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Schools could cut class time

Published February 26, 2014 4:24 pm

Lawmakers may allow school boards to reallocate 4 days a year for teacher prep.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Class time in public and charter schools could soon be shortened by four days a year to give teachers more time for preparation and professional development.

The House voted 50-24 on Wednesday to pass SB103 to give local school boards the option to do that. Because it was amended by the House, it returns to the Senate for a final vote before being sent to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.

The Senate previously passed the bill 21-6.

Utah teachers were once given state-paid training days each year on top of the 180 days they teach. Legislators cut that during the recession, and it has not been restored.

Bill sponsor Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, earlier said he'd like to see the money that was cut restored over time. Until then, he said the bill is needed to allow teachers the training they need. He originally proposed allowing districts to reallocate up to eight days, but it was cut in the House to four.

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, was among several lawmakers who said she likes the idea of giving teachers more preparation and development time, but taking away classroom time "is not the way to go about that."

While several lawmakers said it would be better simply to fully fund teacher prep days, Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said that is an argument for another day on other bills. He likened criticism of the bill to someone who is drowning hoping for a lifeboat, and complaining when they are thrown a buoy instead.

"This bill many not be everything they want," Gibson said. "This is a tool that would give them [local school boards] the opportunity to choose" to provide the extra training time if desired.

Gibson is sponsoring an initiative pushed by House Speaker Becky Lockhart to spend $200 million more on technology in schools.

Patti Harrington, with the Utah School Boards and Utah School Superintendents associations, earlier opposed the bill in committee, saying, "It's a sad day in a state as strong as Utah when we are giving teachers time only by balancing it on the backs of students."

In 2011, the state school board voted to allow Utah school districts to replace up to two instructional days with teacher-training days. State Superintendent Martell Menlove has said less than half of the state's school districts and charter schools have opted to do that.