This morning, the Utah Legislature’s Education Interim Committee adopted two of the bills recommended by the Utah State Board of Education as committee bills, setting them up for a more speedy legislative process. Discussion of a third State Board proposed bill, South Jordan Republican Senator Aaron Osmond’s Public Education Employment Reform, which deals with teacher tenure and lays the foundation for performance pay, will continue at the next meeting when there is more time for what is expected to be a lengthy public hearing.
The State Board endorsed College and Career Readiness Assessment, sponsored by Senate Rules Chair Margaret Dayton (R-Orem), would require Utah public school students to take college entrance exams, such as the ACT, and provides a differentiated diploma for students who have completed a college and career readiness plan before graduation. The committee amended the bill to include testing for military entrance before it was unanimously adopted as a committee bill.
The Committee also approved the State Board’s top priority for the upcoming legislative session, Statewide Adaptive Testing sponsored by Utah House Majority Whip Rep. Greg Hughes (R-Draper). This proposal requires all of Utah’s public schools to transition to administering standardized tests using computer adaptive technology. It was also amended before the committee voted unanimously to adopt it as a committee bill. The amendment upped the appropriation by more than $1 million to $6.7 million.
The committee began with a report from Voices for Utah Children on Florida’s early childhood education reforms, including discussions about that state’s optional preschool program, efforts to ensure all students read on grade level before advancing out of the third grade and investment to significantly reduce class sizes.
The Utah State Office of Education’s Teaching and Learning Director Sydnee Dickson also gave a presentation to the committee. She provided an overview of a new Educator Evaluation framework the State Board recently adopted, which is an outgrowth of the Educator Effectiveness Project. The Educator Evaluation framework sets a timeline for school districts to adopt new evaluation systems that take into account multiple measures of teacher performance.
Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), chair of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the Education Interim Committee was up next with an overview of his tuition tax credit proposal, the Student Opportunity Scholarship. This proposal gives an income tax credit for donations to a scholarship for low income families of low performing students to attend private school. In Utah, income tax funds public education. Stephenson likened the proposal to the existing Carson Smith Scholarship for special needs students, which he then described as a school voucher program. However, he says the Student Opportunity Scholarship is different and not a true voucher program because it is a tax credit, not for the recipient of the scholarship, but for the donors.
This morning’s meeting was the second to last Education Interim Committee meeting scheduled before the Utah Legislature convenes the 2012 General Session in January. The next meeting is scheduled for November 16.