One of the most interesting series of events that took place yesterday at the Utah Capitol was the 41-29 vote against South Jordan Republican Representative Merlynn Newbold’s H.B. 302 Reading Program Amendments and its prompt return to the House floor where it was substituted and passed 46-28. This substitute bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
The original H.B. 302 outlined a $3 million high-tech reading assessment system for K-3 students that the bill’s sponsor believes would free up more time for instruction. However, the bill came under fire for its cost, its specific language that seemed tailored to a small handful of vendors, and for introducing a statewide program without data showing its effectiveness. The State Board of Education officially opposes this version of the bill.
The substituted H.B. 302 makes the $3 million in funding available to school districts and charters that apply to use the program; it restricts benchmark assessments to first through third grade; and allows the State Board to draft a report to the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee on the effectiveness of the program.
In other education news from the Utah Capitol yesterday:
- H.B. 145 Public School Privacy Amendments, by Rep. Steve Eliason (R-Sandy), passed the Utah House unanimously. It now heads to the Senate for consideration. The bill requires the State Board of Education to create resource materials for districts and charter schools on student confidentiality.
- H.B. 183 School District Leave Policies, by Rep. Keith Grover (R-Provo), went to a conference committee after the House refused to concur with amendments made by the Senate. The bill prohibits school boards from granting paid leave to employees conducting union duties. The Senate amendment makes an exception if the activities are in the best interest of the school district and makes other amendments.
- H.B. 220 Civics Education Amendments, by Rep. Michael Morley (R-Spanish Fork), passed the Utah Senate with unanimous support after being amended to add “political philosophies and economic systems” to the description of the topics of instruction the bill requires. It now heads back to the House, where it passed 57-14 last month, for concurrence on the amendment.
- H.B. 290 Public School Transportation Amendments, by Rep. Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman), was sent back to the Rules Committee after being circled earlier in the day on the House Reading Calendar, which essentially means a bill is placed on hold. The bill passed out of the House Education Committee last week on a 7-5 vote. It requires funding for student transportation to be distributed first to elementary school bus programs and increases the number of elementary school students who would qualify for busing by reducing the busing perimeter from 1.5 miles to 1 mile.
- H.B. 313 Charter School Funding Amendments, by Rep. Merlynn Newbold (R-South Jordan), was returned to the Rules Committee after being circled on the House floor calendar. The bill gradually changes how charter schools are funded over a period of 13 years. A committee amendment added language that the Superintendent will report annually how many students attend charter schools within each district and the district’s contributions of property taxes per charter school student.
- H.B. 447 Kindergarten Literacy Improvement Program, by Rep. Johnny Anderson (R-Taylorsville), was circled on the House calendar then returned to the Rules Committee. The bill allows school districts to use funds typically set aside for optional extended-day kindergarten to purchase computer software and technology for literacy instruction.
- S.B. 53 Eligibility for Interscholastic Activities in Secondary Schools, by Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Lehi), was uncircled, amended and passed 16-13. The bill is now circled waiting for its second Senate vote. It lays out several provisions for charter school student participation in various activities offered at neighborhood public schools. The amendment adds a provision allowing the State Board of Education to create rules for charter student participation in activities at neighborhood schools.
- S.B. 224 Partisan School Board Elections, by Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), passed its first vote in the Senate 17-11. And this morning, it passed the second vote 17-12 and is now headed to the House for consideration. The bill requires State School Board members to be elected in direct, partisan races. Currently, the members are nominated by the governor after a committee narrows the pool of candidates and then elected in nonpartisan races. The State Board of Education opposes S.B. 224 but supports the direct, nonpartisan elections of its members.
- S.B. 256 Teacher Effectiveness Evaluation Process, by Sen. Stuart Adams (R-Layton), was substituted and passed its first vote in the Senate 19-8. The bill passed its final Senate vote today 19-7 and heads to the House for consideration. The original bill required schools to create their own teacher evaluation systems and conduct educator evaluations annually. The substitute removes language detailing the specific measures that should be included in these evaluations and instead requires the Education Interim Committee to study potential performance measures in conjunction with the State Board of Education.
- S.B. 263 State Board of Education Powers Amendments, by Sen. Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan), was sent back to the Rules Committee by the request of the bill’s sponsor. The bill reaffirmed the State Board of Education’s role over public education in Utah. This role is expected to get a more thorough review during the interim session.
- S.B. 278 Charter School Property Tax Amendments, by Sen. Curt Bramble (R-Provo), passed out of the Senate with unanimous support. It now heads to the House for consideration. The bill provides that charter schools are to be considered school districts for property tax exemptions.
- S.B. 304 Preventing Bullying and Hazing in Elementary and Secondary Schools, by Sen. Ralph Okerlund (R-Monroe), passed its first Senate vote yesterday and its final Senate vote today, both with unanimous support. The bill adds cyber bullying to the list of bullying, hazing and harassment activities in which students and school employees must not engage. It now heads to the House for consideration.
- S.B. 305 Economic Development Through Education / Career Alignment, by Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), was substituted and passed unanimously on its first Senate vote yesterday. Today, it passed its second Senate vote also with unanimous support. It now heads to the House for consideration. The original bill created a $600,000 online web portal for public school students to find career and college information. The substitute creates a steering committee to improve and build on an existing, popular site, UtahFutures.org.
- S.J.R. 1 Joint Resolution on State Board of Education Authority, by Sen. Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan), was sent to the Rules Committee after being on hold, circled on the Senate Reading Calendar since January. The resolution sought a constitutional amendment to take the general control and supervision of public education from the State Board of Education and give it to the Utah Legislature. Going to Rules is often, but not always, a dead-end for legislation at this point in the session.
- S.J.R. 27 Bullying and Cyber Bullying Standards for School Districts Joint Resolution, by Sen. Ralph Okerlund (R-Monroe), was also sent to the Rules Committee. The resolution expresses support for Utah school districts and charters to implement comprehensive anti-bullying policies.