Educators happy with 2022 legislative session despite hating how it started

Mar 4, 2022, 7:18 PM
utah state capitol first responders mental health...
(File photo: The reflecting pool at the Utah State Capitol. Photo: Paul Nelson)
(File photo: The reflecting pool at the Utah State Capitol. Photo: Paul Nelson)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL — Oh, how things have changed over the legislative session.  Educators say the session that started as “continued attacks” on teachers ended up being “mostly good.” 

The bills they hated

Several proposed bills came under heavy fire from the Utah Education Association over the course of the session.  For instance, Senate Bill 157 would have given the state total sovereignty over what is taught in schools, plus it would have granted parents “primary authority and responsibility for the education of the parents’ children.”  An earlier version of the bill would have allowed parents to sue educators if they didn’t feel they had enough control over what their child was learning.

Association President Heidi Matthews says that sent a message to teachers that parents didn’t trust teachers.

She said, “When the bills kept going and going and going, it was just a sense of attack.”

Another bill they opposed would have created the “Hope Scholarship,” which would have given scholarships to low-income families to boost their child’s education, which could also be applied for private school tuition.  It eventually failed in a lopsided defeat.

Matthews says these bills made teachers all over the state want to quit their jobs, in droves.  Even though the bills they opposed never got much traction on Capitol Hill, Matthews says many teachers still feel hurt.

“Educators in Utah are so deeply committed and dedicated to the success of their students that that bruise, that insult to their core being, is going to be a road to overcome,” Matthews said.

Educators happy with increased funding, but they still have concerns

The UEA was very happy with the amount of funding they received over the session.  Lawmakers say they increased funding by over nine percent, overall. And they increased the weighted pupil unit by over six percent.  President-Elect Renee Pinkney says they actually got more funding than they asked for to cover teachers’ flexible learning.

While Pinkney is calling this a “win” for the UEA, she says rising inflation has them worried about how far their budgets will stretch.

“With the inflationary factor that was already built in, we know that inflation, right now, is way higher,” she said.

Plus, she says there’s another concern.  Many kids have actually lost skills over the pandemic. And those children will need one-on-one time with teachers to bring them back to where they should be.

Pinkney said, “We just don’t know how many kids are going to be in that situation once we are through this, all the way.”

Not only do they need to retain as many teachers as possible, but Pinkney says they need to hire more to ensure students get the quality education they need.

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Educators happy with 2022 legislative session despite hating how it started