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August 2023 - Newsletter

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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.


SITLA

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 va