2018 UEA Legislative Summary
Fewer bills, historic funding levels for public education
A last-minute school funding compromise, an attempt to eliminate the State Board of Education, school funding equalization plans and a record number of teachers at UEA Educator Day on the Hill, made the 2018 Legislature “one for the books,” according to UEA President Heidi Matthews.
|Granite Education Association President Mike
McDonough was among educators who met with
legislators during UEA Educator Day on the Hill.
Here are some highlights:
- Historic education funding thanks to the Our Schools Now initiative effort
- New revenue to equalize funding and target resources where they are most needed
- Funding for elementary school counselors and special educators
- Money to support restorative and trauma-informed practices
- Blocks on attacks to public education
- No detrimental changes to the State Board of Education
Teachers played a huge role in the success. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the united members of our UEA,” said Matthews. “Together we became ‘power brokers’ in order to fulfill the promise of public education for each and every student and to strengthen our profession. The wins of this legislative session are because of our united voices and actions.”
|Members of the Envison UEA Task Force, for educators under age 35, participated at events on Capitol Hill.
More educators participated at UEA Educator Day on the Hill in 2018 than in any previous year. Almost 450 teachers representing nearly every Utah school district volunteered their time to meet with legislators and share their stories.
The UEA tracked over 100 bills this session, far fewer than in recent years. A contributing factor was “recodification,” a procedural clean-up of the public education code. Legislators waited to publicly introduce education bills until this process completed, leaving less time and fewer education bills to consider.
The year was also marked by significant cooperation among diverse members of Utah’s public education community. A coalition including the UEA, the Utah State Board of Education, the Utah State Charter School Board, Utah School Boards Association, Utah State Superintendents Association, the Utah PTA, the Utah School Employees Association and others, sent a letter to legislators thanking them for providing resources to better prepare students for the futures. “We enjoyed the open dialogue and collaborative atmosphere this year. With fewer education bills came richer and more robust discussion. Collectively, we were better able to further our mutual goals of increasing student achievement,” the letter read.
The public education budget looks very different than in the past due in large part to a last-minute deal brokered with the Our Schools Now coalition, which includes the UEA. The traditional Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) increased by just 2.5%, but total additions to education funding reached an amount approaching the equivalent of 7% on the WPU (see details below).
|The Cat in the Hat was recognized
in the House and Senate as part of
NEA’s Read Across America day.
“We knew it would take something bold and courageous like Our Schools Now to address education funding in Utah,” said Matthews. “Teachers jumped in, sharing stories of incredible needs. We gathered tens of thousands signatures. Teachers spoke up and made their voices heard in schools, communities and with their legislators.
Here are a few results from this legislative session:
Public Education Funding—
For more than a year prior to the 2018 Legislative Session, the UEA worked with members of the business community to increase revenue for schools. The group formed the Our Schools Now coalition and introduced The Teacher and Student Success Act, which included several key components:
- Established the Teacher and Student Success Fund to distribute revenue on a WPU basis;
- Allowed 25% of the new revenue each year to be used for salary and benefits; and
- Directed the remaining 75% of new revenue to go to the individual schools for work on student achievement.
This plan, and the accompanying initiative, helped to drive the conversation on school funding in the months leading up to the 2018 legislative session. Desperate to resolve this issue, the Legislature worked with the coalition on a compromise. These negotiations impacted budget talks right up until the last night of the session.
The compromise led to a change in the way school funding is distributed. Historically, educators have looked to the WPU as a measure of funding increase. This year, new pieces are added to the education funding stream, making it difficult to focus only on the WPU.
|Weber School District educators meet
with Rep. Jeremy Peterson at the Capitol.
The approved budget fully funded new student growth and increased the traditional WPU by just 2.5%, which most school districts argue barely covers inflation costs. But new funding allocations significantly increase the overall budget. For example, a property tax adjustment measure (House Bill 293) provides an additional $36 million to be used for property tax equalization. It also creates a new property tax increment on the basic rate indexed to the WPU increase, generating $18.5 million this year. In addition, $46.5 million from the Education Fund will be placed in the Flexible Allocation line item and distributed on a WPU basis.
