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August 2023 - Newsletter

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As summer gradually yields to the refreshing embrace of autumn, our legislative focus remains unwavering. August brought us back to the corridors of the Capitol, busy with vibrant interim activities and committee engagements following a break in July. This return to duty coincides with the dawn of a new academic year, igniting a sense of excitement and possibility.

For students across all stages of learning, this back-to-school season represents a fresh chapter, an opportunity to grow, learn, and forge enduring memories. It's a time of promise and aspiration. I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to the dedicated parents, teachers and administrators who, through their tireless commitment, create an environment where our children truly thrive.

This past legislative session, we appropriated historic funding to education, and I await observing the tangible benefits as our students flourish and excel with enhanced resources. In the spirit of unity, let's engage with neighbors, classmates and friends to craft a school year teeming with positive connections, shared goals and a genuine commitment to mutual support.

Below, I'm pleased to share insights into recent developments within our state and district, reflecting my ongoing involvement and preparation as we anticipate the forthcoming 2024 General Legislative Session.

Education/Back to School

Funding education has been and will continue to be a top priority for me and the Utah Legislature. This year, $15 billion went to public education and education programs, more than half of the state budget, and increased the WPU by 13% in ongoing funds and 18.5% in one-time funds. The funding included teacher salary raises, all-day kindergarten, educator preparation, school safety, teen centers and online education programs.

I want to express my appreciation for the teachers and school staff. You have and will continue to help model countless kids throughout the years, preparing and championing them to achieve more and reach for greater success. I wish parents, students, teachers and faculty a successful school year of fun, memorable and educational moments.

I also wanted to share some 2023 education session highlights as the new school year begins.

Budget Highlights for Public Education

  • $440.6 million – Public Education Stabilization Account Available

  • $239.4 million – Funding for Teacher Salaries and Optional Education Opportunities (H.B. 215)

  • $236 million – 6% WPU increase (includes base budget increase of $132 million)

  • $160.8 million – Permanent State School Fund

  • $64 million – Educator Preparation and Collaboration Time

  • $50 million – Small School Critical Capital Needs Fund

  • $30 million – Flexible Funding WPU Distribution to 4th-6th Class County Schools

  • $26.4 million (ongoing) and $586,500 (one-time) – At-Risk Students WPU Weighting Increase

  • $17.9 million – Educator Salary Amendments (S.B. 183)

Budget Highlights for Education Programs

  • $75 million – School Safety Requirements (H.B. 61)

  • $64 million – Educator Preparation and Collaboration Time

  • $25 million – Optional Full-day Kindergarten Expansion

  • $15 million – Teen Centers for Students Experiencing Homelessness

  • $7.1 million – Grow Your Own Teacher and Counselor Pipeline

  • $6 million – Pupil Transportation

  • $1.69 million – Statewide Online Education Program Amendments - (S.B. 45)

  • $1.2 million – First Lady's initiative to “Show Up for Teachers”

H.B. 215 Funding for Teacher Salaries and Optional Education Opportunities Update created the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program, which empowers parents to create a personalized education for their child. The scholarship prioritizes students from low and middle-income families and funds up to $8,000 each year to pay for the child’s private or alternative education. Additionally, H.B. 215 doubled the funding in the Educator Salary Adjustment Program and increases teacher compensation directly by about $6,000 ($4,200 direct salary increase plus employer-paid benefits).

S.B. 183 Educator Salary Amendments is a companion bill to H.B. 215 that appropriates funding and ties the teacher salary supplement and educator salary adjustment raises to increase yearly with the WPU value instead of remaining stagnant. Additionally, it made all teachers eligible for these benefits until they have received three unsatisfactory ratings instead of one.

H.B. 477 Full-day Kindergarten Amendments expanded access to optional full-day kindergarten statewide and funds kindergarten students as a full-weighted pupil unit.

S.B. 83 Public Education Funding Equalization redistributes education revenues across the state to areas that are most in need.

S.B. 55 Public School Instructional Material Requirements allows parents the opportunity to share public comment when a school board considers approving curriculum for the entire school district.

S.B. 100 School District Gender Identity Policies requires each school and local governing board to ensure a parent's right to access information regarding their child and prohibits a school from treating a student by a different gender identity without parental consent.

