Minutes for Education Interim Committee on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014 2:30 PM [UPH Wire]



Wednesday, October 15, 2014 – 2:30 p.m. – Room 30 House Building


Members Present:

Sen. Stuart C. Reid, Senate Chair

Rep. Francis D. Gibson, House Chair

Sen. Patricia W. Jones

Sen. Howard A. Stephenson

Sen. Stephen H. Urquhart

Rep. Patrice M. Arent

Rep. Rebecca P. Edwards

Rep. Gregory H. Hughes

Rep. Bradley G. Last

Rep. David E. Lifferth

Rep. Daniel McCay

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss

Rep. Jim Nielson

Rep. Val L. Peterson

Rep. Marie H. Poulson

Rep. Dean Sanpei

Rep. V. Lowry Snow


Members Absent:

Sen. Mark B. Madsen

Sen. Jerry W. Stevenson

Rep. Rich Cunningham

Rep. Steve Eliason

Rep. Keven J. Stratton


Staff Present:

Ms. Constance C. Steffen, Policy Analyst

Ms. Tiffany A. Stanley, Policy Analyst

Ms. Allyson Goldstein, Policy Analyst

Ms. Angela Oakes Stallings, Associate General


Ms. Debra Hale, Legislative Secretary






Note: A list of others present, a copy of related materials, and an audio recording of the meeting can be found at www.le.utah.gov.


1.  Committee Business


Chair Gibson called the meeting to order at 2:43 p.m. Rep. Cunningham and Rep. Stratton were excused from the meeting.


Mr. Jerry Howe, Managing Policy Analyst, Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, announced Ms. Steffen’s upcoming retirement and introduced Ms. Goldstein as a new committee staff member.


MOTION: Rep. Peterson moved to approve the minutes of the September 17, 2014, meeting. The motion passed unanimously. Sen. Stephenson, Sen. Urquhart, Rep. Edwards, Rep. Hughes, Rep. McCay, and Rep. Sanpei were absent for the vote.


2.  Utah State Board of Education Risk Management


Mr. David Crandall, Chair, Utah State Board of Education, excused Mr. David Thomas, Chair, Audit Committee, Utah State Board of Education, and introduced Ms. Jennifer Johnson, Chair, Finance Committee, Utah State Board of Education (USBE).


Ms. Johnson reported on major financial and policy risks facing public education and the USBE, steps the board has taken to mitigate the risks, and additional steps the board plans to take in the short and long term. Referring to handouts “Amount of Dollars Responsible by Each Internal Auditor per State Agency” and “Draft Risk Mitigation Plan by USOE,” Ms. Johnson noted that historically the USBE has focused on providing services; however, more recently the USBE has focused on oversight. She said that over the past year, for example, the USBE has reviewed budgets and hired an additional auditor. She also said that USBE plans to hire additional auditors and a computer programmer.


Mr. Joel Coleman, Interim State Superintendent of Public Instruction, reported that the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) did not end up in this high risk situation due to negligence at the USOE, but because the USOE has always focused on education policy-making. Referring to the handout, “FTE to LEA Growth Comparison,” Mr. Coleman described the decrease in the number of USOE personnel in relation to the number of local education agencies.


Chair Gibson relinquished the chair to Sen. Reid.


3.  Proposed Legislation, “Math Teacher Training Program Amendments”


Rep. Edwards stated that this agenda item will be addressed in the November 19, 2014, committee meeting.


4.  Student Funding Pilot Program


Rep. Brian Greene introduced draft legislation “Education Savings Account Pilot Program” (2015FL-0135/010), which creates a pilot program to provide money to secondary school students to purchase secondary or postsecondary courses and instructional materials. He said that the education savings accounts provide greater flexibility in using education funding to meet individual students’ needs and provide access to the best courses, regardless of students’ residential locations. Rep. Greene explained that the program does not require new funds, as participants in the program may not be counted in average daily membership for their schools.