Other items of note funded in the budget include:
- $9 million enhancement for at-risk students (in addition, homelessness and chronic absenteeism were added as risk factors)
- $500,000 additional on-going for teacher supply money, bringing the total to $5.5 million.
- $23.6 million increase in the school land trust program distribution.
Combined, these increases approach an equivalent growth of 7% on the WPU. When all was said and done, some long-term building blocks were put in place for some sustainable education funding increases into the foreseeable future for Utah public education.
Professional Supports and Education Justice—
The legislature passed bills to address how teachers are licensed, the shortage of special education teachers and elementary school counselors, and school discipline policies.
|Educators from Duchesne Education Association met with their representatives, including Sen. Van Tassell.
House Bill 46 eliminates references to educator licensing from state statute. This bill was requested by the Utah State Board of Education to allow changes to educator licensing to be implemented in Board rules. The UEA has worked extensively with the Board for more than a year to help inform the discussion about educator licensing and will continue to work with the Board as specific changes are proposed in the coming months.
House Bill 233 adds special education teachers who have a degree in special education to the existing Teacher Salary Supplement Program (TSSP). They will receive a $4,100 annual supplement, just as certain math and science teachers currently do. The bill originally proposed to eliminate TSSP money from retirement calculations but through UEA advocacy the final version of the bill preserved the critical retirement qualification.
House Bill 264 creates a grant program for elementary schools with high percentages of intergenerational poverty or students at risk for trauma to hire a counselor or social worker to support student mental health. The grant provides matching funds to hire about 28 elementary counselors each year. Although this does not fully meet the need across the state, the goal is to increase the number of elementary counselors and social workers in some of the most highly impacted schools and demonstrate the positive effects of school-based mental health and trauma-informed care.
House Bill 132 and House Resolution 1 both address issues related to the “school-to-prison pipeline.” HB132 clarifies how schools can implement evidence-based intervention programs for low-level school-based offenses like truancy, rather than referring students to juvenile court. The bill also clarifies the role of school resource officers in responding to possible criminal offenses. HR1 encourages schools to adopt restorative justice practices as a more constructive and positive way to address school discipline and behavior.
Public Education Governance—
Senate Joint Resolution 16 would have eliminated the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) and allowed the governor to appoint a “commissioner” to run the education system like other executive branch agencies. The resolution passed the Senate but was substituted in the House to create a governor-appointed board rather than the current publicly elected board. After heavy lobbying against the proposal by the UEA the bill failed on the House floor.
House Bill 313 removes much of the USBE’s authority regarding the authorization of charter schools. The bill received significant amendments after feedback from the USBE. The State Charter Board will be appointed by the governor with approval from the Senate.
Initiatives and Elections—
|More than 400 educators participated in UEA
Educator Day on the Hill during 2018.
Several bills were proposed to address the continuing fall out regarding the “Count My Vote/SB54” compromise. House Bill 68 tried to force candidates to pick between the signature gathering or caucus convention route to the ballot. This bill would not have allowed candidates to take both routes. House Bill 338 would narrow the window candidates can file intent to gather signatures. Both bills passed the House but were not heard in the Senate.
House Bill 299 was a direct attack on the Our Schools Now initiative. This legislation would have essentially removed the tax increases if the ballot initiative passed. It never received a public hearing or vote and died in the Rules Committee.
House Bill 471 delays the implementation of successful voter initiatives. The UEA opposed this bill because it would have delayed the Our Schools Now initiative for over a year and opened up the possibility for the Legislature to meddle with the details. It passed the House but was not heard in the Senate.
House Bill 281 expands a voter’s ability to register for and participate in state primary elections. It allows those who are 17 years old to register and vote in the State’s primary election granted they are at least 18 years of age on the day of the general election later that year.
- See the complete UEA Legislative Archive
Legislation of Note in the 2018 Legislative Session
The UEA tracked more than 100 bills dealing directly or indirectly with education during the 2018 Legislative Session.
Here are a few bills of note and their final status:
J = Outcome favorable to the UEA position K = Outcome neutral L = Outcome unfavorable
2018 Legislative Archives
To view daily summaries...