Civics education bill passes Legislature, plus other ed. news from the Utah Capitol

Photo by Craig Allen http://bit.ly/dXKq8E

Tomorrow at the stroke of midnight, the legislative session comes to a close. And there are still dozens of education bills on the move. Some of these bills passed out of the Legislature yesterday and are on their way to the governor’s desk. Two of these are high profile education bills we’ve been paying close attention to, mandating civics education and allowing school bus ads.  

H.B. 220 Civics Education Amendments, by Michael Morley (R-Spanish Fork), passed the Utah Legislature yesterday. This bill requires teachers to “thoroughly” teach American historical documents and various forms of government, political philosophies and economic systems, including the fact that the U.S. is a compound constitutional republic. The State Board of Education took an official position opposing this bill, stating it is unnecessary because this kind of instruction is already happening in Utah’s classrooms.

The bill passed after the Utah House agreed in a 54-14 vote to an amendment made in the Senate. The amendment added language to better describe the topics the bill requires public schools to instruct. It now reads, “Instruction in American history and government shall include a study of forms of government, such as a republic, a pure democracy, a monarchy and an oligarchy; political philosophies and economic systems, such as socialism, individualism, and free-market capitalism; and the United States form of government, a compound constitutional republic.”

Another bill we’ve been watching, H.B. 199 Advertisements on School Buses, by Rep. Jim Bird (R-West Jordan), passed the Utah Legislature this morning and is on its way to the governor’s desk. The bill would allow ad space to be sold on school buses, with some restrictions, and requires the revenue from the sales to pay for transportation costs. Legislative staff estimates this could raise more than $3 million annually. The bill passed its first vote in the Senate 17-7 yesterday and today passed its final vote 18-7. 

In other news from the Capitol, nine more bills we’re watching this session moved forward, including:

  • H.B. 98 Capital Outlay Funding Modifications, Rep. Christine Watkins (D-Price), was plucked from the Rules Committee and is now on the Senate Reading Calendar awaiting a vote. The bill allows small districts to use funds set aside for construction to pay for the maintenance and operations of their school facilities. It passed the House 50-24 last month but failed to get a hearing in the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee last week.
  • H.B. 183 School District Leave Policies, by Rep. Keith Grover (R-Provo), was substituted in the Senate and passed 20-7. The bill had been sent to a conference committee to work out a disagreement between the House and Senate over changes made to the bill in the Senate. It had already passed through the House but must go back to that body for a vote on the substitute bill. The bill originally passed by the House barred school boards from granting paid administrative leave to educators conducting union work. The Senate amended that to allow an exception for when this work benefits the district. The substitute allows school districts who had granted association leave prior to this year to continue to do so, but it requires them to be reimbursed for leave in excess of 10 days.
  • H.B. 288 Concurrent Enrollment Transcripts, by Rep. Ronda Rudd Menlove (R-Garland), passed its first Senate vote with unanimous support. It has already cleared the House and needs just one more vote before it passes the Legislature and heads to the governor. It requires the State Board of Regents and State Board of Education to coordinate guidance counseling for students taking concurrent enrollment and requires the State Board of Regents to create college transcripts for these students.
  • H.B. 415 Schools for the Deaf and Blind Foundation, by Rep. Stephen Handy (R-Layton), passed its first vote in the Senate unanimously. It has already passed the House and needs just one more vote before it can be forwarded to the governor. The bill creates a nonprofit foundation for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind.
  • S.B. 63 K-3 Reading Improvement Program Accountability, by Sen. Karen Morgan (D-Salt Lake City), passed the Legislature yesterday after receiving only one “No” vote in the entire process. The bill outlines how K-3 Reading Improvement Program funds may be used and requires the State Board to report how districts and charters are spending these funds.
  • S.B. 97 Higher Education Mission Based Funding, by Sen. Steve Urquhart (R-St. George), was amended in the House and passed 60-11. It now heads back to the Senate for concurrence on the House amendments. The bill requires the Board of Regents to identify the mission of each institution of higher education in the state and request funding that advances this mission. The amendment adds language allowing the colleges to also request funding to make up for past unfunded student growth, among other changes relating to doctorate programs and funding inequities within the higher education system.
  • S.B. 127 Post Retirement Employment Amendments, by Sen. Dan Liljenquist (R-Bountiful), passed the House unanimously and since it has already passed the Senate, the bill now heads to the governor for consideration. It cleared the entire legislative process with unanimous support. The bill is a fix for changes to the state retirement system passed last year. The bill allows a state retiree to return to work within a year of retirement, under certain circumstances.
  • S.B. 224 Partisan School Board Elections, by Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), passed out of the Utah Senate with a 17-12 vote and moves to the House for consideration. The bill requires direct, partisan elections for State Board of Education members. The State Board of Education opposes this bill, and supports direct nonpartisan elections for its members.
  • S.B. 304 Preventing Bullying and Hazing in Elementary and Secondary Schools, by Sen. Ralph Okerlund (R-Monroe), passed out of the Senate with unanimous support. It now goes to the House for consideration. The bill adds cyber bullying to a ban on bullying, hazing and harassment for public school students and employees.

Plus, so far this morning three other bills moved forward, including:

  • H.B. 415 Schools for the Deaf and Blind Foundation, by Rep. Stephen Handy (R-Layton), passed its second vote in the Senate, passing out of the Utah Legislature unanimously. It now heads to the governor. The bill creates a nonprofit foundation for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind.
  • S.B. 4 Current School Year Supplemental Public Education Budget Adjustments, by Sen. Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan), passed the Utah Senate with a single unanimous vote, under suspension of the rules. The bill is the supplemental public education budget, which deals with the budget for the current school year.
  • S.B. 206 Labor Organization Provisions in Teacher Contracts, by Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), passed the Utah Legislature and heads to the Governor for consideration. The bill requires an employer to immediately stop deducting union dues from wages upon written request of an employee.

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