By Cassidy Hansen
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate Education Committee passed several bills on with favorable recommendations that could change the teachers are paid, fired and licensed.
On March 5, the committee considered HB203, which supplements teacher salaries in teaching fields that have a hiring shortage. These fields are generally math, integrated science, chemistry, physics, and physical science. The new bill hopes to add computer science, engineering and special education as degrees that are eligible for the teacher salary supplement program.
Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, said the purpose of the bill is “to attract some people to the teaching profession who may not choose it otherwise, and to retain individuals who have great opportunities in the private sector to keep them in the teaching profession.”
However, some teachers are concerned that this type of legislation creates subject priority in the eyes of some educators and students.
Dr. David Fullmer, a professor of music education at UVU, said, “We feel like this is sending some unintended messages to our fine educators. That other subjects are somehow secondary and less important.”
The Senate committee was not concerned about the bill marginalizing other subjects and passed the bill with a favorable recommendation. Following this bill, the Senate Education committee discussed changes in the teacher termination as described by SB0260.
Sen. Osmond, R-South Jordan, said, “[The bill] enables the State Board of Education with some responsibility and some obligations to perform audits and monitor a local school board’s actions under the Human Resource Management Act, to ensure that they are consistent with the law that we passed three years ago.”
While the bill’s focus is on coordination between the state and local level, the bill also prevents educators from being fined for educators resigning earlier than their stated contract date. Thus, educators who wish to no longer teach do not have to remain in their positions due to fear of financial consequence.
Unfortunately, for Sen. Jim Dubakis, D-Salt Lake, he did not get to give his speech regarding an already terminated from the bill. As a result, he joked about giving it in the hallway as he left to attend to another meeting that was being held next door. In fact, several senators and representatives were out of breath and wishing they were more in shape as they sometimes literally ran between their meetings.
The final bill dealing directly with teachers was bill HB197, which is titled “Educator Licensing Amendment.” If passed, the bill will allow the State Board of Education to make decisions and rules on how to hire education leaders, including the hiring of individuals who do not have a teaching license. While the bill does not force LEA’s to hire differently, it allows those who may not have degrees in education, but leadership roles and related degrees to hold positions as principles.
Brad Smith, the Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction, said about the new hiring procedures, “This bill broadens the applicant pool so that there are more options.”
A representative of the American Federation of Teachers said they group does not favor the bill and teachers who represented themselves felt that there is no need to broaden applicant pools. However, the Senate Education Committee members pointed out that half of the principles in Utah will retire in the next five years, creating a need for a large applicant pool. Additionally, the committee pointed out that those who would be qualified to be hired would have higher education degrees and leadership skills, not someone who is unqualified.
Ultimately, if all three bills and their provisions are passed this legislative session, teachers will face several changes that are designed to make Utah’s education system more clear and efficient.