Education bills moving forward in the legislature

 Some of the bills heard in yesterday’s Senate Education committee included the Dixie State name change, Campus Safety Amendments, brought forward after Lauren McCluskey’s murder, homeschol tax credits, student religious accommodations and a “Civic Thought and Leadership Initiative” at UVU. All bills presented in the last Senate Education committee of 2021 passed out favorably. HB428 also passed out of House Government Ops. It would strip local school boards of their authority in some situations.

HB278, Name Change Process for Dixie State University, passed out of committee 6-1, with Senator John Johnson voting no. The discussion process took close to two hours, with dozens of people making public comment. Time was very limited, as often happens in committee hearings, and several members of the public were pretty riled up by the limited time as well as by the name change. 

SB163, Campus Safety Amendments passed out of committee 4-1, but not before Senator Johnson made a motion to move to the next agenda item, which would have killed the bill. Senator Riebe made a substitute motion to pass the bill out favorably. The bill heads to the Senate floor, but I wonder if time will simply run out on this one. 

SB244, Student Religious Accommodations Amendments passed out of committee unanimously. This bill requires institutions of higher education to reasonably accommodate student absences from scheduled examinations or academic requirements due to a student’s sincerely held religious beliefs. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Mike Kennedy, noted that this would provide accommodations for students who observe Ramadan, Lent, and holidays from other faith traditions. 

HB327, Civic Thought and Leadership Initiative passed unanimously. This bill requires UVU to create the “Civic Thought and Leadership Initiative” under the auspices of their Center for Constitutional Studies to “provide resources to students, outside academic institutions, government agencies and other persons regarding civic affairs.” It also provides for unlimited, unrestricted “gifts, contributions and donations of all kinds.” 

HB337, Child Mental Health Amendments also passed out unanimously. This bill requires the Office of Child Care to collaborate with the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to deliver early childhood programs and child care throughout the state, coordinate services for training and education regarding child behavioral health and requires the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to administer a grant program for the purpose of providing education regarding best practices for early childhood mental health support and interventions.

SB242, Alternative Education Tax Credit Amendments sponsored by Senator Johnson would give parent’s money for education expenses incurred after “disenrollment from public education and enrollment in private education or homeschool.” There will be cost to this bill, but the fiscal note was not prepared or attached to the bill as of last night. 

On the House side, HB428, Public Education Governance and Appeals would appoints a panel that can, based on an appeal by a small number of parents, override local school board decisions.  These individuals are not elected, but are appointed- 1 by the state school board, 1 by the governor, 1 by the Speaker of the House, 1 by the President of the Senate, and 1 by the Superintendents’ Association. It also allows the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, the governor, and the state board chair to revoke the authority of the local school board and give that authority to another school board. It passed out of committee yesterday and heads to the full House.