known until the session’s closing days. This marks the first year legislators must include student enrollment growth and inflation in the Base Budget, thanks to legislation passed in 2020 with efforts of the UEA. Members of the UEA Legislative Team also had a meeting with House Speaker Brad Wilson. View UEA President Heidi Matthew’s Facebook Live report on the meeting.

Senate Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): SB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House. This bill is historic in that it includes funding for growth and inflation, which was not the case prior to passage of 2020 legislation connected to Constitutional Amendment G. The bill includes a total funding increase near 6% on the Weighted Pupil Unit. “This is unlike any public education base budget bill that we’ve seen before,” said Sen. Lincoln Fillmore. “It’s larger than the typical base budget bill and this honors commitments that we made with voters in November 2020,” referring to Constitutional Amendment G.


 

UEA Policy Ambassador Message – January 27, 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…

 

In the Room Where It Happens

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Hillary Emmer, school counselor at Copper Mountain Middle School in Jordan School District and president of the Utah School Counselor Association

At the beginning of my endeavor as a UEA Policy Ambassador, I was intimidated, naive and completely scared out of my mind. So why did I volunteer for this? I had an epiphany that most of our political leaders really wanted to do the right thing, however, they were expected to be an expert in so many things. How could they possibly know what the right thing was when it came to work that they didn’t do every day? I wanted to be someone in their inner circle that they could reach out to and talk through issues that were being discussed. I wanted to become a person that they could rely on for times when items were out of their element but were completely in mine. Mostly, I wanted these representatives to know that I was someone who was willing to talk and listen through the issues that affect me and the work I do with students. I wanted to be “in the room where it happens”…

 


 

Funding requests piling up on the public ed budget committee – January 26, 2021

The budget requests always exceed the available funding, and the request keep coming. In addition to funding already tentatively approved in this year’s Public Education Base Budget, the UEA 2021 Legislative Priorities call for all schools to be held harmless for enrollment fluctuations during the 2020-21 school year due to COVID. The UEA is also requesting one-time funding for COVID-driven expenses related to health and safety, equity, student learning, staffing needs and educator support.

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee (reported by Jay Blain): The subcommittee heard several appropriations requests from legislators.

 

The subcommittee also continued to hear budget reports and presentations.

 


 

UEA Policy Ambassador Message – January 26, 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…

United We Stand

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

Educator is currently synonymous with the word teacher, but there are so many more stakeholders in a school building that impact our students’ education. Over the course of the last few decades, as we have seen the impact that the evolution from guidance counselor to school counselor with the implementation of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) national model, school counselors are continuing to become noticed and valued professionals. While we have made strides, we must continue to advocate, innovate and collaborate with other school-based specialists to positively promote our impact for the betterment of Utah’s students.

It is with this collaborative mindset that school-based specialist associations across the state have come together to create the Utah Coalition of School-Based Specialists (UCSS). The UCSS was born from the realization that as professionals in the workplace, particularly schools, we are frequently working closely together as a team to support students. It is only natural that our organizations would work together as a continuation of that teamwork. The adage, “we get more done together than we do apart,” rings true for educators and those who work in the more itinerant education support roles.

Most of the action was behind the scenes today – January 25, 2021

UEA President Heidi Matthews (right) and Government
Relations Director Sara Jones met with Senate
President Stuart Adams at the Capitol Jan. 25.

The number of education-related bills continues to grow, but few are moving through the public process yet. In fact, the House Education Committee meeting originally scheduled for today was cancelled because bills are not yet ready to be heard. That doesn’t mean things aren’t happening. Among many other meetings, UEA President Heidi Matthews and Government Relations Director Sara Jones met at the Capitol with Senate President Stuart Adams and UEA Director of Research Jay Blain had a virtual meeting with Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, chair of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee and a sponsor of several public education bills.

House Floor (reported by Mike Kelley): HB181: Personalized Competency-based Learning updates language and definitions regarding personalized, competency-based learning. It passed the House on a vote of 72-1 and now goes to the Senate for consideration. The UEA supports this bill.

 

UEA Policy Ambassador Message – January 25, 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…

Hacking Shared Values…My Reflections on Week One

Submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Aaron Webb, teacher at Parley’s Park Elementary School in Park City School District

What do I care about? I care about education and believe it is just and fair that a free and appropriate education is a property right afforded to all citizens and residents.

Armed with my just cause, I opened my laptop, steered to le.utah.gov and found the Senate Education Committee’s page. After a few more clicks I was able to access an audio recording of the first meeting of the 2021 Utah Legislative Session. A few formalities and friendly greetings ensued, then Sen. Todd Weiler introduced two bills: one, a no-brainer, allowing veterans to audit college courses; the other, what I saw as a brazen attempt to shift funds away from public schools as a punishment for staying remote during the fall, SB107: In-Person Instruction Prioritization. Vouchers, by any other name.

What do I believe? I believe that education is the “silver bullet,” the great equalizer, and the vehicle for societal progression and transformation. I believe the world can be made better through better schools. How could anyone feel differently?

There was no doubt in everyone’s minds — teaching and learning remotely has strained the system and put the mental health and academic success of many adolescents in jeopardy. The majority of the committee members and a few members of the public shared familiar stories of personal struggle. Many parents demanded an in-person option in Salt Lake City School District, and being offered none until recently, turned to their elected representatives…

 

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