Mobirise

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

As Legislative Chair of URSEA I try to follow mostly education related bills during the Utah Legislature’s session, and contact legislators with my assessment. I send the e-mails to a list of other people who want my comments, and I ask them to contact their legislators about the bills/issues, whether they agree with my assessment or not, letting their legislators know how they feel about the bills. I get most of my information at the legislature’s web site, le.utah.gov, which is pretty user friendly. One can get all of the information on a bill by simply putting the bill number at the top of the screen: name of bill, wording of bill, status of the bill. I also get some information from the UEA web site "Under the Dome", http://www.myuea.org/issues_action/uea_under_the_dome.aspx.

Below are the messages I have sent during the 2017 Session:  

       -Fred Ash, Legislative Chair of the URSEA

December 15, 2016

Dear Senator Okerlund,
     Before I make my comment, I want you to understand that I appreciate the time and effort you put in as a legislator for Utah. That said, in the paper this morning about Education First's considering a tax hike initiative, you were quoted as saying "We all see the need, obviously, to try to increase funding a little bit. The question is how do you do that without gouging the taxpayer. . . ."
     I have been pretty involved in the legislative process for about only eight years as the Legislative Chair of the URSEA. During that time I have studied bills and done personal research on issues and shared my opinions with legislators and others. On this issue of raising taxes for public education, I am very disappointed that at this point any legislator, especially one experienced as you, would even use the phrase, "increase funding" when referring to raising taxes that would go to public education.
     Why am I disappointed? The real wording should be "increase taxes to restore funding" that the legislature has taken away from public education over the last 20 years by allowing higher education to take money from what used to be public ed money (over $300 million this year), and adopting a single rate tax ($100 million-$200 million per year). It is a known fact that the current funding level is below what it was in 2008.
      It is very clear that when other state funding needs increased --health care, social services, roads, prison relocation, etc.-- instead of "gouging the taxpayers" for those increased costs, our legislature opted to quietly gouge public education. 
     Before the income tax change in 1996 public ed was not highly funded. Most public schools were very economically built. Teachers were not highly paid, but they were paid enough for beginning teachers to be able to afford modest homes for their families. Several of the state's school districts were recognized nationally for being so well managed financially. Sure, we were at or near the bottom even then in per-pupil funding because of our large families, but we were ranked in the top ten states in the percent of personal income spent on public education, which is as it should be because of our large families.
     Now we are experiencing the consequences of that gouging. We are now ranked about 35 in effort to fund public ed. Over 40% of our teachers leave the profession before their 5th year of teaching for several reasons, the main ones being poor pay and very difficult classroom conditions -- mostly high classroom counts and screwy micro-managing of individual classrooms. Poor pay and high student per teacher problems can be alleviated with better funding. The screwy micro-managing probably not.
      We still hear people say that paying teachers more won't increase the quality of teaching. I have researched that and found that students from the states that pay more for public ed on average score significantly higher on testing than students from the states that pay the least for public ed. And even if that were not the case, it is very clear that when good teachers are leaving the profession before their 5th year, and we are having problems hiring new qualified teachers to take their places, the quality of instruction is going to go down.
    I have probably said too much. I know that the decisions you have to make are difficult, but I hope you can find ways to restore funding such that teachers -- like my youngest son who just this year resigned his position as math department chair at a large high school -- will be willing and able to stay in the profession.

   Sincerely,
    Fred Ash, Legislative Chair of the URSEA    

January 20, 2017
Dear State School Board Members, January 20, 2017

    Some of you received this note last September, but I read in the paper this morning that the UHSAA transfer rules issue is still on the table, so again to those who have read my experience and feelings on the issue before, and for those who haven’t had the opportunity to vote on the UHSAA transfer rule changes, this is my experience with the UHSAA transfer rules and my feelings about the changes that were adopted in 2016.
     First of all. I know that being member of the State School Board requires a lot of personal sacrifice of time and effort. So thanks for being willing to do that. My background is as follows: high school English teacher 11 yrs, assistant football coach 7 yrs, tennis coach 3 yrs, golf (kind of) coach 2 yrs, high school assistant principal 5 ½ yrs, high school principal 13 yrs, middle school principal 5 ½ years, Legislative Chair of the URSEA for about six years. My comments: 
1. We have the UHSAA so that high school activities in the state will not be politically driven; and that association is responsible for making and enforcing the guidelines and rules necessary to fairly and efficiently as possible conduct the competitive activities in our state’s public and private high schools. So in the first place I think this proposed action by the State School board is inappropriate. Obviously not all of you will agree with me. But I have openly opposed the Utah Legislature’s efforts to take over the responsibilities of the State School Board. And just as a legislator having a concern about the operation of our schools should address his/her concerns with the State School Board, any person having a problem with a UHSAA process or rule should bring that concern to be discussed and voted on by the UHSAA board. My guess is that the State Board of Education already has more than enough on its table to study and regulate without adding the responsibilities of running the state’s high school’s activities.
2. The role of competitive activities in the high schools has evolved a bit over the years. Initially the activities were just competitions between schools. Then some schools started “attracting” strong performers from other schools to be on their teams, so rules had to be made to make sure schools competed fairly: to represent a school a student had to live in that school’s boundaries. Then other issues arose: a school might not even offer an activity that a student would like to participate in; a student might not be good enough to make a team in one school, but would be able to make a team in another school; a student would be a better scholarship candidate if he/she participated for a school different from the boundary school the student lived in; etc,
    And the emphasis and purpose for the competitive activities has evolved a bit to be more about the individual than the school. So over the years the rules have evolved a bit to accommodate that change. Students were allowed to petition to compete for a non-boundary school if his/her parents divorced, or if he/she had some kind of personal problem in his boundary school. If a student’s petition was not approved, he/she could still participate at the non-boundary school in practices, but could not compete with other schools until he/she had been enrolled in the non-boundary school for at least a year. So the worst thing that could happen would be the loss of one year of eligibility.
    Then when open-enrollment became the rule for choosing a school, it was agreed that if a student chose a non-boundary school in the 9th grade, he would be fully eligible to compete, which as I understand it is the current rule.
3. All of the changes have been pretty much made to accommodate the individual student‘s needs. But in the process some schools have continued to “attract” non-boundary high performers to be in their programs. And private and charter schools have always had a “recruitment” advantage, but that advantage has been mitigated to a degree by making private schools participate in higher level classifications than their enrollment would normally qualify them for. For example, Judge High School could always compete evenly with Jordan, Murray, Tooele high schools. But some public schools have also attracted a high percentage of high performing athletes from other schools to maintain their prowess. In my day, there were usually a very high percentage of Brighton High athletes playing for Skyline High.
4. But the thing that most concerns me is how the transfers affect the “not-so-high-performing” students. For every transfer student playing for a non-boundary school, there is a boundary school student not being able to compete for his own school. But I have to admit that there is another side of that argument, that for every high-performing student who transfers to a non-boundary school, there is one more opportunity for a boundary student to compete in the boundary school.
5. Some would have no rules. Just let the kids play where they want to. But that just causes more problems, such as making sure that a student playing for the non-boundary school is scholastically eligible at the school where he/she attends classes. There must be some rules, or things get too messy.
    My final comment. For the State Board of Education to say that unless the UHSAA changes its time proven rules, public schools may not participate in UHSAA competitions was just plain wrong, a strong arm tactic that I might expect from the legislature, but not from the State Board of Education.

Sincerely,
Fred Ash, Legislative Chair of the Utah Retired School Employees Association (URSEA)

 

January 30, 2017

SB59 General Description:

    This bill requires the State School Board to establish rules in which a school or local education agency is required to communicate certain information with the parent or legal guardian of a student who may have a disability within 10 calendar days after the day on which a student's parent or legal guardian initiates a request (instead of timely communication) with the LEA or school for an initial evaluation to determine if the student is a student with a disability; or informs the LEA or school that the student may be a student with a disability; or the school otherwise becomes aware that a student may be a student with a disability.

