Legislature’s education debate took on many facets

By Cassidy Hansen
Capital West News

While many bills regarding education have been presented, few have made the Gov, Gary Herbert’s desk this session.

One bill that passed the legislative branch is SB60, titled American Civics Education Initiative. This bill requires that the State Office of Education creates a citizenship tests that all high school students must take to graduate high school. The bill is designed to help promote civic engagement and knowledge; the test itself will be based on the United State Citizen Test.

The east side of the Utah Capitol.

The east side of the Utah Capitol.

The sponsor of the bull Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said, “One of the reasons why I wanted to sponsor this bill is because I love my country, and our country has some challenges with civic participation. Learning about citizenship is just as important as multiplication and writing their names.”

In past committees, teachers have expressed the concern that this type of test means more class time spent on preparing for tests rather than learning.

Rep.Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake, quoted a teacher who said, “I feel that SB60 is a way for the legislature to micromanage my classroom.”

The bill passed in the House with a 46-26 vote, where in the Senate it passed 20-8.

The bill that has caused the most controversy at the end of the session in HB186. The bills calls for partisanship elections of members of the State Board of Education. When the bill returned to the House for its concurring vote in the House, representatives were disappointed and refused to concur with the Senate.

Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said regarding the original bill that was sent to the senate, “I feel like I sent them a nice car, and they sent me a mule back.”

Since the current system of electing board members has been struck down by a federal judge, the legislative body must provide a new solution, which caused some legislators to be apprehensive of not concurring with the Senate.

Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove said, “I understand my colleague’s frustration, but we have to pass something this session. Nothing else is going to pass the Senate, we need to address this issue. I think this is a good compromise.”

As a result, a conference committee was suggested by the legislative body; however, the House rejected the committee report, thus killing the bill.

Another bill that ultimately passed was HB203, its purposing being to supplement the salary of Utah public teachers whose degrees and skill sets could make more money in the private sector. Degrees that qualify for salary supplementation include computer science, chemistry, physics, and general science.

In past committee meetings, legislators have emphasized that this bill is necessary because Utah is facing a hiring shortage in these fields.

In a previous Senate Education Committee, 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.”

Some teachers remained concerned that this bill prioritize math and science over other subjects; however, the legislative body determined that the supplement was worth continuing and including engineering and computer science. The bill was placed in conference committee on the last day of session, and then passed by both the House and the Senate later in the evening.

Two bills that caused a controversy within the category of education, but are indefinitely killed include bills from educator licensing amendment and clean school buses.

Specifically, the Educator Licensing Amendments HB197 would have allowed the State Board of Education to license administrators as teacher, even if the teacher had never taught, but had similar leadership experience.

HB49, which would have provided grants from alternative buses using one time funding. While legislators were for creating a cleaner environment, they were concerned that the one-time money could serve better purpose elsewhere, like in the classroom.

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