Utah lawmakers pass over 100 education-related bills, USBE member says it’s ‘too many’

Mar 9, 2023, 8:00 PM | Updated: Mar 10, 2023, 9:51 am

The Utah State Board of Education says students around the state are showing signs of academic reco...

The Utah State Board of Education building in Salt Lake City is pictured on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Some members of the Utah State Board of Education are not happy about how many education-related bills were passed during the 2023 legislative session. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Some members of the Utah State Board of Education aren’t happy about how many education-related bills were passed during the 2023 legislative session.

During a recap discussion of the session during Thursday’s month meeting, board member Cindy Davis criticized the numbers.

“299 bill files introduced this year that all would impact education, they all didn’t pass, but over 100 passed. It’s too many,” she said.

The exact number is 116. That number includes resolutions, bills that would impact board members, retirement systems, education funding, and curriculum bills.

“We could maybe look in the interim at asking for a bill to limit education bills,” Davis suggested.

In a quick summary presented to the Board, some of those bills were highlighted.

Individual members pushing for bills

Carol Lear took issue with some of those bills being generated from individual members of the board, instead of coming from board leadership.

“I thought that’s what the board leadership were doing, only to find out that individual board members were working on maybe even initiating bills that confused lawmakers I talked to,” she said. 

Board Chairman, Jim Moss said members can act alone. Lear wanted the board to be on the same page.

“I think that if it’s going to be a free for all, then let’s just do it,” Lear responded. “If we’re going to work as a body, and keep the numbers down, let’s do that.”

Lear also said she was concerned about many of the bills creating rules the board has already made. 

Board member Sarah Reale said she felt lawmakers weren’t consulting with locally elected education reps.

“It’s wild to me to see legislators not talking to their local school boards, not talking to their state board of education rep, and without any consultation running these bills,” she said.

But board Vice Chair Jenny Earl suggested that maybe the issues that did bubble up were because constituents didn’t get sufficient answers from their local officials. 

“I think for (this board) there is an element of what did come to the surface and (we should) say ‘why is that surfacing?’ Why were there so many sensitive materials issues coming up?”

The whole discussion was about a half-hour of their all day meeting. Members also expressed their concerns over specific bills. 

Legislature receptive to board input

Moss pointed out that he has had conversations with legislative leadership about the Board being involved sooner in the legislative process, and said they were receptive. 

“[I’ve had discussions about] the State Board convening some meetings…that we might take the driver’s seat and figure out what’s out there, what’s already in place, what’s the problem, what do we know about the problem, and who’s lane is it to solve the problem,” he said. “I think they’re supportive of that.” 

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Utah lawmakers pass over 100 education-related bills, USBE member says it’s ‘too many’