5.  Search for Educational Best Practices


Rep. Nielson introduced this agenda item and said that the Legislature should appropriate funds to the USBE to issue a request for proposals for a vendor to gather education best practices for classrooms, schools, districts, and communities. Rep. Nielson introduced Dr. Ed Fila, Chief Executive Officer, Innovations in Population Health Management, who studied education best practices for the Legislature in 2003.


Dr. Fila proposed that the USOE hire a vendor to study education best practices in order to benefit students, teachers, and parents in Utah. Referring to the handout, “Innovations in Education,” Dr. Fila described the 2003 search for educational best practices and a resulting conference and discussed several of the best practices identified in the 2003 study.


6.  Teacher Perspective on What Utah Schools Can Learn from Finland


Mr. Cory Leonard, Assistant Director, David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, Brigham Young University, introduced this agenda item with a visual presentation and explained that Utah teachers visited Finland to study the country’s public education and teacher training systems.


Teachers who participated in the trip also addressed the visual presentation as they reported on their findings.


Mr. Bruce H. Eschler, teacher, Hillcrest Junior High School, Murray School District, and PhD candidate, Educational Leadership, Brigham Young University, said that Finland has a variety of postsecondary education options to produce citizens who are career ready. He noted that in Finland, entrance into teacher training programs is competitive, and all teachers must have master’s degrees.


Ms. Patti White, Systems Support Coach, Granite School District, addressed how to better prepare Utah’s educators. She said that continuing education is compulsory for Finnish teachers and is critical for educators who need to be teaching students: 1) critical thinking; 2) communication; 3) collaboration; and 4) creativity. She said that teachers in Utah need time to collaborate with other teachers and noted that teachers in Utah teach for many more hours each year than in Finland.


Ms. Linda Davis, teacher, Special Education, Hillside Middle School, Salt Lake City School District, said that Finland’s education system focuses on equality for all children. She said that Finland has a philosophy that all children deserve a high quality school in their neighborhoods. As a result, Ms. Davis stated, the achievement gap between Finnish students is the smallest in the world. Furthermore, she said, the main driver of educational policy is not competition but cooperation between teachers and schools, and students receive tutoring or other interventions, as needed.


Mr. Russ McKell, teacher, Social Studies, Summit High School, Alpine School District, said that the Finnish education system trusts teachers to address any problems that arise in the classroom. He said that instead of extensive testing for students, Finland has developed conditions in which teachers can thrive and parents, children, and legislators trust teachers.


Ms. Merinda Davis, teacher, Social Studies, Lakeridge Junior High School, Alpine School District, spoke about implementation of Finnish education practices in her classroom, such as getting students more involved in their communities, modifying grading to better reflect student knowledge, and providing more time for movement and individual learning opportunities. Ms. Davis said that children in her classroom are also working directly with Finnish students.


Mr. Leonard noted that Utah has many successes in education, such as the greatest number of dual immersion programs in the country. He recommended that Utah take the opportunity to internationalize public education and invest in professional development.


Dr. Sydnee Dickson, Interim Deputy State Superintendent of Public Instruction, also stated the Utah has the greatest number of dual immersion programs per capita in the country.


7.  Statutorily Required Reports


Chair Reid introduced the statutorily required reports, which were included in the meeting packet. He introduced Rep. LaVar Christensen, who commended the USBE and the USOE for the “Civic and Character” education report. Rep. Christensen said that, as the focus of public education has shifted toward math, science, and technology, it is important for public education to include civic education in all parts of the curriculum.


8.  Other Items/Adjourn


MOTION: Rep. Lifferth moved to adjourn the meeting. The motion passed unanimously. Sen. Stephenson, Sen. Urquhart, Rep. Arent, Rep. Gibson, Rep. Hughes, Rep. Last, Rep. Moss, Rep. Peterson, Rep. Poulson, and Rep. Snow were absent for the vote.


Chair Reid adjourned the meeting at 4:48 p.m.

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