Lawmakers propose bills to boost educationFeb 08, 2024 02:14PM ● By Becky Ginos
Sen. President J. Stuart Adams, along with other lawmakers, speaks at a press conference held last week to introduce several bills focused on education. Photo by Becky Ginos
UTAH STATE CAPITOL—The legislature is making education a top priority again this session after investing millions into it last year. In the past 10 years public education funding has been increased by $2.5 billion. Several lawmakers are proposing policies to improve teacher recruitment and retention. Legislators held a press conference last week to talk about their bills.
“We have one of the highest starting salaries in the west,” said Sen. President J. Stuart Adams. “No one has increased education spending more than Utah. We’ve had great outcomes. Our kids are what’s important to us.”
“When I started in the legislature nine years ago, a first year teacher in the Jordan School District made $35,000,” said Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-Salt Lake County and sponsor of SB173, Market Informed Compensation for Teachers. “This year it’s $60,000. That’s an incredible investment here in the legislature.”
Fillmore’s bill creates the optional Excellence in Education and Leadership Supplement program. “As teachers enter into the profession they need to know they have the chance to move up,” he said. “The top performing teachers who are leaders, mentors, and who are doing the greatest good to improve student outcomes can have their salaries increased up to $100,000. We want to make teaching a six figure profession.”
This empowers teachers and lets them know they are supported and valued, said Fillmore.
“Teachers come but they don’t stay,” said Rep. Karen Peterson, R-Clinton. “We don’t pay student teachers. That’s a huge challenge. They need to pay rent, tuition and a mortgage. Some often defer for a semester to work and save money.”
HB221 provides a stipend for those who are currently student teachers and enrolled in an educational program that leads to becoming a teacher, Peterson said. “This will allow them to focus on being a quality educator, and learn to write lesson plans and how to interact with students and parents.”
Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Salt Lake County is sponsoring HB431 Teacher Retention. “It creates a hotline for teachers to call the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) when they’re facing administrative hurdles and red tape,” she said. “We have one for parents but not for teachers. It helps them navigate at the district level.”
It also creates the Mentoring and Supporting Teacher Excellence and Refinement Program (MASTER), said Pierucci. “We have rock star teachers. This gives the local districts the ability to pay teachers more.”
HB431 also requires school districts to provide at least three weeks of paid maternity leave, she said. “We want to make sure that our teachers who are new moms can stay home with their child and reenter the profession so they don’t feel like they need to quit.”
“I’m the first college graduate in my family,” said Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Washington Counties. “Teachers have played a big role in my life. Aside from my parents, teachers made it possible for me to be where I am today.”
“The message we want to send to teachers is that we’re listening,” said Adams. “We love our teachers. We’re trying to do our best to make sure they have what they need. We love our children. We have unbelievably talented teachers.”
This is an exciting day for kids and teachers, he said. “We want everyone to know the positive things we’re doing to help kids.”