Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day Four at Legislature

I attended the Public Education Appropriations Committee Meeting last Thursday morning.  Individuals from the Governor's office to discuss the goals from the Governor's Educational Excellence Commission.

Senator Urquhart wants mission-based funding for universities.

Jim Wall of Utah Business Education School Trust talked about an upcoming telethon with Ken Garff and Fox13 with a goal to raise $1 million for library books in 242 schools.  He would like a list of business partnerships available.

Beverly Sorensen Arts Program has an overall positive impact on academics, behavior, and attendance.  She would like to see the program funded in all schools.

Senator Stephenson wants to continue funding for optional full-day kindergarten and possibly double the funding so pre-K Upstart program can be funded to help students be ready for kindergarten.

SB 59 - Grading Schools bill will cost $100,000 in one-time money to set up computer programming, then about $15,000 a year in on-going funding.  Representative Moss believes money is needed to remediate failing schools.  Representative Neiderhauser said that we should proceed even without the money to remediate those schools.

Senator Howard Stephenson wants up to $1 million to fund online high school credit from outside vendors.  This sounds like a precursor to vouchers.

Representative Nielsen would like $100,000 to reimburse teachers after they earn National Board Certification.  This would be about $2,700 per teacher or 37 teachers who could be reimbursed.

Representative LaVar Christensen would like $50,000 to $80,000 per year to fund civic and character education and teach government to children.  Senator Karen Morgan pointed out that this has been funded partially through Executive Appropriations in the past.

Some items that must be addressed include approving fees for Core Academy, educator licenses, what Schools for Deaf and Blind charge districts for services.  Need to approves rates charged from one department to another.  Need to consider growth variables including the educator salary adjustment.  Also need to decide on interest from school trust lands.

Individuals from state transportation support the "to and from" funding for buses.  Examples from Washington County include the increase in fuel costs, inability to purchase new buses (same number of buses as in 2004), students have to walk 1 1/2 to 2 miles to a bus stop, but they don't want to complete for funding with teachers.  Senator Buttars then pointed out there are no buses for charter schools.  In Davis District, there is expected growth up to 900 students, local taxes were raised last year to maintain "to and from" busing, and buses are the safest way for students to travel to school.

Representative Cosgrove asked about dual immersion.  State Superintendent Larry Shumway said there are Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese programs in 50 elementary schools serving 7,000 students.  They hope to have 30,000 students participating by 2015.  Funding could be a problem as students in the program move up a grade each year necessitating another teacher for the program.

Representative Merlynn Newbold reminded those on the committee that $91 million was purposefully left unappropriated in the base budget so groups can advocate for additional dollars.  Committee members should make recommendations on where the money should be spent.

Senator Howard Stephenson wants signing bonuses for hard to find Math, Science, and Special Education teachers.  It had been $2 million but was cut back to $350,000 last year.  He also asked for differentiated pay for Math and Science.  It was pointed out that the differentiated pay is funded at $3.6 million in the base budget.

Representative Cosgrove talked about how using the flexible allocation, which has been used to pay mandated social security and retirement, to pay for student growth just moves the money from one place to another and puts the burden of funding social security and retirement on the school districts.  Superintendent Shumway stated this essentially reduces the value of the WPU from $3,067 to $2,677 or $290.

The best part of the day was talking to students from Weber State University who were displaying and discussing their research projects.
This group looked at how an effective pipeline for teacher education helps university students find the right part of education for them.

This young man worked with a non-verbal high school student with function-based interventions with remarkable results.

I'm excited to see these students who will be coming into the teaching profession in the next two to three years!

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