    The intent is to make sure that schools make contact as described above, which is reasonable, but doesn’t take into consideration that perhaps the reason such a contact doesn’t always happen in a timely manner might be because the school does not have enough personnel to make sure that every student’s need is taken care of as quickly as needed. And there is no funding for additional staff included in the bill. Just one more legislature mandated rule that will shift available funding out of the classroom. It is another example of micro-management of another constitutionally established governing body.

    My vote is No. It is micro-management of the State School Board, and it will likely cost additional funds to make sure it works. While it is good intent, we should not be tying up more public education funding until student per teacher counts are reduced to a reasonable number, classroom teacher wages are increased sufficiently, and pre-kindergarten classes are funded,


SB60 General Description:

    This bill mandates specific communication between private schools and local education agencies, and between private schools and parents or legal guardians, regarding students with disabilities: requires a private school to provide local education agencies with personally identifiable information of students with disabilities; and provide parents of students with disabilities information regarding individual rights and school resources.

    Again, a reasonable expectation, and maybe something needed at the Legislative level, as the State Board of Education does not have jurisdiction over private schools. Again, no funding is allocated to make sure the rule is carried out or enforced. And if such funding is added to the bill, that is more money taken out of the classrooms of public schools.

    My vote is Yes, if it can be done without reducing funding for classroom teachers, etc.


SB61 General Description:

    This bill addresses the distribution of any appropriations to the State Board of Education for reimbursement for certain services rendered for a student with an autism spectrum disorder.

This bill requires the State Board of Education (the board) to make rules regarding the disposition of any money appropriated to the board to reimburse local education agencies for certain services rendered to a student with an autism spectrum disorder; and requires the board to present draft rules to the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee or Education Interim Committee for review and recommendation. Money Appropriated in this Bill: None.

    As this bill only requires the drafting of a plan, it falls short of micro-management by a degree. I wonder why only autism is included in the reimbursement rules.

    My vote is mostly Yes

HB 76 END OF LIFE OPTIONS ACT     

    I attended a meeting where the sponsor explained the bill and a major opponent spoke against the bill. The sponsor felt the bill is needed to help people in irreversible life ending, usually painful situations to end their own lives with less or no pain. Basically the bill allows a physician to prescribe a life ending medicine to a mentally competent person who has been diagnosed with a terminal condition with life expectancy 6 months or less. It differs from physician assisted euthanasia in that the ill person self-administers the medicine.  

    The person opposing the bill expressed fear that the bill would lead to assisted euthanasia, and that it would increase the number of suicides in the state.

    If this is an important issue to you, please contact your legislators.


SB114 ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS, Chief Sponsor: Curtis S. Bramble    

    This bill modifies provisions of the Election Code. It modifies dates, deadlines, and other requirements in the Election Code to allow for a runoff election for primary races in certain circumstances; changes the dates during which an individual may file a declaration of candidacy or a notice of intent to gather signatures; changes the deadline for filing a petition and submitting signatures to form a political party; provides for a runoff election, by absentee ballot, in a primary election race where more than two candidates appear on the ballot for the same office, and from the same party, and where one candidate does not receive a certain percentage of the votes; etc. 

    As I reviewed the whole bill, I especially liked the date changes for filing and for beginning the petition process, and I strongly support the runoff election required “between the two candidates in the same qualified political party who received the highest number of votes in the race” when “more than two candidates are in the primary election and none of the candidates receive more than 35% of the votes in the primary.”

    I strongly support this bill.  

    Additional comment. I wish that with the increase of political parties in the general elections where only one candidate can win, there were a provision for a runoff election when none of the candidates receive at least 50% of the general election votes. It was the lack of such a provision and the number of political parties in Germany that enabled the election of Adolf Hitler.



February 1, 2017

H.B. 151 SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION AMENDMENTS Chief Sponsor: Raymond P. Ward

    This bill amends provisions of the Election Code relating to the State Board of Education.

This bill makes the office of State Board of Education member a nonpartisan office; addresses midterm vacancies on the State Board of Education; establishes the form for a declaration of candidacy for the office of State Board of Education member; addresses campaign reporting requirements for a State Board of Education member.

    The most important part is that it “makes the office of State Board of Education member a nonpartisan office.” The Utah Constitution says “No religious or partisan test or qualification shall be required as a condition of employment, admission, or attendance in the state's education systems.” I kind of understand how some of our legislators feel that a partisan election isn’t the same as a partisan test, and that our State Board members are not employs; but I believe that the intent in the Constitution is to keep partisanship and religion out of the schools as much as possible. Yes, political parties serve a purpose in selecting candidates for public office, and religion is important, but decisions in governing our schools should be made in the best interest of all students, regardless of political or religious beliefs. And it is not good for our students to have school governance swayed back and forth by political beliefs.

    I strongly support this bill, and hope that the elections stay non-partisan, like they were this year.


S.B. 86 EDUCATION - ACCREDITATION AMENDMENTS Chief Sponsor: Lincoln Fillmore

    This bill repeals the requirement that the State Board of Education set accreditation

guidelines; amends provisions related to State Board of Education accreditation; and makes technical changes. A public school shall accept credits and grades awarded to a student by a school if the issuing school is: a Utah public school; or accredited or recognized by a regional accrediting body recognized by the board . 

    The present rules require that the state set accreditation guidelines, and that the accrediting body be the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools, a nationally recognized and supported body. As I read the bill, instead of requiring the State Board to set accreditation guidelines, it requires the acceptance of credits, etc., from any school that has been accredited by “a regional accrediting body recognized by the board.”  

    Having been a principal at an high school for 13 years, and a middle school principal for 6 years, I went through the Northwest Accreditation several times. The process was very thorough and demanding, made the school administration and staff look very closely at what and how they were doing in all respects (not just in STEM areas), and the evaluation was based on a lot of staff and patron input, testing results, etc. As I recall, we went through the process every three to five years. The Northwest evaluation included the setting of goals to improve all areas needing improvement, not just STEM areas. 

    But our legislature is more interested in grading schools in STEM areas than evaluating and improving the whole school, and the Northwest process doesn’t give the kind of grades our legislature now requires. So it doesn’t make sense to require the Northwest process in addition to the other evaluation processes that produce the information now needed to grade schools. 

    I strongly disagree with the way schools are now evaluated: cost of additional evaluations, measuring low socio-economic schools on the same standards as higher socio-economic schools, evaluating schools totally on standardized test scores, etc. A school is more than a STEM factory. But if that is the way things are going, I don’t think it is good to stress schools with the Northwest process along with the other grading processes.

    I hate to see the Northwest process go by the wayside. But the new school grading system puts enough stress on schools.

    I can’t oppose the bill. I just wish we didn’t need it.


February 6, 2017

Dear Legislators,

    Again, thanks for your service in the legislature. Just some comments on SB109.

    This bill modifies provisions related to the state treasurer establishing the Utah Voluntary Employee Retirement Accounts Program and creating certain tax credits.

    It is a long and kind of complicated bill, but as I understand it, it provides a state mechanism for establishing a managed "IRA" (an individual retirement account or individual retirement annuity) retirement program that small Utah employers may voluntarily participate in and receive a $500 tax credit for participating. The purpose is to encourage small businesses to offer their employees the opportunity to participate in a managed IRA retirement program.

    As I understand it, many employees in small businesses do not participate in any kind of retirement program, which will be bad for them and for the state financially when they get to retirement age. This bill would provide an opportunity for them to build a fairly safe, privately funded, managed retirement fund.

    Also, as I understand it, a similar plan was presented last legislative session, and it was not approved because there was a concern that it would place the state in competition with private providers.

    If that is what it takes for employees of small businesses to be able to participate in a managed IRA retirement plan, so be it.

