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Utah Legislative Session Ends with Historic Wins for Civics Education

For educators, students, and others with a stake in improving civic teaching and learning, Utah’s 45-day Legislative Session will be one for the record books. By the time lawmakers adjourned sine die (Latin for adjourn for the last time) at midnight on March 5, civics came out with way more wins than losses and plenty of “hooks” for UCLC priorities going forward.


LEGISLATIVE WINS

  • HB 273 Civics Education Amendments (Rep. Dan Johnson), the Utah Civic Learning Collaborative’s signature initiative, provides funding ($1.5 million over 3 years) for competitive grants from LEAs for innovative efforts in civics education. Grants can support programs as varied as academic service learning, mock trials, student government, simulations of governmental processes, and more. See Ideas for Innovations generated in our listening tours. The UCLC is organizing a bill signing ceremony to bring visibility to the tremendous opportunity to innovate at the local level that is presented by HB 273.

  • HB 396 Paid Professional Hours for Educators (Rep. Jefferson Moss) requires the State Board of Education (USBE) to provide funding for additional paid hours for educators to pursue professional learning and practices that will improve instruction and student achievement--we can't think of a better use for this than civics. The bill includes one time funding of $64,000,000. School districts (LEAs) will get funds based on their WPU (Weighted Pupil Unit) and make their own decisions about how that professional learning will occur. Educators will be required to create a plan in consultation with their principal that outlines how they intend to use these hours over the course of the school year.

  • SB 244 Ethnic Studies (Sen. Kirk Cullimore) forms a Commission to guide how the USBE will incorporate ethnic studies into core academic standards and integrate ethnic studies into regular school work for K-12. Ethnic studies means "the interdisciplinary social and historical study of how different populations have experienced and participated in building the United States of America, including the study of the culture, history, and contributions of ethnic minorities.” The USBE will hire a half-time position to help facilitate implementation. At a recent UCLC meeting we heard from Brian Yazzie, a member of UCLC and the coalition working to pass SB 244 that civic and civil rights angles in ethnic studies is a key priority for SB 244. We will explore a joint discussion to explore synergies across the UCLC and SB244.


APPROPRIATIONS (SEPARATE FROM THE BILLS ABOVE) VICTORIES

  • Civic Thought and Leadership Initiative: $1.25 million (ongoing funds). Utah Valley University’s Center for Constitutional Studies prevailed in its quest to convert $1 million in 1-time start-up funding for this initiative to $1.25 million in ongoing funds. The purpose of the legislation is to provide a university platform for non-partisan civic education and research. Additionally, the initiative provides resources and training for K-12 Social Studies teachers as they prepare to teach civics in primary and secondary schools.

  • Sustaining Teacher Leadership and Engagement ($100,000 ongoing) The requested $100,000 ongoing funding will allow Hope Street Group, a unique non-union/non-partisan program to give teachers the skills to effectively work as partners with policy makers while remaining classroom teachers. Through this process teacher leaders will be able to aid policy makers in understanding the real impacts on students and teachers of specific policies, prior to their implementation. This will lead to more targeted and effective outcomes for students, as well as improving the retention of talented teachers through effective professional development.

  • Digital Wellness, Citizenship, and Safe Technology Commission. In the final days of the Session, the Legislature’s Executive Appropriations Committee saw fit to restore $300,000 (ongoing) to this commission. Originally established through legislation passed in 2020 (HB372 1st Sub by Rep. Keven Stratton), the Commission emphasizes best practices and resources for training students in healthy behavior related to technology use. Social media has many benefits, especially for civic life and engagement; but students (adults, too?) need training and support for healthy use of digital tools and technologies.


LEGISLATIVE AND APPROPRIATIONS LOSSES


  • HB 422 School District Voter Eligibility Amendments (Rep. Jordan Teuscher) proposed a pilot program giving school districts the option to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in local school board elections. The students' voter registration record was to be kept private until the student turns 18. Though the bill itself failed, a big congratulations is in order for UCLC student member Dhati Oommen and her fellow students for their compelling case before the House Government Operations Committee. This was student civic engagement at its best, folks!

  • Civics and History Enrichment Education for Teachers ($100,000) was not funded. The appropriation would have provided scholarships for Utah teachers to attend the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge seminars where American history comes alive for teacher participants.

See more details on the above HERE.


Given the many victories above, this will be a busy springtime for the UCLC. Join us at our next full meeting where we will discuss next steps on implementation. among other topics.


When: April 13, 2022 3:30-5:00 PM

Where: on Zoom (get link with registration)

Register HERE.


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