SALT LAKE CITY, February 11, 2008 — Utah House Democrats held a press availability meeting today where they announced their legislative priorities for public education
HB 266 Accelerated Learning Program Revisions
Representative Carol Spackman Moss introduced House Bill 266 Accelerated Learning Program Revisions, which modifies the state system of Public Education Code by authorizing the use of appropriations for accelerated learning programs for International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. The bill has passed the Utah House of Representatives unanimously and has been heard in the Senate Rules Committee. “This outstanding college-preparatory curriculum currently gets no state funding, unlike advanced placement or gifted and talented programs,” said Moss. Currently, seven high schools and one middle school have IB programs
HB 194 Class Size Reduction in Kindergarten through Grade Three
Representative Karen Morgan discussed House Bill 194 Class Size Reduction in Kindergarten through Grade Three. The bill creates a classroom reduction incentive program and requires schools to qualify and apply for the additional funding to be applied to class size reduction programs. “Kindergarten through third grade is the foundation of learning and keeping class sizes small creates a better environment for classroom instruction,“ said Morgan. “These early grades help students build skills that can be used all throughout their school years.”
HB 85 Teacher Loan Program
Representative Lynn Hemingway presented House Bill 85 Teacher Loan Program, which would create a loan program for Utah Teachers who want to buy a home but who may not have been able to save enough money to qualify for a home loan. The program would allow newly certified teachers to borrow $15,000 toward mortgage and for the first five years of the loan pay interest on $15,000 of the loan. If the teacher continues to teach in the public school system for five years, $5000 is forgiven. For the next five years the teacher would pay interest only on the remaining $10,000. If the teacher continues to teach in Utah for those additional years, the $10,000 would be forgiven. “This was designed to recruit and retain quality teachers,” said Hemingway. Teachers could qualify only if they have received their Utah teaching certificate within the last 5 years. The bill has passed in the House and is awaiting passage in the Senate education committee.
HB 162 Utah School Seismic Hazard Inventory
Representative Larry Wiley introduced HB 162, which requires a seismic evaluation of all public schools using specified standards, creates a public school seismic safety committee for a certain period of time, requires the public school seismic safety committee to determine a threshold score on the seismic evaluation, and requires the State Board of Education to adopt administrative rules. “Retrofitting our public schools is something we need to take very seriously,” said Wiley. The bill is currently being held in the Rules Committee.
HB 330 State Supplemental Funding for Head Start
Representative Lou Shurtliff is sponsoring HB 330 which allocates $700,000 for Head Start. These funds will provide 100 additional slots for children who are currently on a 900 child waiting list. One-third of those slots would be in St. George and Cedar City. “Head Start has never received state funding,” said Representative Shurtlif. There are seven Head Start programs in the state. Utah does not sponsor a pre-k program.
Pilot Program for Certified Teacher Librarians
Representative Tim Cosgrove is asking for an appropriation of $1.7 million which will be used to put more certified teacher librarians in public schools. “Certified teacher librarians help students become critical thinkers, to access and evaluate in the application of information,” said Cosgrove. “More and more, students are vastly unprepared for college because they are not being taught how to do quality research. In this era of ‘cut and paste’ research where students are using the internet to find information, they are not being taught to discern between what is good information and what is false information. Putting more certified teacher librarians into our schools will help students think more critically about the research they are doing.” The pilot program will run for three years with an assessment before, during, and after to judge the success of the impact and relationship between increased student achievement and increased test scores.
Representatives Tim Cosgrove, D-Murray, Jim Gowans, D-Tooele, Lynn Hemingway, D-Salt Lake City, Karen Morgan, D-Salt Lake City, Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake City, LaWanna Shurtliff, D-Ogden, and Larry Wiley, D-Salt Lake City presented their bills and answered questions regarding budget priorities. Also present were Minority Leader Brad King, D-Price, Minority Whip David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, and Minority Caucus Manager Phil Riesen, D-Salt Lake City.