    Please support this bill.


HB 241 SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY AMENDMENTS Chief Sponsor: Marie H. Poulson

    This bill requires the State Board of Education to establish a school accountability system; enacts provisions related to the school accountability system, including provisions related to the indicators used to determine a school's rating under the school accountability system, board duties and rule making under the school accountability system, and required reports; and modifies provisions in the School Turnaround and Leadership Development Act.

    The bill does not eliminate the grading or evaluation of individual public schools (including charter schools). But instead of giving schools a letter grade, schools would be given an overall rating, which would be assigned to a school under the school accountability system adopted by the State School Board. And the board may use different metrics and weights to appropriately assess the educational impact of a school that serves a special student population, a newly opened school, or a small school in which the total number of students tested is fewer than the minimum number of students necessary for statistical reporting purposes. One of the major problems with the grading system presently used is that all schools, regardless of demographics, are graded on the same criteria. So I think this is a much better approach.

    Nor does the bill eliminate the school turnaround requirement for identified low performance schools. I have questioned this process, especially as the people doing the evaluation get paid a whole lot more than the teachers and administrators in the low performing schools. But the bill allows funding bonuses to go to the improving schools, based on how much they improve, which schools can determine how to use, including teacher bonuses. And the independent school turnaround experts don’t get paid their full amount unless their efforts actually improve the school ratings. 

    Overall, I think this bill is much better than the “grading” one it modifies.

    So I hope the bill is approved.


HB 108 TEACHER SALARY SUPPLEMENT AMENDMENTS Chief Sponsor: Kay J. Christofferson

    This bill amends provisions related to teacher salary supplements. Basically, as I read it, it doesn’t change anything; it just basically clarifies and simplifies the language of the existing law, which provides supplemental pay for teachers of science, math, and computer science.

    My basic belief is that all teachers in a school are needed, and all teachers should be fairly compensated for their efforts, that no teacher should be given extra/bonus pay until and unless all other teachers are fairly compensated for their efforts. It is a statement about the state of public education in Utah when some teachers are given extra/bonus pay just because of their choice of field of study. This bill doesn’t even provide supplemental pay for English teachers, although English is one of the basic STEM courses. But I understand that it is harder for schools to fill teaching slots of math, science, and computer science because teachers with those skills are harder to employ, because they can earn so much more in the business world with those skills, so yes, I understand why this bill exists. But it wasn’t enough to keep my son, a devoted math teacher and math department chair at a local big high school, in the profession.

    As I read the bill, the changes seem to make things more clear. But I was still confused about how much a teacher would get. It says that the annual salary supplement for an eligible teacher who is assigned full time to teach one or more [of the approved] courses is $4,100. And it says an eligible teacher who has a part-time assignment to teach one or more [of the approved] courses shall receive a partial salary supplement based on the number of hours worked in the [approved] course assignment. Then it says the annual salary supplement for a certificate teacher is $750, or for a Title I school certificate teacher is $1,500. It is not clear how much a teacher would be getting per class taught.

    So I feel this bill is an improvement on the present one, but it would be better if that one point were clarified.


HB 241 SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY AMENDMENTS Chief Sponsor: Marie H. Poulson

    This bill requires the State Board of Education to establish a school accountability system; enacts provisions related to the school accountability system, including provisions related to the indicators used to determine a school's rating under the school accountability system, board duties and rule making under the school accountability system, and required reports; and modifies provisions in the School Turnaround and Leadership Development Act.

    The bill does not eliminate the grading or evaluation of individual public schools (including charter schools). But instead of giving schools a letter grade, schools would be given an overall rating, which would be assigned to a school under the school accountability system adopted by the State School Board. And the board may use different metrics and weights to appropriately assess the educational impact of a school that serves a special student population, a newly opened school, or a small school in which the total number of students tested is fewer than the minimum number of students necessary for statistical reporting purposes. One of the major problems with the grading system presently used is that all schools, regardless of demographics, are graded on the same criteria. So I think this is a much better approach.

    Nor does the bill eliminate the school turnaround requirement for identified low performance schools. I have questioned this process, especially as the people doing the evaluation get paid a whole lot more than the teachers and administrators in the low performing schools. But the bill allows funding bonuses to go to the improving schools, based on how much they improve, which schools can determine how to use, including teacher bonuses. And the independent school turnaround experts don’t get paid their full amount unless their efforts actually improve the school ratings. 

    Overall, I think this bill is much better than the “grading” one it modifies.

    So I hope the bill is approved.

HB 108 TEACHER SALARY SUPPLEMENT AMENDMENTS Chief Sponsor: Kay J. Christofferson

    This bill amends provisions related to teacher salary supplements. Basically, as I read it, it doesn’t change anything; it just basically clarifies and simplifies the language of the existing law, which provides supplemental pay for teachers of science, math, and computer science.

    My basic belief is that all teachers in a school are needed, and all teachers should be fairly compensated for their efforts, that no teacher should be given extra/bonus pay until and unless all other teachers are fairly compensated for their efforts. It is a statement about the state of public education in Utah when some teachers are given extra/bonus pay just because of their choice of field of study. This bill doesn’t even provide supplemental pay for English teachers, although English is one of the basic STEM courses. But I understand that it is harder for schools to fill teaching slots of math, science, and computer science because teachers with those skills are harder to employ, because they can earn so much more in the business world with those skills, so yes, I understand why this bill exists. But it wasn’t enough to keep my son, a devoted math teacher and math department chair at a local big high school, in the profession.

    As I read the bill, the changes seem to make things more clear. But I was still confused about how much a teacher would get. It says that the annual salary supplement for an eligible teacher who is assigned full time to teach one or more [of the approved] courses is $4,100. And it says an eligible teacher who has a part-time assignment to teach one or more [of the approved] courses shall receive a partial salary supplement based on the number of hours worked in the [approved] course assignment. Then it says the annual salary supplement for a certificate teacher is $750, or for a Title I school certificate teacher is $1,500. It is not clear how much a teacher would be getting per class taught.

    So I feel this bill is an improvement on the present one, but it would be better if that one point were clarified.


February 8, 2017

S.B. 78 TEACHER PEDAGOGICAL ASSESSMENT, Chief Sponsor: Ann Millner, House Sponsor: Val L. Peterson

        This bill basically requires the State Board of Education to establish a teacher pedagogical assessment that is performance based and assesses an individual's pedagogical skills, and requires an individual to pass a teacher pedagogical assessment to receive or retain a certain license to teach in Utah. As I understand it, the bill requires any teacher getting a license in Utah, either through a regular higher ed approved teacher preparation program, or through a competency based alternative path, to pass the pedagogical assessment. It also says, “In lieu of the pedagogical assessment. . . the board may accept an assessment completed in a state other than Utah that an individual applying for a level 1 license to teach passes, [which] satisfies requirements for licensure in the state in which the assessment was provided; and satisfies the requirements of the pedagogical assessment as determined by the board.”

    I can understand that with the alternate path to certification that the Legislature 

Utah’s Alternative Route to Licensure (ARL), someone finally acknowledged that there needs to be some instructional competency. So it makes sense that individuals choosing to become teachers through ARL need to prove they have acceptable pedagogical skills. What I don’t understand is why all prospective teachers in the state, even those who have passed the required courses and student teaching at an approved higher ed program should be required to take one more test, and why if local college prepared and approved teachers are required to take the test, why are certified out-of-state teachers not required to take the test.

    If what I think this bill says actually does say, I agree that a prospective teacher coming into the profession through the alternative route should have to pass some kind of Board approved pedagogical assessment, but that is all. The others coming into the profession through approved teacher prep programs in our higher ed system have already proven their ability and training, so along with certified teachers from other states, should not be required to jump one more hurdle. So as written, I hope this bill is not approved.

