Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Boxcar bills" waiting until the last two weeks to start big education budget battles

I've been torn lately -- so much going on at the legislature and so little time to write about it. The small government loving Utah legislature has proposed 109 bills related to education for the 2011 legislative session. That is not counting the 19 abandoned bills at the bottom of the page or other education related bills not labeled as such like Rep. Draxler's bill HB 25 using "excess" oil and gas taxes to create "petroleum literacy" materials for elementary schools.

There are also numerous "boxcar" bills (meaning they have a name and a number, but the sponsor has not chosen to allow anyone to read the text of the bill yet with only 2 1/2 weeks remaining of the session ) sitting like timebombs, waiting to be sprung onto the floor "under suspension of the rules," which means they can be rapidly debated on the floor with no committee hearing to allow public comment and which also prevents the public and legislators alike from having time to read and understand the bill before it gets voted on. Some of these bills I've been watching finally received text on Monday, Feb. 21, Presidents Day.

There are multiple final education budget battles looming as likely candidates for last minute shenanigans, including again stealing locally voted funds for charter schools, de facto vouchers as "backpack" funding, funding for reading programs for K-2, actually funding growth instead of just moving funds around and claiming to fund new students, or completely removing the ability for local districts to raise taxes while increasing the sales tax on food, which is of course controlled and distributed by the state legislature. Watch Howard Stephenson who has a history of anti-education last-minute tactics and also has a bill tucked away intended to make school board elections partisan. Rep. Merlynn Newbold is his frequent partner in crime, initiating Stephenson's ideas as bills in the House -- like HB 313, an empty boxcar bill replacing the Charter School Finance Amendments bill Stephenson abandoned -- so it isn't as obvious how much Senator Stephenson is single-handedly manipulating education policy in Utah.

Here are some doozies to watch out for. These are all boxcar bills as of Feb. 21 if they are listed, unless I explain when the bill was made public next to the item on the list. You can sign up at the bottom of each link to receive email updates if and when these bills become active. Notice how many have vague titles about "amendments" and "modifications" which lets the legislator stick in anything they want at the last minute.

H.B. 65 Public School Funding -- Harper, W. Received text last week. Financial mumbo-jumbo that would usurp some local taxing control.
H.B. 123 K-12 Education Amendments -- Sumsion, K. Received text yesterday. This bill would totally change the whole basis of how the state distributes education funding, likely giving more to charter schools. It would also shorten terms for school board members. No big deal to hold it until the end.
H.B. 145 Education Amendments -- Eliason, S.
H.B. 151 Compulsory Education Amendments -- Briscoe, J. Received text last week. Would make kindergarten non-optional.
H.B. 290 Public School Transportation Amendments -- Wimmer, C.
H.B. 301 School District Property Tax Revisions -- Newbold, M. Received text last week. Another example of the legislature taking away local tax control and giving the power to themselves.
H.B. 302 Reading Program Amendments -- Newbold, M.
H.B. 307 Public Broadcasting Funding -- Herrod, C. Though Chris Vanocur has already revealed the liberal plot on this one.
H.B. 313 Charter School Funding Amendments -- Newbold, M.
H.B. 339 Charter School Enrollment Amendments -- Hutchings, E.
H.B. 346 Provisional Teaching Modifications -- Herrod, C.
H.B. 377 Higher Education Textbook Fairness Act -- Cox, F. Aimed at specific companies or increasing conservative leaning texts?
H.B. 388 Financial Oversight of Charter Schools -- Herrod, C.
H.B. 426 Education Funding Amendments -- Pitcher, D.
H.B. 427 Education Modifications -- Newbold, M.
H.B. 443 School Business Administrator Amendments -- Richardson, H.
H.B. 447 Modifications to Education -- Dee, B.
H.B. 455 Land Exchange Distribution Account Amendments -- Noel, M. Presumably related to this dust-up over HB 98 where Noel wants to further remove local control from counties. (Click on the Floor Debate audio file to hear his rant) Related to HB 400 yet another boxcar which Rolly references?
H.B. 464 State-Supported Voted Leeway Program Amendments -- Briscoe, J.
S.B. 4 Current School Year Supplemental Minimum School Program Budget Adjustments -- Buttars, D. C.
S.B. 78 Public School Early Graduation Counseling -- Buttars, D. C. Received text yesterday. Actually seems like an easy, good idea rather than eliminating 12th grade.
S.B. 163 School Restructuring -- Stephenson, H. Stephenson bragged on his radio show that this bill is intended to close down a set number of schools each year. No need to consult the teachers on this one, let alone the parents. Great candidate for a rushed debate.
S.B. 210 Utah Postsecondary Proprietary School Act Amendments -- Bramble, C. Received text yesterday. One of two or three bills Bramble is running about the regulation and taxation of private schools and training programs. I have no idea what these bills will do, but I smell a tax break for "economic development."
S.B. 217 Education Policy Amendments -- Bramble, C.
S.B. 224 Partisan School Board Elections -- Stephenson, H. Of course a "school board elections" bill run by the chair of the Senate Education Committee was not labeled education. Easy to miss this one.
S.B. 227 Student Based Funding for Public Education -- Liljenquist, D. "Backpack" funding. The PCE and charter lobbyists will hit hard for these pseudo-vouchers when this bill is unveiled in the near future.
S.B. 241 Tuition Waiver Amendments -- Hinkins, D.
S.B. 245 Higher Education Tuition Revisions -- Valentine, J.
S.B. 256 Teacher Effectiveness Evaluation Process -- Adams, J. S.
S.B. 263 State Board of Education Powers Amendments -- Buttars, D. C.
S.B. 265 State Charter School Board Modifications -- Madsen, M. Unnecessary due to SB 140?
S.B. 278 School District Modifications -- Bramble, C.
S.B. 292 Private Institutions of Higher Education -- Valentine, J.
S.B. 304 Bullying Amendments -- Okerlund, R.
S.B. 305 Economic Development Through Education / Career Alignment -- Stephenson, H. Stephenson's 2.5 to 8 million dollar career web app and chat room that will convince undergrads not to be dance majors. And of course, IBM developed this one-of-a-kind software prototype at his request (meaning no private company has seen promise in making a for-profit chat room developed around career information easily searchable for free already), but Senator Stephenson "doesn't know" if they would win a bid for this service. We have seen this before.
S.B. 316 Disclosure of State and Institutional Trust Lands Information -- Niederhauser, W.

I am 99% sure I have missed some boxcars or recently posted bills, but here are at least 36 education-related bills which have either not been posted for public viewing or only received their text in the last week. These last two weeks could get even uglier for education in what is already the worst session in recent memory...

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