Utah education news

Senate committee approves updates to school grading system

Utah schools would still be labeled with a letter grade under a bill that gained committee approval on Thursday. But the grading system would no longer be set on a curve that restricts the number of high-achieving campuses, and greater emphasis would be placed on growth in student test scores. The Senate Education Committee voted unanimously to advance SB220 to the full Senate for debate. Another bill, HB241, is awaiting debate in the House and would end the state’s practice of assigning lette...

Senate committee supports lesser penalties for school truancy

Failing to send a child to school could earn a parent an infraction, down from a Class B misdemeanor, under a bill OK’d Thursday by a committee. SB115 would lower the criminal penalty for truancy, a relatively rare but occasionally used tool to motivate school attendance, with subsequent offenses in a single school year rising to a Cass C misdemeanor. Bill sponsor Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, said there is a need to remove the criminal element from compulsory education issues. “Let’s keep it ou...

House panel gives unanimous support to campus free speech bill

A bill protecting free speech rights on public college and university campuses sailed through committee with a unanimous vote on Thursday. HB54 designates the outdoor areas of a campus as public forums, and allows for legal action if expression is limited in those areas without narrowly-tailored, viewpoint-neutral criteria. Bill sponsor Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, said there have been instances where campus administrators have limited speech to certain areas, or required prior approval fo...

Bill to give teachers at low-income schools a bonus clears Utah House committee without a vote to spare

It’s human nature to look for work environments that are safe and comfortable, Weber State University education professor Forrest Crawford said Wednesday. But in the context of schools, Crawford said, that natural inclination results in many of Utah’s best teachers working in affluent and homogeneous classrooms that have fewer academic needs. “Teachers are not necessarily inclined to graduate from a program and go to a high-risk [school],” he said. “We have to be able to encourage that in as man...

Utah bans 'advocacy of homosexuality' in the classroom. This bill would strike that law.

If there is a problem with Utah’s sex education law, Sen. Stuart Adams said Tuesday, it should be the Legislature, and not the courts, that fixes it. “I don’t really love the fact that courts have the opportunity to legislate,” said Adams, R-Layton. “We need to do that job.” Adams was referring to a lawsuit filed against the Utah Board of Education by Equality Utah, which challenges a prohibition in Utah law against “the advocacy of homosexuality” during classroom discussions. The senator is spo...

House committee approves bill to end Utah school grading

Utah’s school grading system launched with good intentions of helping schools, Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, said Monday, But six years of the controversial and perennially-altered program has produced little more than a socio-economic survey of students and frustrating moving targets for teachers, she said. “School grading has become the public shaming of hardworking schools and educators,” Poulson said. “Basically, it’s a zip code system.” On Monday, members of the House Educati...

House speaker: Lawmakers won't act on nonpartisan school board bill

A proposal to keep state school board elections nonpartisan is currently stuck in the House Rules Committee and likely to stay there, House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said Monday. Without legislative action, elections for state school board are scheduled to become partisan in 2018, the result of what Hughes called a “hard-earned” compromise approved last year. But after years of debate on the issue, Hughes said the state needs to see its existing law put into effect before looking to make ...

Free teacher licenses and 3% school spending bump in latest budget numbers

Utah lawmakers are looking to increase per-student education spending by roughly $90 million this year, a 3 percent increase, and end the practice of charging fees for educator licenses. Those budget details were teased out Monday by Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, co-chairman of the Public Education Appropriates Subcommittee. The subcommittee is expected to finalize its budget recommendations Monday afternoon, but McCay said lawmakers are committed to prioritizing the weighted pupil unit, or WPU,... <iframe src="http://www.sltrib.com/csp/mediapool/sites/sltrib/pages/garss.csp" height="1" width="1" > </frame>

'Thug Thursday' draws apology from Utah high school principal

A day after students dressed up for “Thug Thursday” at a Utah high school, the principal has apologized to parents and students for the “very inappropriate” Spirit Week celebration. This week at Olympus High School, students have been encouraged to dress according to themes, such as “ ’Merica Monday,” “Tropical Tuesday” and “Workout Wednesday.” But Thursday’s event, where students were encouraged to dress like “thugs,” was met with controversy. In a written apology addressed to the Olympus High ...

Panel OKs later school start times

A debate over the proper start time for Utah’s high schools is headed to the House floor. Members of the House Education Committee voted 8-2 on Thursday in favor of a resolution that encourages high schools to postpone their morning bells until 8:30 am or later. The resolution’s sponsor, Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, said there is a growing body of research suggesting that teenagers are naturally impeded from waking at early hours. That can lead to inattention in class, she said, and c...