H.B. 209 Participation in Extracurricular Activities Amendments makes it possible for non-traditional students to join extracurricular activities outside the student’s public school boundaries. It also requires schools to collect and check students’ birth certificates before participating in high school sports.

H.B. 163 Protecting Student Religious and Moral Beliefs Regarding Athletic Uniform Requirements protects students' choice to wear religious or moral headwear and clothing, such as hijab, yarmulke, turban or other articles consistent with the student athlete's beliefs, during athletic activities.

H.B. 348 Participation Waiver Amendments gives parents greater ability to remove their children from school instruction or activities that they feel violate their right of conscience or religious beliefs.

Utah Fits All Scholarship: Pre-Application Launch

The past couple of years have highlighted that a one-size for all approach to education does not work for every child. During the 2023 session, the Legislature passed the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program. Enabling parents to create a personalized education for their child.

The scholarship prioritizes students from low and middle-income families and funds up to $8,000 each year to pay for the child’s private or alternative education.

The program is now accepting pre-applications, allowing parents to stay informed about important program developments, rule changes and essential milestones. Learn more and pre-apply your child for Utah Fits All Scholarship here.


The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) is a state government agency established in 1994 to manage and administer lands granted to the state by the federal government to support public schools and other institutions. These lands are held in trust, and SITLA's primary responsibility is to generate revenue from these lands to fund public education.

The agency engages in various activities to maximize the value of these lands, including leasing for mineral and energy development, commercial real estate, agriculture and other uses. The revenue plays a crucial role in generating funds for education and other important state institutions while also ensuring the responsible and sustainable use of these trust lands. The agency's management strategies involve balancing economic development and environmental stewardship to provide long-term benefits for Utah's public education system.

A record $96 million was distributed directly to Utah's schools from SITLA funds during the 2022-2023 school year. Our District received $4.6 million from SITLA last year.

August Interim

August Advice and Consent

It is the Senate’s responsibility to provide advice and consent on appointments made by the governor. During August interim, we met to confirm several appointments, including two new judges – Judge Charles Stormont for the 3rd District Court and Judge Eric Gentry in the 5th District Court. These individuals have shown exceptional expertise and a strong dedication to public service. I am grateful for their willingness to serve our state in their new capacity.

School Security Task Force Update

The School Security Task Force focuses on recommending safety and security protocols for designing, constructing and reconstructing new and existing schools. This month the task force received presentations from state experts on best practices to better secure our school campuses statewide for emergencies and hazards. Increasing the overall safety of students and educators is a primary objective for the Legislature. The efforts of our task force and committees, in partnership with community leaders and stakeholders, will lead to great strides in campus protection. Watch the presentations here.

Homeless Services Update

The Economic Development and Workforce Services interim committee received presentations from the State Homeless Coordinator, the Salt Lake County Office of Criminal Justice Initiatives, and First Step House. They discussed services the state government, county government and non-profit organizations provide and reviewed the state’s strategic plan to respond to homelessness in our state. The Office of Homeless Services correlated the cost of housing to the rate of homelessness and gave an overview on funding, grants and how these allocations are being spent. The committee also analyzed a successful model of Miami-Dade County’s approach to homelessness. View the committee meeting here.

Ski Bus Service and Canyon Transportation

The Transportation Interim Committee received presentations from the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) on ski bus services for the 2023-2024 season and the future of transportation in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. UTA presented its workforce strategy as a solution for staffing shortages, which led to bus route cancellations during the ski season. The UTA seeks to restore ski bus operations to their prior levels by the 2024-2025 ski season. Watch the discussion here.

Insurance Coverage for Ambulance Supplies and Medications

The Business and Labor interim committee met to discuss recent insurance provider changes that could require patients to pay out-of-pocket the cost of supplies, medications and the administration medications used while being transported by ambulance. The committee heard presentations and testimonies from different fire chiefs and paramedics across Utah about the impact these rising costs can have. Committee members discussed capping the prices of these supplies and medications and whether or not insurance companies should be required to provide benefits for ambulance transportation and supplies. Watch the committee meeting here.

