HB 215 and Base Budget
I hope you’re having an enjoyable weekend so far.
Believe it or not, we are already two weeks into the general legislative session. With only 45 days to debate and pass hundreds of bills, every day is important and full of meaningful deliberation. Stay up-to-date and watch committee meetings or floor time at le.utah.gov.
I appreciated the chance to join Jason Perry on the Hinckley Report this week to discuss some of the big bills we’ve passed in the past two weeks.
We’ve had some big bills pass this session already and I wanted to give you an update.
HB 215: Funding for Teacher Salaries and Optional Education Opportunities
Over interim, I have been working hard on HB 215 and was ecstatic that the bill passed in both the House (54-20) and in the Senate (20-8). The past two weeks have been historic for the Utah State Legislature with the final passage of HB 215, as we became the first legislative body in the country to pass school choice legislation with a supermajority. Right now, 25 other states are reviewing bills that give parents additional options for education. Yesterday the bill was signed into law by Governor Spencer Cox.
I wanted to clarify a few things and answer questions I've received about the bill.
This bill does two important things:
Gives $6,000 directly to teachers in a compensation increase
Empowers parents with more options for their child’s educational experience by creating the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program. This program is prioritized for students based on need, but available to all Utah students.
We are focusing on the most important components of education: our teachers, students, and parents.
How much will the Utah Fits program and teacher pay increase cost?
The scholarship program has a set appropriated amount of $42 million dollars. We anticipate that roughly 5,000 students will able to get a scholarship through this program. Broken down that is less than 4 students/school across the state. The bill also doubles the amount of money the state puts into teacher pay through the educator salary adjustment program, in total this is an ongoing $6,000 increase in compensation for teachers ($200 million in total.)
What protections are in place to maintain the autonomy of private schools and homeschool families?
The bill language specifically prohibits the program managing entity from mandating curriculum standards. Additionally, the bill makes it clear that nothing in the bill expands the regulatory authority of the state to impose any additional regulations on private schools or home school families.
What is Utah’s public education budget?
Last year we spent a total of $7.3 Billion for public education, of that amount, $4.7 Billion came directly from state funds. The Utah Fits All program is less than 1% of the entire state budget for education, and less than half a percent of the total education spending, based off last year’s numbers. I am sure we will be just as generous this year, in funding our public education system and ensuring our students receive a quality education.
This bill as an important step in refocusing our efforts to prioritize student learning and empowering families.
I firmly believe that supporting education means supporting the best approach for educating each individual child in our state. Supporting teachers as the frontline of education, and supporting students, who should be absolute focus of our efforts in education, do not have to be mutually exclusive. The Utah Fits All Scholarship is for every child, from every background, with every learning style. This scholarship will empower families to make the best decisions for their kiddos in providing opportunities to learn in a way that makes sense for them.
Balancing the state budget is one of the most important constitutional responsibilities given to lawmakers. Utah is actually the ONLY state in the nation that allows all lawmakers to be a part of the budgeting process. All 104 lawmakers sit on an appropriation subcommittee, and this week, the House and Senate passed the base budget, which will help fund key areas in our state. My colleagues and I will continue to make adjustments to the state budget over the next several weeks.
Water Week - Jan 30- Feb 3
Next week is #WaterWeek, and we’ll be talking about preserving, conserving, and optimizing Utah’s water all week long.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve our district. Please feel free to email me with any concerns or questions you have at email@example.com. Be sure to include your home address so I know you live in my district!
Candice B. Pierucci
State Representative for House District 49
Follow me on social media @RepCandicePierucci