    Also, instead of being a bill, making it a law, another example of micro-managing of another constitutionally established governmental entity by our legislature, I think it should be a resolution passed on to the State Board of Education to act on as they choose


February 10, 2017

S.B. 115 COMPULSORY EDUCATION REVISIONS Chief Sponsor: Jacob L. Anderegg

    This bill amends provisions related to compulsory education. Changes some minor wording, but mostly changes the penalty from a Class B misdemeanor which can lead to a 6 month jail sentence or substantial fine to a Class C misdemeanor which can lead to a smaller fine and up to a 3 month jail sentence if, after receiving an additional notice of compulsory education violation for the same child in the same school year, the parent of a school-age child intentionally or recklessly fails to meet with the designated school authorities to discuss the school-age child's school attendance problems prevent the school-age child from being absent without a valid excuse five or more times during the remainder of the school year. And it changes a Class B to a class C misdemeanor for a parent of a school-age minor to intentionally or recklessly fail to enroll the school-age minor in school, unless the school-age minor is exempt from enrollment.

    Last year there was an effort to totally remove a parent’s responsibility to make sure a child attends school. That effort failed, as it should have. This bill still makes the parent accountable, but lessens the penalty a bit, but 90 days in jail is a lot more than no penalty.

    I feel that this a reasonable compromise, so I support this bill.


H.B. 92 PHYSICAL RESTRAINT IN SCHOOLS Chief Sponsor: Carol Spackman Moss

    This bill basically amends provisions related to the infliction of corporal punishment on a student, allows and clarifies the use of physical restraint in schools, prohibits school employees from causing the infliction of corporal punishment - the intentional infliction of physical pain upon the body of a student as a disciplinary measure - upon a student., and amends provisions related to a student who willfully defaces or otherwise damages school property.

    Oh how I wish I could have used my little ruler on the palms of my unruly students when I went back into the classroom when I was 64 and needed insurance for a year. But I know why even such mild disciplinary measures are no longer allowed. There was a time when I was a principal when we could not use physical restraint at all, and had to call the police to remove disruptive students from classrooms. I don’t know if that was a state or district rule.

    I like the wording of this bill, could live with it as a teacher and administrator. I hope it is approved.


H.B. 62 EDUCATOR RIGHTS AMENDMENTS Chief Sponsor: Keven J. Stratton, Senate Sponsor: Deidre M. Henderson

    This bill requires a local school board or charter school governing board to update a policy related to bullying; and to implement a grievance process for a school employee who experiences abusive conduct by a parent or student. 

    I may not be understanding what I read. The bill defines "Abusive conduct" as verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a parent or student directed toward a school employee that, based on its severity, nature, and frequency of occurrence, a reasonable person would determine is intended to cause intimidation, humiliation, or unwarranted distress.

    But after that paragraph, all references to bullying, etc. use the wording such as follows: “involves other physical activity that endangers the physical health and safety of a school employee or student; or involves physically obstructing a school employee's or student's freedom to move; and is done for the purpose of placing a school employee or student. . . .” All of the definitions include both school employee and student. 

    It seems like the definition of abusive conduct should include something like “or abusive conduct of a school employee toward a student or parent,” and the title of the bill changed to “Educator/Student Rights Amendments,” or in the other parts of the bill, the word “student” should be removed.

    I think the intent of the bill is to add protection of school employees from abusive conduct by parents and students, which is good. I like the idea of protecting school employees from bullying and abusive conduct by parents and students. But the wording of the bill is confusing to me.    

February 14, 2017                    

H.B. 151 SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION AMENDMENTS Chief Sponsor: Raymond P. Ward

    I just heard that the House Rules Committee has denied Rep Ward the opportunity to have this bill debated on the House floor. I hope that is not true. I was impressed that a Republican legislator was brave enough to sponsor this bill. My guess is that those who oppose non-partisan elections are mostly Republicans who for some reason fear allowing people to run for a school board without being properly vetted and signed on to strict party doctrine. I don’t understand their fear. But that fear is apparent not only in this effort to maintain partisan school board elections, but in the way the party no longer allows unaffiliated voters to participate in their caucuses, county and state conventions, and primary elections. It is apparent in the way the party refuses to take the “straight party vote” option off of the election ballots. It is this kind of fear that has made so many members of the Republican party leave the party affiliation. I was a Republican for about 50 years, until I finally gave up on the hope that the State Republicans would some day accept the state’s responsibility of providing reasonably funded public education and other needed social services. But that is not the issue here. The issue here is that the main purpose of an elected school board is to manage the school system, such that every child has the opportunity of an effective learning environment, not dictated by political belief. Please, in addition to allowing this bill to be debated, vote to keep the State School Board and other school boards non-partisan.


Dear Board members,

    I hope that when Rep Chaffetz talked to you about his plan to abolish the US Dept of Ed he also explained how the state would pick up the costs of programs that the Federal Gov now provides funding for, not just public and higher ed.

    According to the chart I have on the 2016 Utah State funding, approximately 26% of the total budget comes from federal funds, and 26% from our own Education Fund. And public ed uses 34% of the total budget and higher ed uses 12% of the total budget = 46% of total budget. If that is the case, about 43% of our current education funding must be coming from the feds. 

    Fred Ash, Legislative Chair of URSEA


S.B. 141 INCOME TAX AMENDMENTS Chief Sponsor: Jim Dabakis

    This bill basically increases the individual income tax rate for taxpayers with state taxable income above $250,000 ($500,000 for filing jointly) from 5% of state taxable income, to 7%. “A resident individual whose filing status is single or married filing separately shall pay a tax for the taxable year equal to 5% of state taxable income, if the resident individual has state taxable income for that taxable year of less than or equal to $250,000; and 7% of state taxable income, if the resident individual has state taxable income for that taxable year of more than $250,000.”

    As I read this bill, all those under $250,000 taxable income would continue to pay the current approx 5%, and all those over $250,000 would pay 7% on their whole taxable income. So the person making $249,000 would pay 5%, and the person making $251,000 would pay 7%.

    When we used to have a graduated tax, as I understand it, everyone paid the same tax for the first say $50,000. If a person’s taxable income was say $75,000, that person would pay the same as other people for the first $50,000 and a higher rate for the additional $25,000, etc. No one paid a full 7% on all of their taxable income. So when people and corporations complained that they were paying 7%, they were not telling the whole truth.

    Even though I want more money for the education fund, I liked it better when I could tell the wealthy person that he didn’t pay any more taxes on the amount of taxable income I reported than what I paid. I definitely feel that the more wealthy, including corporations, should be paying more than they are now, but I don’t think this bill as written would fairly do that.  

    A return to the graduated tax would stand a better chance to pass than this bill. 


Ladies and Gents,

   Sorry this is so long. I just sent it to the House and Senate education committees.

  Fred

Sorry this is so long. And I know how busy you are, but when I heard that reinstating the sales tax on food was on the table, I had to respond.

   Fred Ash, Legislative Chair of the URSEA

    It definitely depends on who you trust to give you information. A recent pole of voters asked if we would support the possible 7/8% Utah income tax initiative to increase funding for education if we knew it would cost the average family an additional $900 per year. A bold attempt to sway public opinion. And we continue to hear opponents to the tax increase use the $900 figure. And now instead of using the 7/8 % increase they are now using 17%, which is also misleading, because while7/8% is an increase of 17% over the existing 5%, it is only an increase of taxes by .875 %.

    The $900 per year is not even close to the truth. The truth is, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the average household income of the bottom 60% of Utah households in 2015 was only about $38,000, which wouldn’t have changed much in the last couple of years. I itemize my deductions when I do my taxes, and my guess is that my deductions are not a lot different from most Utah tax payers. My Utah income taxes since the establishment of the single rate tax have been a tad over 4% of my adjusted gross. So using that figure, the average tax for the average household income of $38,000 would be approximately $1550 per year at our present tax rate. Add 7/8 % to the 4%, and the tax would be about $1855, an increase of only $305 per year, about $25 a month. Those in the next 20% of households the average household income is about $75,000, so their tax would go from about $3000 to $3600, an increase of $600 a year. My guess is that to have to pay the $900 a year increase the poll used, the household income would have to be over $100,000, which would affect only about 20% of the households in the state, and they could surely afford an increase in taxes of only $75 per month.

