Yesterday at the Utah Capitol only a few bills moved, but two committee hearings drew dozens of public education supporters to the Capitol. The most passionate debates came in the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting on the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind and in the afternoon regarding a statewide online education system proposed by S.B. 65, which passed out of committee with unanimous support. You can listen to the appropriations meeting here and the Senate Education committee here, by clicking on the link under ”Audio Recordings of Debates.”
The ”Cliffs Notes” version of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee follows: Committee members heard presentations from stakeholders for Adult Education, the K-3 Reading Initiative (with a presentation from the Cache County School District), Regional Service Centers, USTAR Centers, Extended-Year for Special Educators, Performance-Based Compensation Pilot and Education Jobs Administrative costs. However, the longest of the committee’s time was dedicated to a presentation on the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. While the State Board of Education has included a review of USDB in its initial discussion about prioritizing programs if cuts are unavoidable, other programs listed above are also a part of that conversation. The board will continue discussing what recommendations it would make to the Legislature and governor if necessary on Thursday.
Students, parents and educators interested in online education packed the Senate Education Committee yesterday afternoon for the first hearing of Sen. Howard Stephenson’s S.B. 65 Statewide Online Education Program by Sen. Howard Stephenson. The bill does just what its title says, it creates a statewide online education system. While a statewide program already exists, Electronic High School, Stephenson’s bill creates a system that, like Electronic High School, would be open to public school, homeschool and private school students. It would also allow private online education providers to compete with publicly funded programs for state education dollars. The bill generated a lengthy public comment period with people testifying for and against the bill. Superintendent Larry Shumway said he believes the bill is heading in the right direction, but raised some concerns about the timeline for phasing in the new system.
The State Board of Education has not yet discussed this bill but is expected to do so tomorrow at its regularly scheduled legislative board meeting. Every Thursday at noon during the legislative session, the board reviews the proposed education bills and may adopt formal positions on some of them.
Yesterday at the Capitol, only three bills on our “Legislation to Watch” list advanced, including:
- H.B. 19 Sub. 1 Insurance Law Related Amendments, by Rep. Jim Dunnigan (R-Taylorsville), passed out of the Senate Business and Labor Committee unanimously and was recommended for the Senate Consent Calendar, which expedites the Senate floor vote. The bill makes some changes to health benefits.
- S.B. 65 Statewide Online Education Program, by Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), passed out of the Senate Education Committee unanimously. The program creates a statewide public education program for public, homeschool and private students and allows private and publicly funded online providers to compete for state funding.
- S.B. 123 Restrictions on Lobbying Expenditures – Public Education, by Sen. Scott Jenkins (R-Plain City), passed the first of two votes it faces on the Senate floor by 23-2. The bill prohibits school, school districts and charter schools from using state money to pay for a contract lobbyist.