SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Jan. 20, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — The Utah Senate Education Committee has proposed S.B. 107, In-Person Instruction Prioritization, which is intended to limit education funding to school districts not providing in-person learning options for K-12 students.
“Parents should have the ability to decide what is best for their child,” said Sen. Todd Weiler, the bill’s sponsor.
“Parents who don’t have the option to send their kids back to school have been lobbying for months to have face-to-face learning and felt their cries have fallen on deaf ears. We strongly advocate for in-person instruction, and our hope is that with this bill, we will give all parents in our state the option to choose.”
S.B. 107 proposes that education funding may travel with students if parents decide to send their child to another public school that offers face-to-face instruction because their current district only provides online learning.
Critics of the bill which passed out of committee Wednesday on a 5-2 party line vote, called the measure punitive. They say it targets the Salt Lake City School District and is reminiscent of an earlier power play by GOP legislative leaders to force the SLC School District to return to classroom teaching.
Last month, Utah GOP House members took action to block teachers and staff in the Salt Lake City School District from receiving pandemic performance bonuses earmarked for educators in districts statewide. The legislators stipulated that in order for the bonuses to be paid in the SLC District classroom teaching ha.d to resume by Jan. 19.
Democratic legislators at the time, including State Senator Minority Leader Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, called that 11th hour move by Republicans in the Executive Appropriations Committee misguided.
“We are obviously penalizing teachers that have no control over a decision our elected school board has made,” Escamilla told Gephardt Daily.
Weiler said the targeted measure isn’t meant to be punitive, but is designed to keep pressure on the Salt Lake City School District to follow through with its plan to return to in-classroom teaching. Weiler maintains that if students return to classes, the bill will not be scheduled for a vote.
The District has already announced plans to return elementary students to classroom learning as early as Jan. 25. High school and junior high students are scheduled to return for in-class instruction at least two days a week by Feb. 8.
“We need to give parents the choice to have their children in the classroom,” said Senate Pres. J. Stuart Adams. “K-12 is a critical time for students’ intellectual and emotional development, and it’s important parents and students have the option to be in the classroom.
“Students who don’t have the option to attend in-person are missing out on crucial learning opportunities, which may have detrimental effects on their overall education in the future,” Adams said.