    And we keep hearing that more money for education doesn’t correlate with improved performance by students. Again, that depends on what you are looking at. A 2009 analysis by “the next America education” evaluated and ranked states by graduation rates, test results, pre-K enrollment, among other factors. Then they compared the ten states with the highest per pupil funding with the ten states with the lowest per-pupil funding. The ten states with the highest per pupil funding averaged 16 in the quality ranking. The ten states with the lowest per pupil funding averaged 36 in quality rating. It appears that there might indeed be a correlation between per pupil funding and quality of education.

    It is easy to brag about how our students rank in the top ten states when compared to the rest of the nation in testing. But recent studies have started to include social and financial demographics in their assessments. Yes, our teachers are doing a very good job getting our students ready for tests, given the high class loads and stressful teaching conditions; but when demographics are added to the equation, according the EPI analysis of NCES NAEP microdata, our students rank in the mid 40's compared to how they should be performing.

    Our economy builders in the state brag about how people are flooding our state because of the economic growth. What they fail to mention is that a lot of those people came here because they had heard how good our education system is. And when they get here they not only find fewer high paying jobs, and much higher cost of housing than they anticipated, they find an education system struggling with overcrowded classrooms, struggling teachers, and a serious teaching shortage.

    I didn’t have a CPA evaluate my statistics, but I know they are not far off. The bottom line of the whole discussion is that to build our economy our legislators have done everything they can to avoid raising taxes. Instead of raising taxes to cover increased costs of a growing economy – highways, schools, health care, social services, law enforcement, infrastructure, etc. – they have shifted funding from an already stressed public education fund. Sure they might find some ways to cut costs, but the reality is that like it or not, taxes need to be increased to cover the costs.

    And the proposal to reinstate the sales tax on food, should not be on the table. That tax disproportionally increases the burden on the bottom 20%, who according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy are already paying a higher percentage of their income for state and local taxes than the upper 20%. The simplest solution would be a modest income tax increase as has be.


February 20, 2017

S.B. 105 SALE OF STATE LANDS ACT Chief Sponsor: Gene Davis

          This bill establishes a preference for leasing state land over selling state land; and establishes approval requirements for the sale of state land. "State land" means land owned by the state, including the state's legislative and judicial departments, divisions, agencies, boards, commissions, councils, and committees; and institutions of higher education. "State land" does not mean land owned by a political subdivision of the state, land owned by a school district, private land, or school and institutional trust lands.

    It basically says that state land over 300 acres may not be sold unless it is determined to be in the best interest of the state, after being considered by the Legislature for approval or rejection; or in the interim, by the Legislative Management Committee for review of the agreement or proposal. The Legislative Management Committee would have the authority to approve or disapprove a sale, or to request that the governor call a special session of the legislature to make the decision.

    I don’t understand why the acreage starts at 300 instead of 0. 300 acres is almost half of a square mile. 

    It is a very good idea, especially as there is so much pressure to claim our public lands as state lands. It would ease some of the concerns many have about what would happen to public lands if they became state lands. I hope it passes.


S.B. 210 EQUAL PAY AMENDMENTS Chief Sponsor: Jacob L. Anderegg  

    This bill requires a person that employs 15 or more individuals in the state for each working day in each of 20 weeks or more in the current or preceding calendar year to adopt and disclose to each employee uniform criteria that the employer uses to determine whether to change an employee's compensation or benefits based on the employee's performance; instructs the Department of Workforce Services to conduct a study on whether there is a difference in pay between men and women in the state - to the extent possible, controlling for other variables, including education, years of experience, occupation, and industry; and provides that the Department of Workforce Services shall create and maintain a pay index for certain occupations that states the average pay range in the state for each occupation based on years of experience in the occupation.

    This bill doesn’t require an employer to pay the same for men and women. It doesn’t even require the employer to say if gender is one of the criteria. And the bill doesn’t require an employer to include in the uniform criteria on what basis an employee would be given a cut in pay or laid off or fired. 

    My opinion: if a man or woman chooses to accept employment in a low paying occupation, that is one thing; but if two people are doing the same job, they should be getting the same pay, based on the employer’s stated criteria for starting wage, change of compensation and benefits, regardless of their gender. I think an official study would be beneficial to our state.

    I think the bill is a good start. 

    Over all, I approve the bill and hope it moves on.       

                    

H.B. 207 FEDERALISM AMENDMENTS. Chief Sponsor: Ken Ivory; Senate Sponsor: Allen M. Christensen

         As I read it, this bill kind of creates a Commission on Federalism, defines its duties, and appropriates $350,000 for the development and expansion of a federalism curriculum; the intent apparently being to make sure all of our legislators understand the con’s of federalism.

     If we want our legislators to understand both the pro’s and con’s of federalism, we should require that they all read good biographies of our nation’s founders, and Lincoln. The debate between federal and state control has been waged since before our constitution was established. Achieving balance in critical times and areas has and will always be the challenge.

    Or we could just require all of the legislators to read and pass a test on Utah Code “Title 63C Chapter 4a Part 3 Section 304, 63C-4a-304. Standard for evaluation of federal law. “

    $350,000? What a total waste of money.  

    It is apparent that I am not alone in feeling that there is an underlying purpose for some legislators’ pushing for state control of all of our public lands, and it is not for funding public education. We can thank the anti-federalism attitude for the loss of the Outdoor Retailers Conventions.             

February 21, 2017

Ladies and Gents, I just sent this to a bunch of legislators before I read this morning's paper. And I will now say more about it than I should. So please forgive me. I read in this morning's paper that Sen. Neiderhauser is not only proposing that the sales tax on food be reinstated to better fund the state's "ability to fund social services and other support efforts for Utah's low-income residents," he is also proposing to reduce the sales tax rate overall, so the change will be "revenue neutral." If reinstating the sales tax on food would bring in enough additional revenue to allow a drop in all other sales taxes, why doesn't he just propose a smaller increase in the food sales tax, which would have a lesser affect on lower income households and young families, and retain the current level for regular sales taxes, which would increase tax revenue indirectly to improve education funding? Revenue neutral? Yes, but a significant increase of taxes on the lower income households, who already pay more of their income for state and local taxes than the upper 40%. Please let your legislators know how you feel about this.

     Fred

Dear Legislators,

    A short comment. A sincere plea. I know that there is a lot of pressure to restore the funding level we used to have for public education, and at the same time not raise taxes, especially income taxes. My plea is simply that as you deal with the challenge – which must be dealt with and not just handed down to the next legislature – that you not support measures that will increase financial pressure on lower income households and young families, such as reinstating the sales tax on food, and eliminating or limiting the tax exemptions for child dependents.

    I know the issue isn’t simple. Thanks for your service to the state.

      Sincerely,   

    Fred Ash, concerned citizen of the State of Utah

February 22, 2017

Ladies and Gents,

   I thought this might be a fun diversion. I got a response from my Senator Neiderhauser about my plea to not raise taxes on the low income households. Following is his comment to me, and my response.

Fred, Feb 21 11:18 a.m.

    Thanks for your recent emails. I do receive them, so thank you.

    Utah’s population is on track to double by year 2030. It is our responsibility now to ensure that we have the proper infrastructure in place to sustain such tremendous growth. The sales tax on food, for example, is a stable source of income that can be used—even in times of economic recession—to help fund social service programs. Low-income families were actually hurt the most when the food tax was reduced.

