Education bills and budget discussions progress

As I write this post, the Senate Education Committee is tackling a full agenda. The committee convened at 7:30 a.m. today to get through four bills, including S.B. 53 Eligibility for Interscholastic Activities in Secondary Schools, by Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Lehi) and three bills from Draper Republican Senator Howard Stephenson, S.B. 206 Labor Organization Provisions in Teacher Contracts, S.B. 73 Public School Teacher Tenure Modifications and S.B. 179 Math Education Initiative. 

This morning full of education bill debates follows a late evening yesterday at the Utah Capitol when appropriations subcommittee members delivered their budget recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee. Since the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee failed to agree on a report to deliver, the chairs instead delivered the recommendations they prepared. 

The co-chair report reallocates $91 million cut in the base budget from programs the subcommittee flagged for review. If adopted, it would fully restore funding to a K-3 reading program and fund student transportation at a slightly lower level than the current budget. Both of these programs were scrutinized by the subcommittee’s co-chairs earlier in the session and transportation is a State Board of Education budget priority. The co-chair’s report also funds regional service centers, another State Board priority. The report also prioritizes how additional revenue should be distributed in the public education budget. More State Board budget priorities made this list, such as $4 million to the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts Learning Program and retaining $217 million allocated in FY 2011 as Flexible Allocation WPU Distribution by rolling it into the WPU. However, one State Board Priority, funding optional extended-day kindergarten, didn’t make the co-chair’s priority list. Listen to the meeting here. Public Education was the first subcommittee to testify.

The next step in the budget process is for the Executive Appropriations Committee to adopt the state revenue report, released Tuesday, and to come up with a more complete draft of the FY 2012 budget.

Otherwise, yesterday was a quiet day for education news at the Utah Capitol. But some bills did advance, including:

  • H.B. 33 Election Law Revisions, by Rep. Curt Webb (R-Logan), which passed its final hurdle in the legislative process with unanimous support. The bill now heads to the governor. It changes the timeline for school board elections.
  • H.B. 204 Protection of Athletes with Head Injuries, by Rep. Paul Ray (R-Clearfield), passed its first Senate vote. It faces just one more vote before heading to the governor for signing. The bill requires amateur sports organizations to develop and enforce a concussion head injury policy, sets up notifications for parents and requires children with concussions to be removed from play, among other changes.
  • S.B. 65 Statewide Online Education Program, by Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), was amended and then passed its first test on the Senate floor with a 19-7 vote. It faces one more vote in that body before it heads to the House for consideration. The bill creates a statewide online education system and allows private and public online education providers to compete for state funds.
  • S.B. 146 Impact Fee Amendments, by Sen. Jerry Stevenson (R-Layton), passed its second vote on the Senate floor unanimously. The bill recodifies the state’s impact fees, allowing levies on impact fees on construction. The bill was amended to allow for certain refunds and challenges. It heads to the House for further consideration.
  • S.J.R. 13 Joint Resolution – Request for Proposals, by Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), passed its first Senate vote with unanimous support. The resolution modifies how state agencies issue request for proposals, analyze responses, award contracts and evaluate results. It faces one more Senate vote before moving to the House.

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