SALT LAKE CITY - There will be no shortage of proposals to deal with education in the Beehive State during the 2014 legislative session.
Education always plays a dominant role in the 45-day session, and this session there should be an abundance of discussion about everything from adjusting state income tax exemptions to drive money towards education, SB 118, sponsored by Sen. Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake City, to a potential tax credit for parents who home school their children, HB 77, sponsored by Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain.
To date there are 37 numbered bills dealing with education ready for public review with another 42 bill files in the drafting process with more likely to follow.
Not everyone is thrilled by the quantity and quality of the offering.
Peter Cannon, a member of the Davis School Board, says too many of the bills to be considered are vendor bills---or bills that create programs for a few school districts, funneling away money that could potentially benefit all districts.
What Cannon would like to see is legislation changing the school transportation setup so parents could have the option to send their child to any of the schools within the district. He said the enhanced transportation option would allow neighborhood schools to specialize rather than just the usual offering.
Brad Asay, an Ogden High School art teacher who represents the American Federation of Teachers, said it's early to make an assessment on the educational initiatives. "As far as too many, we'll see what gets out of committee," Asay said.
He said he is especially encouraged by bills that address funding for pre-school education. He said he has talked with Sen. Jones about her funding bill, but the AFT has not taken a position on the measure yet.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser said it's obvious with the number of bills there is some micro-management of Utah classrooms---a trend he does not like
"I'm a big fan of creating accountability and then not micro-managing. If we have that many bills then there is some micro-management," Niederhauser said.
Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said a heavy emphasis on education is natural as part of the Utah legislative process. He said 50 to 55 percent of the state budget deals with education, which makes it an easy target for a lot of bills and discussion.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, suspects the trend will be especially visible during the current session, because it is an election year.
Some of the education proposals include:
* Jones' plan to remove some state deductions that benefit families. She has estimated her measure would add $400 million in new revenues to state coffers, if her bill is adopted in the session. Utah ranks last in the U.S. in spending per pupil and the senator's proposal is the boldest legislation on the docket, to date, to address the funding issue.
* Liffereth's bill would provide a nonrefundable tax credit for a home-school parent, subject to apportionment beginning on Jan. 1, 2014.
* Revisions to suicide prevention programs, HB 23, sponsored by Rep. Steven Eliason, R-Sandy.
* Rep. Jim Nielson's, R-Bountiful, bill (HB 239) to require school districts and charter schools to report data to the State Board of Education on the allocation of resources for front-line teachers.
* Grants for digital textbooks, HB 249, sponsored by Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Orem.
* Child sexual abuse prevention legislation, HB 286, run by Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City.
* Another early childhood education measure, SB 42, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan.
* Sen. Stuart Reid's, R-Ogden, legislation to deal with intergenerational poverty intervention in public schools, SB 43.
* Local control of classroom times, SB 103, also being run by Sen. Osmond.
Unnumbered bill files on the topic also include:
* A proposal for dyslexia screening in public schools, sponsored by Rep. John Knotwell, R-Herriman.
* A bill being run by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, dealing with religious freedom for students.
* Changes to school grading provisions run by Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton.
* A bill call for carbon monoxide detectors in public schools by Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City.