HB215 - I understand the frustration. I’ve received many questions as to why I voted the way I did. I’ll try and explain it to the best of my ability here, but I would be happy to schedule a call and explain it in more detail as well.
First, let me discuss the bill. There were two parts to this bill. The first was a pay increase to all educators. This wasn’t just to teachers. This was a $6,000 pay increase to the following:
(A) classroom teacher;
(B) speech pathologist;
(C) librarian or media specialist;
(D) preschool teacher;
(E) mentor teacher;
(F) teacher specialist or teacher leader;
(G) guidance counselor;
(I) psychologist; and
(J) social worker.
This was a total compensation increase of more than $200,000,000 for the entire state.
The second was a school scholarship for $8,000. School districts receive $10,000 per student (federal, state, and local). The state portion of the $10,000 is $4,000. The $8,000 amount was calculated using the state portion and adding a local modifier to equal $8,000.
There will only be 5,000 scholarships offered statewide on financial needs tied to the federal poverty guidelines. The scholarship would work similar to an HSA account that would reimburse for qualified educational expenses up to $8,000. This is something that would be created under the direction of the plan administrator.
A school district would keep any student WPU funds if a student starts the school year and leaves anytime during the school year. A school district would also retain federal and local WPU amounts for a student that attended a private school using the scholarship.
I received emails from teachers opposed to the bill and said they would rather not have the pay increase if it was tied to the voucher.
I received emails from teachers wanting and desperate for an increase. I had conversations with speech pathologists, librarians, and media specialists that are desperately in need of a pay increase.
I had constituents from West Valley City, West Jordan, and Copperton that had pulled their children out of public school because of bullying, disabilities, etc., and had placed them in local private schools.
This was a very complex issue that had benefits and drawbacks for each member of our community. The pairing of these issues created a situation where:
1. Voting for the bill would give our hardworking educators a huge increase.
2. Voting against the bill would not have guaranteed a substantial pay increase for our educators in the future.
Had the bill failed, I believe any future attempts at an increase would have been substantially less than what was presented in HB215.
There wasn’t enough support to give that much of an increase by itself without it being tied to the scholarship. I also struggled with the fact that any future increases may not be extended to all educators.
I was very tempted to vote "no" on the bill. Instead, seeing that it had the support to pass, I discussed adding a reporting requirement to the scholarship.
I also requested some assurances on increasing the WPU in the bill of bills at the end of the session. Independently, there were other legislators that made similar demands before they could support it.
I love our public school system. My children go to Granite School District schools. I know that vouchers are a painful topic, especially when funded with money set aside for school funding, and I’m frustrated we couldn’t give our educators this type of increase without pairing the bills together.
I read your comments of support and opposition. Please continue to reach out to me. I may not have voted the way you wanted me to this time, but your comments help me make better and more informed decisions.
Representative Anthony Loubet