Is proposed tax increase 1% or 17.5%? Depends on what you count, which could affect $750M ballot initiative

Depending on how Utahns look at the Our Schools Now ballot initiative, their income taxes would go up by seven-eighths of 1 percent, or by 17.5 percent. Both figures are accurate, as Our Schools Now would lift the income tax rate from 5 percent to 5.875 percent — a bump of less than 1 percent. But the practical impact of that change is a 17.5 percent increase in the dollars an income earner owes the state each year. “Seven-eighths of 1 percent, from a marketing perspective, sounds really, reall... <iframe src="http://www.sltrib.com/csp/mediapool/sites/sltrib/pages/garss.csp" height="1" width="1" > </frame>

Utah sex ed needs attention, legislators say, but abstinence angle will continue

Utah schools will continue to teach an abstinence-based sexual education curriculum after a bill to allow comprehensive instruction was defeated in committee. Despite several Republican lawmakers saying sex education in Utah needs improvement, the House Education Committee voted 12-2 along party lines to reject HB215, sponsored by Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City. “I’m not ready to go here yet,” said Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns. “But I’m not ready to stop yet because things are broken.” The c...

Bill to give poor school districts extra money passes first Senate vote

A proposal to set aside funding for Utah’s poorest school districts earned early Senate approval on Monday. By a preliminary 20-8 vote, Senators advanced SB80, which would capture one-third of annual education spending increases in order to incrementally raise the funding floor for public schools. Bill sponsor Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, said the bill is necessary to address the disparity in local property tax revenue, which is used by districts to supplement state dollars. School ... <iframe src="http://www.sltrib.com/csp/mediapool/sites/sltrib/pages/garss.csp" height="1" width="1" > </frame>

Democratic lawmaker says he's 'ashamed' of the 'preposterous' U of U athletics audit

A Utah senator apologized to the University of Utah and its athletic director, Chris Hill, on Monday, while urging his legislative colleagues to do the same. Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, made his comments in response to a legislative audit of the University of Utah athletic department, which found relatively minor financial and inventory infractions amid generally positive budgetary practices. Legislative auditors had conducted their investigation professionally, Dabakis said, but their... <iframe src="http://www.sltrib.com/csp/mediapool/sites/sltrib/pages/garss.csp" height="1" width="1" > </frame>

Lawmaker says schools shouldn't get technology funding if they don't spend it correctly

The story of an old man saving stranded starfish on a beach, one by one, got a retelling recently by Sen. Howard Stephenson. The Draper Republican’s version of the tale — made into a parable on Utah education — focuses less on each starfish tossed to safety in the ocean and more on the countless more left dying on the sand. “I’m asking you to discard that warm feeling when you consider the tens of thousands that didn’t get saved,” Stephenson told members of the House Democratic Caucus. “There a...

House panel punts on plan to reward teachers working in low-income schools

The House Education Committee adjourned abruptly Thursday, leaving in limbo a bill that would offer bonus pay to effective teachers willing to work with low-income students. HB212 would pay a bonus of $5,000 — with annual increases up to $10,000 — when one of the state’s top-performing 5 percent of teachers works at one of the 92 most economically-challenged schools. Teacher performance would be based on their median growth percentile, or MGP, a measurement of how much improvement students make ...

Poll: Utahns split on later school start times

Throughout her career as a public school teacher, state Rep. Carol Spackman Moss said the first period of the day was always the hardest. “I didn’t have problems with behavior,” the Holladay Democrat said. “I had problems because kids were falling asleep.” Moss is sponsoring a resolution in this year’s Utah Legislature, encouraging the state’s high schools to make classes start later in the day. The measure highlights the health benefits of additional sleep for children, citing Centers for Dis...

U. details efforts to improve response to sex assault

The University of Utah recently trained its campus police force to understand how trauma can impact the memory and behavior of a student reporting an attack — just one of the ways the school is improving how it responds to sexual assault on campus, U. President David Pershing said in a recent letter. The letter was sent last week to a group of U. students and recent graduates who were concerned about a campuswide email Pershing sent in December. He was providing an update on the investigation i... <iframe src="http://www.sltrib.com/csp/mediapool/sites/sltrib/pages/garss.csp" height="1" width="1" > </frame>

LDS Business College names new president

Bruce Kusch will take the helm of LDS Business College in April, becoming the school’s 13th president. Kusch’s new role — he currently is serving as the school’s chief academic officer — was announced Tuesday by President Dieter Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “After prayerful consideration, the Board of Trustees has chosen an individual to serve as the new the president of LDS Business College who will continue to build upon the solid foundat... <iframe src="http://www.sltrib.com/csp/mediapool/sites/sltrib/pages/garss.csp" height="1" width="1" > </frame>

As $7M turnaround program wobbles, educators eye lower-cost alternatives to help Utah's struggling schools

West Valley City • After years of low performance, West Lake Junior High School principal Tyler Howe is optimistic that his school is on the rise. Test scores are trending up, he said, and teachers have a renewed drive, thanks in part to coaching from the consulting firm Ed Direction. But Howe said it is still hard to hire and retain teachers at a school that is considered failing by the state. “It’s definitely got a label,” he said. “I think that makes our staffing that much more challenging... <iframe src="http://www.sltrib.com/csp/mediapool/sites/sltrib/pages/garss.csp" height="1" width="1" > </frame>

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