Karen Morgan named Legislative Children’s Champion

Senator Karen Morgan will be honored at the 2012 Children’s Champions Luncheon as a Legislative Children’s Champion.  Senator Morgan is being recognized for her legacy on capitol hill of working to  improve education outcomes for Utah’s kids.

The luncheon will take place on Thursday, September 1 from noon to 1:30 pm at Little America.  For more information,  call 801-364-1182.

Bill could mean donations to elementary schools

From the Salt Lake Tribune
by Lisa Schenker

Utahns might soon be able to give money to elementary schools when they file their income tax returns, if a bill that gained initial Senate approval Tuesday becomes law.

SB59 would allow Utahns the option, when filing their income tax returns, of designating elementary schools to receive contributions in the amounts of their choosing. The school principal would then, in consultation with the school community council or charter school board, decide how to spend the money.

Bill sponsor Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said the change would allow people to put more money in their local schools, or any elementary school.

Click here to read the rest of the story

Utah Senate passes bill to lower class size

From the Salt Lake Tribune
by Lisa Schencker

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday to lower class sizes for young children, despite arguments from some that it could hurt schools because of the cost.

SB31 would cap class sizes at 20 students in kindergarten and at 22 students in first, second and third grades. Or, it would require teachers’ aides, known as paraprofessionals, in larger classes.

“As we all know, the early grades are critical years in a child’s education,” said bill sponsor Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights. “These are the years a child learns foundational math and reading skills that will determine their future success.”

A number of lawmakers also praised the bill because it would require schools to meet the new caps in order to continue receiving millions of dollars a year that have long been intended for class size reduction. A 2007 legislative audit showed that $460 million meant to make class sizes smaller in Utah over seven years hadn’t led to any change, though some have said class sizes would have been even larger if not for that money.

Click here to read the rest of the story.


Breaking News! Class Size Reduction Bill passes the Senate

SALT LAKE CITY – Senator Karen Morgan’s bill to reduce classroom sizes in the lower grades passed the Utah Senate today.  The bill would put caps on class sizes – 20 students in kindergarten and at 22 students in first, second and third grades. Or, it would require teachers’ aides, known as paraprofessionals, in larger classes.   The bill also includes measures to hold schools accountable.  In order to continue to receive state money that’s long been distributed for class size reductions, schools would have to meet the new caps.

“Kindergarten through third grade is a critical time in a child’s education,” Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights, told senators. “That is the time they need more one-on-one individualized attention.”

The bill passed on a 19 – 9 vote, with all Democrats voting in favor of the measure.

How did your Senator vote?

Yeas – 19

Adams, J. S. Davis, G. Jones, P. Knudson, P. Mayne, K.
McAdams, B. Morgan, K. Niederhauser, W. Okerlund, R. Osmond, A.
Reid, S. Robles, L. Romero, R. Stephenson, H. Stevenson, J.
Valentine, J. Van Tassell, K. Waddoups, M. Weiler, T.

Nays – 9

Anderson, C. Bramble, C. Christensen, A. Dayton, M. Hinkins, D.
Jenkins, S. Madsen, M. Thatcher, D. Urquhart, S.

Absent or not voting – 1

Hillyard, L.



Senator Morgan aims to impose smaller class sizes in K-3 classrooms

From the Daily Herald
by Billy Hesterman

“It is just common sense that fewer students in a classroom allow for more one-on-one time in a classroom,” Morgan said. “These little ones need help learning the very basics of reading and math if they are going to be successful throughout the rest of their school years.”

Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, gave a strong endorsement to the bill. While many Republicans voted in favor of the bill but noted they still are deciding on their vote for final passage, Waddoups declared that he supports the plan because it is an issue that is important to his constituents.

To read the entire story, click here.


Utah legislators say yes to proposal to shrink class sizes

The Salt Lake Tribune

Parents would see fewer students in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms under a proposed bill that earned preliminary approval Monday from the Senate Education Committee.

SB31, which the committee unanimously passed on to the full Senate, would limit the number of students in academic classes to 18 in kindergarten, 20 in first grade, 22 in second grade and 24 in third grade. But schools unable to meet the requirement, possibly due to limited classrooms, could instead hire teachers aides, known as paraprofessionals.

Sen. Karen Morgan, the Cottonwood Heights Democrat who is sponsoring the bill, said she gets calls from parents every fall who are shocked to find their child’s kindergarten class has upward of 30 students.

“The most critical time to have a smaller class size is in those early grades, where children are building a foundation for learning,” she told the committee, noting that 36 states limit class sizes. “We should not be one of the 14 states plus the District of Columbia that doesn’t have some kind of a cap on enrollment.”

But she acknowledged it will be challenging to find the ongoing funds needed to hire more teachers. The cost of meeting the smaller class sizes has not yet been calculated. This year, the Davis School District spent $2.5 million, using a property-tax hike, to cover a one-student reduction in average K-3 class sizes.

Peter Cannon, a member of the Davis school board, questioned whether the bill takes flexibility away from school districts. Cannon, who was not speaking on behalf of the Davis board, said the money might be better spent on improving teacher quality through a performance-pay system.