    At a more general level, by broadening the base and lowering the rate, we can help Utah to be better prepared for new businesses that will help continue the economic growth we have been enjoying.

    Thank you for letting me share my opinion,

        Sen. Wayne Niederhauser

Fred’s reply to Wayne

We might have to respectfully disagree on this one. But thanks for taking the time to read my e-mail.

Then a few minutes later I decided I needed to say more, so I sent this to him. I haven't gotten a response to this yet.

Wayne, Feb 21 11:27 a.m.

    If the paper reported correctly that your plan would reduce the regular sales tax while raising the sales tax on food, so it would be revenue neutral, it looks like another tax break for the higher income and an increase in tax for the lower income. It seems to me that if you are trying to find ways to increase funding for education, increasing the food sales tax and leaving the regular sales tax as is, would create more revenue for the services you talk about so funding wouldn't have to be at the expense of the education fund, instead of being revenue neutral, and wouldn't look like an attempt to shift costs to those who are already paying more of their income for state and local taxes than the higher income people. 

        Fred

February 23, 2017

S.B. 80 SCHOOL FUNDING AMENDMENTS Chief Sponsor: Lincoln Fillmore; House Sponsor: Bradley G. Last; Cosponsors: Ann Millner, Howard A. Stephenson, Daniel W. Thatcher, Todd Weiler

         This bill directs the Legislature to annually appropriate an amount equal to one-third of the funds allocated for an increase in the weighted pupil unit value to increase the number of guaranteed local levy increments, directs the State Board of Education to use the appropriation to increase the number of guaranteed local levy increments, giving first priority to guarantee board local levy increments and second priority to guarantee voted local levy increments; and the guaranteed amount for each local levy increment per weighted pupil unit after increasing the number of guaranteed local levy increments, directs a local school board to use funds received from the state local levy guarantee for a public education purpose.

    I attended a meeting where the sponsor explained that the purpose of the bill is to further adjust the allocation of state funding for local districts so there will be more equity in funding because there is so much difference in the amount of revenue different school districts generate with the same property tax rate. It seems to be a good idea.

    A member of UEA spoke not too disapprovingly of the bill, recognized the good intent, but felt that requiring the funding to come directly from the education fund before all funding issues are resolved in a session would restrict the needed flexibility of the funding for all purposes.

    I tried to read through the bill, but figured to fully understand it I would have to take a class in public school finance again. I do question using “an amount equal to one-third of the funds allocated for an increase in the weighted pupil unit value.” I think it would be better to say something like “up to one-third of the funds. . . , ” which would provide some flexibility.


H.B. 215 REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH EDUCATION AND SERVICES Chief Sponsor: Brian S. King

    It is my understanding that this bill did not get out of committee this session, but will likely be re-introduced next session.  

    This bill requires the State Instructional Materials Commission to establish a more explicit sex education curriculum, to be offered in addition to the present abstinence based sex education curriculum.

    Basically, as I read the bill, it does not specify any specific source of curriculum materials. It says “The board shall recommend instructional materials for use in the curriculum . . . after considering evaluations of instructional materials by the State Instructional Materials Commission,” and that “The State Instructional Materials Commission shall consult with parents, teachers, school nurses, and community members in evaluating instructional materials . . . materials adopted by a local school board or charter school governing board shall be based upon recommendations of the school district's or charter school's curriculum review committee that comply with state law and board rules; the adoption of instructional materials shall take place in an open and regular meeting of the local school board or charter school governing board for which prior notice is given to parents and guardians of students attending schools in the district and an opportunity for them to express their views and opinions on the materials at the meeting.” Parents would be given full disclosure of what is included in the curriculum, and must give written permission for a child to participate.

    The bill says nothing about gender issues, so there is some question about how the curriculum would address gender issues. But the process of establishing the curriculum would address that. As always, there is a concern that the curriculum would go too far, have unintended consequences. Personally, if it comes back next session, I hope it is approved.


February 27, 2017

Dear Legislators,

   The end is approaching. I bet you are glad for that. You probably don't need or want this, but this is very important to me a many others.

    I just learned that House leadership will not allow HB151 out of the rules committee to be considered.

    I have already expressed to some of you that I feel strongly that this bill should move forward and be passed. As I said before, I kind of understand how some of our legislators feel that a partisan election isn’t the same as a partisan test, and that our State Board members are not employees; but I believe that the intent in the Constitution is to keep partisanship and religion out of the schools as much as possible. Yes, political parties serve a purpose in selecting candidates for public office, and religion is important, but decisions in governing our schools should be made in the best interest of all students, regardless of political or religious beliefs. And it is not good for our students and teachers to have school governance swayed back and forth by political beliefs.

    I have to ask what the Republican leadership is afraid of, why they continue to fight electing the State School Board in a non-partisan manner. Well, actually I don’t have to ask; the answer is very clear: they want to control the political composition of the State School Board.

    I read in the paper this morning that of the 1,531,000 registered voters in the state, 715,000 are Republican, 175,000 are Democrat, 41,000 are Libertarian and Independent American parties, and 600,000 are unaffiliated. 816,000 are not Republican, well over half of the voters in the state. But a partisan election sways the vote for the Republican candidates. 

    The number of unaffiliated continues to grow. My guess is that a higher percentage of voters are leaving the Republican Party than the Democrat Party, and decisions like this one, to not even allow the non-partisan bill out of committee have driven people like me out of the Republican Party.

    This bill should not only be allowed to move on to be considered, it should be passed, in the best interest of the Utah public education system, and in the best interest of all of our students.

    I strongly support this bill, and hope that the elections stay non-partisan, like they were this year.

Fred Ash, Legislative Chair of the URSEA


February 28, 2017

Dear legislators,

    Sorry to hit you with so much words as you come to the closing moments of the session. But I do appreciate all that you do in refining the many bills that come before you during a session.

      Sincerely, Fred Ash, Legislative Chair of the URSEA


H.B. 241 SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY AMENDMENTS Chief Sponsor: Marie H. Poulson, Senate Sponsor: Lincoln Fillmore

S.B. 220 STUDENT ASSESSMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY AMENDMENTS Chief Sponsor: Ann Millner House

Sponsor: Bradley G. Last 

    I just spent the several hours studying these two bills, to see how they differ. Before I evaluate the bills, you need to understand where I come from on the issue, understanding that I spent about 25 years in public ed as and high school English teacher, assistant high school principal, high school principal, middle school math teacher, middle school principal.  

    Both of the bills are revisions of the law which was passed several years ago which created rules by which schools would be evaluated and graded. I think the intent of the original bill was to create a way to make sure all of our schools meet rigorous standards, and low performing schools would have to go through a “turnaround” process so tax money would not be wasted on schools that didn’t meet those standards. Also the law required that school grades would be published so parents would know how good or bad their children’s schools were, the whole purpose of that I can not even guess. Those who pushed for and got the law approved, felt they knew more about the system than the “monopoly” of seasoned educators, but there have been a lot of unintended consequences of the bill, such as increased expenses at the local and state levels for testing, and the realization that educators’ concerns about grading all schools on the same standards, regardless of demographics, is a realistic concern, not an excuse. 

    What most concerned me was the grading part, and the way it could and has affected general morale of teachers and students and parents. It would be one thing if it were possible to have every school an A school, but that is not possible, just as in a school it is not possible to have every teacher an A teacher. The most important thing is that everyone try to do his/her best with what he/she has to work with: students, teachers, parents. 

    And just as important, I don’t like the way the law grades schools almost completely on how well students test in English, mathematics, and science. A major purpose of our public schools is help prepare students for life after high school. Yes, competency in English, math, and science are very critical; but self-confidence, creativity, ability to work with and get along with others (teachers/employers and other students/workers), understanding of our governance system, technology, vocational skills, etc., are just as important, but the law’s grading system barely deals with these things.

