It’s hard enough navigating the end of a school year amid a global pandemic and school dismissal without receiving discouraging news reports that Utah continues to be the last in the nation for per student funding (Reported by Courtney Tanner, SL Tribune, May 12:
This ranking has been a dubious placement for many years. Although the Utah State Legislature, in its recent 2020 general session, moved to address this inequity in funding by enacting a 6% increase to the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) for the 2020-21 school budget year, it’s now considering taking that increase away to fund the state’s economic losses due to the COVID-10 pandemic. A special session will be called sometime this summer to consider how to cut budgets across the board. GEA is hearing anything from 2% for all budget areas up to 9% in others. Public education is reported to not be immune to these cuts and the Legislature went a step further to enact a resolution cautioning school districts to not negotiate increased salary and benefits for public school employees at this time.
In a previous blog, (April 30, 2020, “What’s Up GEA?”) we acknowledged the courage the Granite School Board and District Administration had in meeting GEA for negotiations and reaching an agreement on a 5% cost of living increase, 3% one-time bonus, shift in salary schedule to make the starting salary more appealing for new educators, and several other financial increases. Even amidst the pressure by the state to limit negotiations, Granite continues to stand by their agreement. It’s important for you to know that GEA continues to meet regularly with the Granite district superintendent team and as current as this week, the team reiterates the District’s support for the negotiated agreement and offers assurance to GEA that the District’s budget will support this increase regardless of what state leaders decide to do with public education funding. Kudos to the District for being fiscally responsible as well as conscientious of the incredible effort and professionalism of all educators and special services employees.
In other good news – every year GEA celebrates the hard work GEA building representatives (Association Representatives (AR)) have achieved throughout the year. Beginning with the August New Teacher Orientation, ARs focus on being the voice of GEA teachers in each building. Meeting each month during the year, 100+ ARs gather to hear updates from GEA on what is happening in the District or State that affects educators and public education as a whole. Oftentimes, ARs are given tasks to do in their buildings, i.e. hold GEA meetings, share information, hold and manage elections for GEA leadership, stay up to date on education news, advocate for GEA members in their buildings, represent GEA at the state and national associations, et al. This year GEA threw in a request to plan a building Walk-in to bring the attention to the state legislature on how great our schools are in Granite and the need for at least a 6% increase in funding—and we were able to convince the legislators to do just that!
In May, GEA annually has an “Oscars” award night for ARs to celebrate and recognize ARs who have gone above and beyond to support members in their buildings, increase local capacity and their leadership capabilities. No surprise that choosing our top winners is very difficult and always a close race. One AR will win “AR of the Year” and this individual will receive a plaque and have their GEA/UEA/NEA dues paid by the Association for the next contract year. Following this superstar, there are three to four “runners-up” who receive recognition through a certificate and a $50.00 cash prize. We would like to recognize the 2019-20 GEA Superstars:
The 2019-20 AR of the Year
Jared Newbold, teacher of 4th graders at Twin Peaks Elementary.
JoAnne Brown, Science, Olympus High School
Felicia Walton, teacher of 4th graders at Arcadia Elementary
Lizzie Jolley, teacher of 5th graders at Crestview Elementary
Michele Jones, Mathematics, Cyprus High School
And a big GEA “Thank you” to not only our AR Superstars, but to all the other ARs who volunteer their time to be leaders in their school buildings to support educators’ rights and public education!