Following are some of the focus areas:
These are a few highlights of GEA’s support and continued advocacy of teacher rights and working conditions. Currently, we are monitoring and offering teacher representation in what the end of the school year will look like. GEA was proactive in ensuring that the two PD days scheduled for May 26-27 be free from PD at the District and School Building levels, and instead used for end of year clean-up, grading, and finalization of any student make-up work.
If you have a question or concern that you believe needs to be addressed, please email any one of your AdvoCats, and we will do what we can to resolve the issue or concerns.
With the close of the 2020 Utah Legislative session on March 12, Governor Herbert had until April 1 to use his veto power. He used this power under the advice of UEA and other pro public education groups on HB332. This bill was a controversial pro-voucher bill for special education students. The same session the Legislature sought to do away with the constitutional guarantee for public education funding, they also tried to take away public tax dollars from public schools to provide vouchers to private schools for students with special needs. Here’s the rub, private schools don’t have to accept all students, nor follow the strict guidelines under federal IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) law which means they should not receive precious few public tax dollars to fund their private ventures. In 2007 UEA challenged another voucher bill via a citizens' referendum. More than 60% of Utah’s public voted AGAINST any use of public money for private school voucher programs. This public vote put to rest the idea of private school vouchers in Utah.
As you know, since the school dismissal due to COVID-19 pandemic, teachers all over the state have been forced to learn how to navigate online-teaching and communicate via technology with all students. Special educators are carefully providing service minutes to students via distance learning and ensuring that their needs are met in this most difficult situation. Teachers are working more hours now than they did before. Most of the counties in Utah have been on a “shelter-in-place” recommendation or order by the local and state officials. Closure of businesses has been an economic hardship for the state, therefore, the Utah State Legislature called itself into a “special session” to address the economic downfall as a result of COVID-19. In the midst of this special session necessary due to the pandemic, the legislature is also attempting to revive HB332 (renumbered to HB4003) by offering revisions the governor may be able to live with, while still trying to siphon off public tax dollars for private business. On Thursday, April 23rd, the legislature will meet again and UEA believes this new bill will be addressed. Behind the door lobbying has been done by Utah House members to sway the governor to accept this push for a voucher bill.
We need everyone who cares about public education to contact your legislators and say “No!” to any voucher bill. Special educators in our public schools who have worked with students who have been turned away from private schools, need to tell their stories. You can find out who your legislators are by going to https://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp to get their email addresses. Messages need to flood the legislators’ boxes before Thursday’s special session reopens. No matter what you call it, stipend or scholarship – a voucher is a voucher – Utah says “no” to raiding public taxes for private business! To help you in drafting your letters to your legislators, following are some talking points regarding the proposed legislation:
Today, Governor Herbert declared that this “soft closure” of schools will continue through the end of the school year. GEA has received messages of dismay and sorrow from many teachers. The idea of not seeing students again before the end of the school year, especially if they are high school seniors, is heartbreaking. Parents are likely pulling their hair out as they continue to support their kids with schooling. There is no doubt that the apple cart has indeed been upended and where things fall is anyone’s guess.
Teachers are wondering “how do I grade students in this confusion” as reports of anywhere from 20-50% of students consistently communicate and keep up with the online work assigned. The other half are likely taking care of siblings, alone in the house during the day, or have little or no access to internet and academic support. GEA has been in continued conversation with Granite District administrators. Direction is forthcoming on student grading processes, including suggestions on how to manage the end or year PBL. Statewide, school districts are issuing similar suggestions as superintendents communicate through their association on what is best for statewide reporting. GEA has also received individual calls and concerns from members which we’ve been able to navigate successfully, so please know we are available to assist in any way we can; email is the best avenue for communication at this time.
If you’ve thought about joining GEA, but have not had the opportunity to do so, now is a perfect time—from April 1 through August, you may join GEA at no cost until September’s first paycheck. As a member, you will receive support from the GEA directors, elected leaders, and legal counsel for any employment related concerns. Did I say this was at no cost to you until September? Essentially, you’ll be able to test-drive your professional association for free until next year. The easiest way to sign up is by contacting the association representative elected by members in your school community. If you are unable to reach this person, or do not know who they are, then click on the link that follows, print, fill out the form, and scan or mail it to the GEA Office.
Please open with Acrobat Reader for the functionality of the form to work.
If you do not have it you can download it here:
You are not alone. Many may feel isolated with the social distancing and shelter-in-place recommendations, but please know that if you need to talk with someone, have a special need that requires outside support, you can call or email your GEA AdvoCats and elected leaders and we will assist!
Shout out to the school counselors, social workers, and psychologists serving Granite District students. Often unsung advocates in in the background, these essential employees are critical partners for students and their academic success. We know from research that stress and trauma in a student’s life may block the ability for them to learn. These mental health professionals not only guide students’ daily studies but give them the confidence to prepare for college and career after high school. Sadly, Utah does not have a legislated mandate limiting the number of students each school mental health provider is assigned which means that numbers assigned to one of these advocates could easily be in the 1,000’s.
We have no doubt that every student is under some level of stress and anxiety right now. Students who regularly move through the social and academic stresses of school with some ease, are experiencing unprecedented times. High school students who should be focusing on ACT tests, graduation, and post-secondary education are now called to care of younger siblings, older adults in the family, and manage continued on-line learning.
This AdvoCat’s granddaughter is a 5th grade student at a Granite elementary school. This young person lives daily with anxiety, and experiences sensory issues. Without the regular support of the school social worker, she would not be thriving successfully. Not only does the school social worker support this student, but so does the school office assistants and other educators in the building. Her school career in Granite has been successful in part to the caring people in our school buildings.
Knowing that this student (one of many on her caseload) has high anxiety around transitioning to middle school next year, and is facing the reality that she will likely not be going back to her 5th grade classroom, the school social worker contacted my daughter to set up a conference with my granddaughter to check in and see how she’s surviving the school dismissal. I can’t share enough how important this one-on-one connection was to my granddaughter, but what blows me away is that this social worker is making a difference for the other 500+ assigned students!
So please, help me give a “shout out” to all of Granite’s school counselors, social workers, and psychologists working so hard right now to support students during this stressful period (and beyond).