    Before I start my comments on the bills, I want you to read this from the Utah State Constitution: “Article X, Section 3. [State Board of Education.]

     “The general control and supervision of the public education system shall be vested in a State Board of Education. The membership of the board shall be established and elected as provided by statute. The State Board of Education shall appoint a State Superintendent of Public Instruction who shall be the executive officer of the board.”

    The law that both of these bills are trying to amend takes away much of the general control and supervision that is supposed to be vested in a State Board of Education. I can understand the legislature saying that the Board must establish goals for a curriculum, establish a system to evaluate and remediate schools to make sure they are doing their best to educate our students, to establish a way to evaluate and remediate teacher performance, to establish a way to evaluate and remediate student performance in accepted areas. But requiring the State Board to establish goals and processes is as far as the legislature should go. We have an elected State School Board whose responsibility is to determine how best to accomplish those goals. This bill is a perfect example of supreme micro-managing of our public ed system by our legislature.

    Sorry, As to the two bills. It is clear that both of the bill sponsors have done a lot of work on changing/improving wording.  

    SB220 mostly substitutes the words “statewide assessment” for “U-PASS’ throughout the document. And it does allow a slight degree of some other factors than English, math, and science in the grading: “for a high school, performance on Advanced Placement exams; and up to two school-reported school quality indicators that may include: student and parent engagement; chronic absenteeism; school climate; supports for students at risk of academic failure; extracurricular activities; or another indicator determined by the board.” But it still says that “a student's score on the standards assessment adopted under Subsection (2) may not be considered in determining: the student's academic grade for a course; or whether the student may advance to the next grade level. I agree that a student’s score on a standardized test should not affect his/her grade. But if the school is to be graded based primarily on the test scores of students, who just love to take standardized tests, some of whom I have personally watched play tick-tack-toe with their answers while supposedly taking the test, and if all students are not required to take the tests, how valid is the grading?

     HB241 doesn’t make as many changes in the whole law, and still uses U-PASS as the assessment name, but it changes “school’s grade” to “school’s rating” throughout the bill, and allows more than two other factors that could be used in establishing the rating: “college and career readiness of students as measured by at least the following, as applicable to a grade level: performance on a college readiness assessment; high school graduation; performance in advanced courses and secondary core courses, as determined by the board; . . . equitable educational opportunity as measured by student access to resources and conditions that influence student learning outcomes, student, parent, or community engagement in schooling, or the success of students who are at risk of academic failure. [And] the board may include other indicators in addition . . . .” This bill doesn’t address or mention whether or not the student’s test score would affect his/her grade, but that could still be in the law being amended.

    If I had to choose which bill to support, I would choose HB241 because of the way it changes grading based mostly on test scores in math, English, and science, to rating based on test scores and other important factors. 

March 7, 2017

H.B. 198 CONCEALED CARRY AMENDMENTS; Chief Sponsor: Karianne Lisonbee; Senate Sponsor: Todd Weiler 

    This bill allows individuals 18-20 years of age to obtain a provisional permit to carry a concealed firearm. It specifies that the holder of a provisional permit issued by the state must meet eligibility requirements, including minimum age requirements, to carry a concealed firearm in another state; and it prohibits a provisional permit holder from carrying a concealed firearm on or about elementary or secondary school premises.

    I am probably missing something in the wording, but I can’t find in the bill a description of what a “provisional” permit is, or how the provisional permit is different from a regular permit. It is good that it specifies that the holder of such a permit may not carry a concealed firearm on or about a private elementary or secondary school, or on the grounds of any of those schools.  

    The intent as was explained in a meeting is to allow young people to carry a concealed weapon to protect them from sexual assault. But in the same meeting it was made clear that a strong majority of sexual assault victims, know the assaulter. My concern is based on having worked with young people for many years in the high school setting, knowing how much they are influenced by their hormones, especially boys 18-20. This bill not only allows young women to carry concealed weapons, it allows young men to carry concealed weapons. And the law might say that they can’t carry on school premises, but at that age, too many of them would just say to themselves, “But it is concealed. No one would know I am carrying unless I show them.” So the purpose of the bill would be negated.

      I don’t think this is a good bill.

H.B. 200 SEXUAL ASSAULT KIT PROCESSING AMENDMENTS. Chief Sponsor: Angela Romero; Senate Sponsor: Todd Weiler

    This bill basically requires that all sexual assault kits, except for those classified as restricted kits, be tested to obtain DNA profiles within a specified amount of time. There are a lot details regarding what is a restricted kit, who shall do the testing, the process by which sexual assault kits shall be stored and transmitted for testing, etc. The bill appropriates no money to speed up the process.

    We all know how most of the police agencies in the state have fallen way behind in the DNA testing of sexual assaults, which we also know enables those doing the assaulting to keep on doing it, with little fear of exposure. It is also quite obvious that to catch up will be quite expensive.

    It seems to me that the agency holding the rape kit should be bearing the expense of the testing, but in the interest of time, it would be well if the state would step in and provide funding to help agencies get caught up. Once they are caught up, they should do whatever is needed in their jurisdictions to provide the funding needed.

    I am a strong supporter of using as much state revenue as possible to restore the funding level of public education. But I would be willing to use whatever revenue it takes to help police agencies catch up with the testing of Sexual Assault Kits.

    So I hope this bill passes, along with money needed to get things going.

INCREASING REVENUE FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

    It is obvious, following my suggestion that money be allocated to fund a catch up process for testing sexual assault kits, that I don’t agree with Senator Neiderhauser’s plan to increase the sales tax on food while at the same time reducing the sales tax on other items, so the tax increase would be revenue neutral. That totally does not make sense. The General Fund needs more revenue also, so that it is not necessary to find ways to squeeze funds out of the Education Fund. If there is an increase in sales tax for food, let that increase stay in the general fund, and don’t lower the general sales tax. And please don’t approve a revenue neutral approach, which would unfairly increase taxes on the lower income households, not just the indigent, who already pay more of their income for state and local taxes than the upper 40%.

H.B. 413 PUBLIC SCHOOL MEMBERSHIP IN ASSOCIATIONS Chief Sponsor: Francis D. Gibson

    This bill prohibits a public school from membership in certain associations after July 1, 2017; establishes requirements for the membership of an association governing body; requires an association to provide certain reports to the State Board of Education; requires an association to follow certain budgetary procedures; establishes an appeals panel to hear an appeal of certain decisions by an association; requires an association to comply with Open and Public Meetings Act, Government Records Access and Management Act;, and Utah Public Officers' and Employees' Ethics Act.

    A public school may not be a member of or pay dues to an association that is not in

compliance on or after July 1, 2017, with the established requirements for membership.

    This bill is a specific legislative reaction to the issues recently debated about a student’s eligibility to participate in high school extracurricular activities. It essentially requires the UHSAA (although not specifically mentioned in the bill) to do a major restructuring of its governing board and board practices, and if the UHSAA refuses to make the required changes, Utah public schools will not be allowed to be members of the UHSAA.

    The organizational changes required by this bill aren’t bad, but in essence the bill creates a government entity out of a private organization. And the threat of “comply or die” makes me sick. This is another supreme example of a legislative micro-management of another organization, this one not being a governmental organization. It also tells the State Board of Education not only that it must be involved, but how it must be involved.

    There might be some changes the UHSAA should and could make to be more efficient and open, but the existing governing board of the UHSAA should be deciding what changes to make, not our legislature. They have done a pretty good job managing high school extracurricular activities the last 90 years.

    If the,  bill passes, I actually hope that the UHSAA refuses to comply. Then let the micro-managing legislators establish a new government funded and operated association to take over what the UHSAA has been doing so well for so many years. 

    I strongly oppose this bill.                     