“We in the school districts know how to help our students,” Cannon said. “We don’t need to be told to help our students the way every other school district does.”

The state’s median class sizes are 22 for kindergarten, 23 for first grade, 24 for second grade and 25 for third grade, according to the State Office of Education.

During the same meeting, the committee also passed SB39, which would give the governor greater power in hiring and firing the state’s commissioner of higher education and the president of the Utah College of Applied Technology.

“The aim of this is to try to allow the governor to encourage coordination between the three silos of education,” said sponsor Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, referring to higher education, the applied technology colleges and public education.

The State Board of Regents would still select the state’s higher-ed commissioner, and the UCAT board of trustees would still choose a president. But their selections would have to be approved by the governor and the Senate. The governor could fire either appointee after consulting with the respective board.

Reid said Gov. Gary Herbert supports the bill.


Education Funding for Public Education – Senator Ben McAdams

On Friday, Senator Ben McAdams unveiled his bill to increase Utah’s public education funding without raising taxes for Utah families.

Here’s an article in the Deseret News which talks about his plan.

Money, technology to be top education issues this legislative session




Senator, teachers ask for parent involvement in education

From KSL
by Molly Farmer

SALT LAKE CITY — When Liz Holloran asks one boy in her classroom why he does so well on tests, or why he’s so responsible at studying and homework, she always gets the same answer: “My Mom.”


Holloran, a fifth grade honors teacher at Westland Elementary, sees first-hand how important parental involvement is in producing successful children — a topic one Utah senator is planning to take on during the 2012 Legislative session.


Parents and communities — not just schools and teachers — have a responsibility to educate children, according to Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay. The assistant minority whip is drafting a resolution that would encourage parental engagement in hopes of highlighting her belief that it takes a community to truly educate a child.


“One of the common things that I hear (from teachers) is parents really are not taking the responsibility that they should be taking,” Jones said. “We need to engage parents and the community in getting them involved.”

That includes adequately preparing students for kindergarten, helping them with homework, reading aloud to them, volunteering in the classroom and more. She said her resolution is based in part on studies that show schools with active Parent Teacher Associations have higher student achievement than those who don’t.


Margaret Wahlstrom, spokeswoman for the Utah PTA, said her organization definitely supports the message of the resolution, but has not taken a formal position since it isn’t completed and filed.


“If the whole family is committed to the education of the children, there are beacoup studies that show students are more successful,” Wahlstrom said. “It’s just a win for everybody. … It is a no-brainer.”


Holloran said parents, regardless of their work schedule, would benefit from knowing the positive impact they have by following through with their children at home.


“I get to teach those kids,” she said. “When they are inspired and when they are motivated … I’m a teacher now, I’m not a disciplinarian.”


Jones said it troubles her that so often schools and teachers are maligned when students fail, when parents shirk their responsibility at home while “letting the schools pick up the pieces.”


Jones said she understands the challenges parents face, especially since many work long hours, or have long commutes, leaving little time to spend with their children. In those situations, Jones said community members need to step in to help.


“(It’s about) extending their arms to other kids that might not have that parental support,” she said.


Teachers have to fulfill tertiary roles as stand-in school nurses or counselors in addition to providing instruction and need all the support they can get, she said.


Kory Holdaway, government affairs director at the Utah Education Association, said Jones’ effort is something teachers will get behind.


“When we have the number of students that are being put into classrooms as we do… it just stands to reason that the more support that we can offer in the classroom the better services we can provide,” Holdaway said.


Beyond being attentive at home, Holdaway said parent volunteers who help out in the classroom regularly mean a lot to teachers, who have taken on more responsibilities in the last 20 years. He said he’d like to see the number of parents who volunteer in secondary schools match the number who spend time in earlier years.


“There’s a good part of that that goes on in elementary schools but it begins to diminish when we get into junior high and high school,” he said. “I think we need to figure out a way to keep those parents engaged.”


Holloran said she’s seen how successful children can be when parents and teachers work together.


“You do need that parent piece,” she said. “It’s very difficult to legislate parenthood, though. People have to know for themselves.”



Utah State House & Senate Democrats Unveil the Best Schools Initiative

The future of Utah’s children is in danger as we let the quality of our Neighborhood Schools slip. Utah has allowed itself to become not only the 50th ranked state in the nation for how many resources we are willing to put towards our children’s education, but also 42nd in quality.

The teachers in Utah are the finest in the nation, but they are not miracle workers. If we truly wish to leave the next generation of Utahns a better world than the one we were given, we must immediately work to ensure that they are given the tools for success.

This year we are introducing the Best Schools Initiative, a product of months of work by both Utah State House and Utah State Senate legislators, to ensure that our children are able to perform and compete with the rest of the nation.