Outdoor Recreation Update

The Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Committee received an update from Jason Curry, the Director of Utah's Division of Outdoor Recreation Program, who presented an overview of the program's first year. The division's comprehensive scope includes:

  • Components of the parks and recreation program

  • Boating program

  • Trails management

Law enforcement in recreational settings

Last year outdoor recreation contributed $6.1 billion annually to Utah's GDP, a 2.7 percent increase from the prior year, along with 66,000 jobs and $3.1 billion in wages. This year, other notable achievements include the addition of four new trail crews, streamlined online boating paperwork services with Spanish support and strategic attention to under-covered high-risk recreation areas. Learn more here.

"Disagree Better"

Gov. Cox launched a "Disagree Better” initiative to demonstrate how we can disagree in productive ways, not letting polarization stop us from having necessary discussions with those from different political parties.

I have constituents on both ends of the political spectrum who I have been elected to represent in the Utah Legislature. I appreciate hearing from all my constituents. While we may not always agree, receiving input from multiple perspectives helps me make well-educated votes. In the Legislature, I am grateful for the civility between my colleagues across the aisle. We strive to demonstrate how to disagree in a way that results in productive conversations and the best policy that benefits the entire state.

The Harms of Social Media Campaign Launch

Studies show a correlation between social media use and increased mental health issues in youth. With 76% of Utah children using social media, it's crucial to recognize that it cannot replace real-world interactions.

Utah recently launched a 'Harms of Social Media' public awareness campaign to help educate and empower parents about the potential dangers social media poses to our children.

Research shows 88% of Utah parents acknowledge the detrimental impact of social media on their children's well-being. This campaign seeks to help equip parents with the knowledge and tools to take action.

Tips for parents regarding social media activity:

  • Create a family media plan with expectations of how and when to use technology and social media.

  • Learn about social media platforms and how they work.

  • Have open and honest discussions with your child about the harms of social media and spending time online.

  • Model responsible online behavior for your child.

  • Reconsider allowing your child to have social media.

  • Free up time to connect with your child device-free.

  • Create tech-free zones & find opportunities to connect in person with your child.

Access additional resources and information here.

NCSL Awards

Utah’s legislative excellence shone bright this year at the NCSL annual Summit, where staff was nationally recognized. The Office of the Legislative Auditor General (OLAG) received the prestigious Excellence in Evaluation Award, a testament to their commitment to enhancing program evaluation and accountability.

Andrea Wilko, chief economist for LFA, received the Legislative Staff Achievement Award for the Standing Committees. She continues to help lead a team of economists that support the Legislature through long-term planning efforts, including budget stress testing, volatility analysis, tax change analysis and long-term budget development over her 30 years of service at LFA. These remarkable achievements highlight that our legislative staff is the best, and their pivotal role does not go unnoticed.

Aundrea Peterson, deputy chief of staff for the Senate, received the Legislative Staff Achievement Award for her leadership skills, innovative thinking, strategic planning and dedication to the legislative institution.

Property Taxes

I've heard from many constituents who were surprised to see a drastic increase in their property taxes this year. While the Legislature stopped a $146 million property tax increase, property taxes are largely under local control. However, inflationary pressures and dramatic increases in property values have affected the increased tax burden.

Each year property tax rates rebalance to ensure the entire state is evenly paying for public education even though the costs vary throughout the state. However, in recent years the values of some types of properties in some areas have grown faster than others. Despite the rebalancing process, this disproportionate value increase has made property taxes grow faster for some. For example, unprecedented relative growth in certain areas, like Washington and Utah counties, has resulted in a higher property tax burden for these areas.

The Legislature has been reviewing ways for the state to help address concerns surrounding property tax increases. The Revenue and Taxation Committee spent its entire interim committee meeting discussing this issue. Committee staff provided a helpful overview regarding how property taxes work in our state. The committee also heard from county assessors about a statewide shift between residential property and commercial property owners, influencing the rise in the property tax burden. You can listen to the committee's discussion regarding this issue and potential ways for the state to respond to the property tax increases here.

I will continue to work with my colleagues to review this issue as we prepare for the 2024 General Session.

September Interim in St. George

Next month, the Utah Legislature will meet in St. George for September interim meetings. Interim meetings have traditionally always been held at the Utah Capitol. This is the first time in the history of the state that the Legislature will convene for interim meetings anywhere other than Salt Lake City. All committee meetings will still be streamed on the legislative website (, and you are welcome to participate virtually at committee meetings. As our September meetings get closer, you can find additional details about the time and location of our interim meetings on the legislative website (

Kind regards,

Senator Ron Winterton

Utah Senate District 20

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