S.B. 78 TEACHER PEDAGOGICAL ASSESSMENT, Chief Sponsor: Ann Millner, House Sponsor: Val L. Peterson

       I can understand that with the alternate path to certification that the Legislature Utah’s Alternative Route to Licensure (ARL), someone finally acknowledged that there needs to be some instructional competency. So it makes sense that individuals choosing to become teachers through ARL need to prove they have acceptable pedagogical skills. I can’t tell if this bill says that a person going through a qualified college/university teacher training program would also have to take the pedagogical assessment.

    I agree that a prospective teacher coming into the profession through the alternative route should have to pass some kind of Board approved pedagogical assessment, but that is all. The others coming into the profession through approved teacher training programs in our higher ed system will have already proven their ability and training.

    If the bill passes, it is another example of micro-managing of another constitutionally established governmental entity by our legislature. I think it should be a resolution passed on to the State Board of Education to act on as they choose.

H.B. 447 POLITICAL PARTY AMENDMENTS Chief Sponsor: Marc K. Roberts 

         This bill prohibits a qualified political party candidate from qualifying for the primary election ballot by using both the convention process and the signature-gathering process in the same election.

    I don’t have to read this bill to make a comment. I feel that Senator Bramble’s SB114 covers the bases needed to refine the current primary election process, which is a fair process. And for what it’s worth, if a person chooses to go through both the petition and caucus processes, with the amount of effort and expenses required to do so, he should be allowed to do that, as it does not unfairly affect the person who chooses only to use one or the other of the processes.

    Please do not pass this.


March 9, 2017

Ladies and Gents,

    This is possiblly the last comment I will send on bills this session. I hope you have bugged your legislators with your opinions.

     Fred

Dear Legislators, 

S.B. 220 STUDENT ASSESSMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY AMENDMENTS

    This bill was amended to read “The board shall calculate a school's grade for the 2016-2017 school year in accordance with Part 11, School Grading Act. For the 2017-2018 school year, the board shall evaluate a school based on the school's performance level on the indicators described in Subsection and is not required to assign a school an overall rating.”

    My understanding is that the will likely be approved with this amendment.

    I appreciate the one year hold on giving the schools a grade. I hope that in the future, a way to evaluate schools more than just graduation rates and Science, Math, and English will be found. There is so much more to identify a good school than those elements: school climate, vocational/technical preparation, visual arts, performing arts (drama/music), social studies. And while giving schools letter grades might be similar to giving students grades in some ways, in other ways it is not the same, and in some ways destructive of educational aims. 

        Please approve this bill, as an improvement of what we now have.

Sincerely, Fred Ash

March 9, 2017

Ladies and Gents,

   One more missive.

     Fred

Dear Legislators,

    Thanks for your service to the state, and special thanks to those of you who were brave enough to vote against H.B. 413 PUBLIC SCHOOL MEMBERSHIP IN ASSOCIATIONS. Yes, there is need for some revisions in the way the UHSAA operates, but that is their responsibility, based on input from members of that association, not the legislature's responsibility. Besides, once it is a law, the legislature will have to revise it every year for the next 50 years. I hope it doesn't pass, and if it does, that the governor will veto it.


March 10, 2017

Dear Governor Herbert,

If the following bills get to your desk, please veto them:

HB198 CONCEALED CARRY AMENDMENTS

        This bill not only allows young women to carry concealed weapons, it allows young men to carry concealed weapons. And the law might say that they can’t carry on school premises, but at that age, too many of them would just say to themselves, “But it is concealed. No one would know I am carrying unless I show them.” So the purpose of the bill would be negated.

      I don’t think this is a good bill.

 HB265 SAFETY INSPECTION AMENDMENTS

      While getting a safety inspection when one renews his registration each year might be a pain. Too many people would not get their vehicles inspected on a regular basis, if the law were not there.

 H.B. 413 PUBLIC SCHOOL MEMBERSHIP IN ASSOCIATIONS 

      Yes, there is need for some revisions in the way the UHSAA operates, but that is their responsibility, based on input from members of that association, not the legislature's responsibility. Another example of extreme micro-management by the legislature of another organization.


March 16, 2017

Ladies and Gents,

     Just something you might enjoy getting involved with on the national level.

    This info on HR 610 was just forwarded to me. HR 610 basically "eliminates the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) of 1965 which is the nation's educational law and provides equal opportunity in education. It is a comprehensive program that covers programs for struggling learners, AP classes, ESL classes, classes for minorities such as American Indian, Rural Education, Education for the Homeless, School Safety (Gun-Free schools), Monitoring and Compliance and Federal Accountability Programs.

    "The bill also abolishes the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act) which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch. For our most vulnerable, this may be the ONLY nutritious food they have in a day.

    "The bill has no wording whatsoever protecting special needs kids, no mention of IDEA and FAPE.

      "Some things the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) of 1965 does for Children with Disabilities:

-ensures access to the general education curriculum

-ensures access to accommodations on assessments

-ensures concepts of Universal Design for Learning

-includes provisions that require local education agencies to provide evidence-based interventions in schools with consistently underperforming subgroups

-requires states in Title I plans to address how they will improve conditions for learning including reducing incidents of bullying and harassment in schools, overuse of discipline practices and reduce the use of aversive behavioral interventions (such as restraints and seclusion).

Please call your representative and ask him/her to vote NO on House Bill 610 (HR 610) .

Please consider copying and pasting this post (rather than hitting "share" so it isn't limited to the friends we have in common). Thanks for advocating on behalf of our nation's youth and their families."

    After reading the above, I went on the internet for "HR 610" and found a lot of info, basically supporting the above.

   The reason this bill affects only the children with special needs is because that is where most of the federal public education money is earmarked for. If the federal money stops coming in to states for things like nutrition for deprived elementary students, the states will have to pick up the tab, or those students will no longer get the free breakfasts.

     And money lost to districts through the voucher program will leave less money in the public school management/instruction budgets,

    Check on the bill if you are interested, and let your federal legislators know your concerns.

     Fred

March 25, 2017

Ladies and Gents,

   I just sent this to my three Federal legislators: Senators Hatch and Lee, and Representative Love. If you haven't already found ways to contact them, this is where I go: for senators, go to www.senate.gov ; for representatives go to www.house.gov . Once you have signed up, it is easier to send future comments.

    March 25, 2017, sent to Senators Hatch and Lee, and Representative Love

Dear ,

  Thank you for your service to the state and nation. Here are some of my main concerns. I know that President Trump and others made promises during the campaign, and that he was elected legally by our election methods, but it was not a majority vote in any way one looks at it, so the actions that you take now should - and must- not totally disregard the opinions and needs of the other half of the nation.

   I was glad that the vote for the new health care plan didn't happen. In spite of what we keep hearing, the ACA was not just pushed down our throats by President Obama. He did what he did because there was no willingness to negotiate, and he too had a mandate. Instead of starting over, it would be much better to work out the bugs in a bipartisan manner. I don't often compliment our new president, but it was neat to hear him say the other day that it is time for both sides to work on the problem together, even at the same time he criticized the Democrats for not being willing to negotiate during all of Pres Obama's term.

   Plans to reduce spending and improve tax policy should be looked at carefully at who will benefit most from the changes. Where will the proposed thousands of laid off government workers find work? Very few of them will be working on the Keystone pipeline or the Wall. De-funding Planned Parenthood and NEA and other programs end up hurting more people and cutting back needed services and activities. There are much less expensive and more effective means of securing our borders than that proposed wall.

   Changing the tax policies is probably needed in some ways, but a lot of the changes made in the last twenty years have ended up helping a few of the wealthy while not helping to solve balanced budget problems and providing needed services, such as medicaid for the poorer people. The spread of income between the upper 5% and the rest of the nation continues to widen, and it continues to be more difficult to move from lower to middle income status.

   The party that helped you get elected should not control your votes; you should control your votes based on the best good of the country and your constituents.

  Have a good year.

    Fred Ash, Legislative Chair of the URSEA.