The primary focus of the Best Schools Initiative is to provide every Utah child with 4 things:

  • A Great Teacher
  • Individualized Attention
  • A World-Class Curriculum
  • Family and Neighborhood Support

For years, Utah has worked to make our state #1 in business, economic development, technology and tourism. As a result, we now have the resources to make our neighborhood schools #1 in the nation as well. As caretakers and stewards, why wouldn’t we use these resources to work on the long-term security of our future? The Best Schools Initiative is designed to wisely plan for the future – to bring in new jobs, businesses, economic strength and prosperity.
“The Best Schools Initiative has the potential to change the future of our neighborhood schools,” added Representative Carol Spackman Moss. “No less than the future of Utah depends on our willingness to take the appropriate steps now in our schools, to ensure the economic strength and prosperity of tomorrow.”“The teachers in our schools plant the seeds in our children’s hearts and minds that will last throughout their lives.” said Senator Ben McAdams. “We must ensure that those seeds are nurtured and allowed to grow.”



Summary of Bills in the Best Schools Initiative:

Class Size Reduction in Grades K-3
Senator Karen Morgan

SB31 is a five year plan to limit the number of students in academic classes. The caps would be asfollows:18 in kindergarten, 20 in first grade, 22 in second grade and 24 in third grade. Or, it wouldrequire teachers’ aides, known as paraprofessionals, in larger classes. 

Paraprofessionals for Struggling Schools

Not yet numbered
Senator Karen Mayne
Under the proposal, struggling schools would be able to hire additional paraprofessionals to assistteachers in the classroom and work individually with students who may not be receiving the attentionthey need.

Concurrent Resolution Encouraging Parental Engagement in the Education of Children
Not yet numbered
Senator Patricia Jones
A key to children doing well in school is for parents to be involved in their education. This concurrentresolution will encourage parents, communities, and neighborhoods to be engaged in Utah’s schools sothat our children may have every opportunity to succeed.

Publication of Education Fund Revenue Reductions
Senator Ben McAdams
SB117 introduces a plan to restructure our education fund by prioritizing growth.

Targeted Help for Underachieving Students
Not Yet Numbered
Representative Brian Doughty
Designed specifically to increase academic achievement, this bill will create additional assistance forscholastic after-school programs such as tutoring.

Teacher Mentoring Bill Summary
Not Yet Numbered
Representative Carol Spackman Moss
This bill would appropriate funds for a school district to implement a program called Peer Assistanceand Review using expert teachers to conduct regular evaluations for novice teachers andunderperforming veterans. Although it places much of the evaluation responsibility on peers, it requiresa team of teachers and administrators to manage it. It would address two problems: (1) Nearly half of all teachers leave the profession within five years (2) The growing concern about the continuedemployment of ineffective teachers. This program would also provide struggling teachers withintensive assistance and assessments of progress.

College and Career Counseling for High School Students
Representative Patrice Arent
Appropriates new funding to create the College and Career Counseling for High School Students PilotProgram. The goal of the program is to increase the number of students pursuing post-secondaryeducation by having a counselor who is a specialist in the college admissions process and scholarships.The State Office of Education will provide 18 specialists using interns who are students in collegemasters programs studying high school counseling. These students will be given special training onadmissions and scholarships, then placed with high schools. This program is necessary because Utah’shigh school counselors have some of the highest workloads in the nation. On average, Utah high schoolcounselors work with over 360 students, well above the recommended number. Many high schoolcounselors are barely able to keep up with making sure their students are registered for the right classes and deal with problems that occur on a daily basis. With respect to college counseling, students getlimited help. It takes specialized knowledge to understand the complexities of the college admissions process and identify scholarship opportunities, particularly for some of the very competitive collegesoutside our state. High schools that have these specialists are much more successful getting their students into post secondary programs and obtaining scholarships. The pilot program will utilize the resources of Utah’s new online program – utahfutures.org

Quality Teachers
Not Yet Numbered
Representative Brian King
This bill will put into place a more fair and streamlined process for identifying and either remediatingor terminating teachers who fall below accepted performance standards.

Resolution on World-Class Curriculum
Not Yet Numbered
Representative Marie Poulson
While we recognize that competency in reading, writing and math is the foundation for all other learning, and that these core subjects must be a major focus for schools, a quality education goes far  beyond competency in these core subjects. For Utah’s children we want to have quality education, nottest-orientated education.
Our public schools must have a rich and diverse curriculum that allows students to soar and not just to score–a strong core curriculum, along with a wide variety of electivesand broad enrichment opportunities that include the arts, music, science, history, literature, foreignlanguages, physical education, career and technology training.
Narrowing the curriculum in responseto grading schools and evaluating teachers has already prompted some districts to drop art, physical education and other non-tested subjects. It is imperative that Utah’s children have a rich, diverse,world-class curriculum to provide them with the tools to be creative, innovative, and critical thinkers–the most sought after assets in the 21st century.

Resolution On Student Health and School Efficiency
HJR 001
Representative Mark Wheatley
This resolution encourages the Utah State Board of Education to consider the broader application of thedesign and construction practices for green schools, both for new construction and major renovation projects undertaken with school district funds in order to increase the health and well-being of studentsand faculty, as well as greater efficiency in schools.

Professional Preparation
Not Yet Numbered
Representative Joel Briscoe
Rep. Briscoe’s bill will provide every Utah teacher an additional day to prepare for school. Professional preparation days were cut in almost every Utah school district the past three years as school districtstruggled to balance budgets. Additional time to prepare for the school year is an important part of supporting quality teachers.