Additional webinars will be added. See myUEA.org/webinars
NOTE: Re-licensure points are available for participation in these webinars.
Check back for new webinars.
Additional webinars will be added. See myUEA.org/webinars
NOTE: Re-licensure points are available for participation in these webinars.
Similar to many areas of our lives, several GEA events have been canceled much to our disappointment: Association Representative meetings in April and May, GEA’s Retirement Dinner celebration, and May’s AR of the Year celebration. However, GEA AdvoCats and Leadership continue to work behind the scenes for member rights and working conditions.
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).
When GEA negotiates with the District, we refer to the financial accounts available for negotiation purposes as the “pots of money.” Some of the state and local accounts we look to when deciding the proposals, are the legislative funding through the allocated Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) and the Teacher Salary Supplement Program (TSSP), local tax levy, savings from the self-insurance plan, and federal dollars allocated to states for public education. Each of these “pots” provide arguments for teacher salary and benefit increases, and GEA leaves no stone unturned. We arrive to the negotiations process with amounts available ready for arguing why these amounts should be paid (spent) on educator salaries and benefits. (The remaining 1% of the WPU will be used to fund increases for other employee groups, i.e. classified, secretarial, administrative.
Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU): This “pot” is allocated by the Utah State Legislature during its annual session. This year, GEA members helped us raise this amount to 6% with the loud messages sent through schoolwide walk-ins and state capitol rally. This 6% is quantified and measured amounts are distributed to each school district. The parameters for use are school employee salary and benefits. This year, GEA was able to negotiate that 5% of the total funds be allocated to educators evenly or what we call “across the board” on the salary schedule, as well as fund the increases to salary schedule steps and lanes.
Teacher Salary Supplement Program (TSSP): is a fund legislated in 2019 to supplement the needs in local school districts – 25% of the total fund may be spend on employee salaries. GEA cannot negotiate for other employee groups, but we went on record with the District that this available money should be spent on increasing substitute teacher and paraeducator pay. Our goal was to make a formal statement of the need to enhance support in these areas.
Local Tax Levy: Three years ago, when GEA negotiated an 11.67% salary increase, the district school board agreed to increase local taxes in order to supplement this enhanced increase. As you may be aware, tax increases are very unpopular, and the school board took the heat from constituents in order to honor educators in this way. An adjustment was made to the levy amount this year, which was unexpected. Being that the money was available only for this one-time adjustment, GEA negotiated that a one-time Bonus of 3% be paid to educators as a way to capture the funding.
Self-insured Insurance: Granite District provides one of the best employee insurance plans in the state. An insurance committee, which includes representatives from every employee group (including GEA) meets monthly to review the plan activity, make suggestions for bettering the plan, and deciding how to cover insurance plan increases. District employees have been successful in holding costs down through increased utilization in the Wellness Clinic and use of generic prescriptions. This has enabled a few years with no plan changes (i.e. increased co-pays or utilization maximum amounts). This year we had a 1.7% increase in usage, which meant meeting to determine how to change the plan to cover the increase. Through negotiations, GEA and GSD agreed that the District would cover the increases through savings within the self-insured plan (funding that may only be used for this purpose).
In closing, we hope that this blog answers the questions many educators had as to why the COLA was only 5%.
Continuing with clarification of the 2020-21 GEA/GSD negotiated agreement, we need to talk about the “Teacher Wallet.” Out of all the items agreed upon this year, the move to transition legislative teacher supply money from a district administrated debit card to the “Teacher Wallet,” a product offered by Amazon, caused the most consternation. There is no doubt in GEA’s mind that this monolithic company has much work to do to be labor and environmentally friendly. What started out as a convenience for online shopping has become a necessity for many in the way of entertainment, bargain shopping, e-books, and now a way for school districts to avoid the heavy administrative costs in offering employees’ funds for school supplies. With over 4,000 educators receiving some amount of supply funds, the management of these accounts, as well as the paperwork involved, is a nightmare. Along comes Amazon with the perfect solution. For very little cost, the company will manage all the administrative processes, tax requirements, budget and accounting necessary for the spending of this large group of employees. The side effect is that employees will be beholden to products listed by Amazon for their purchases.
Here’s the thing, all the stones that are thrown at Amazon (unfair labor practices, price fixing, environmental burdens, monopolizing the industry) can also be said of many other large corporations. Walmart for instance, has one of the worst track records of unfair labor practices. Target onboards new employees by showing them an anti-union video to threaten and keep union organizing at bay. And all the paper products we are hoarding right now (toilet paper, paper towels, sanitary wipes) as well as chemicals for cleaning and sanitizing during this fight against COVID-19 are primarily made by the Koch Industries – owned and managed by the most aggressive anti-public education people on the planet today.
Buying local is the best for everyone. Your GEA AdvoCats agree that this is the most economical and sustainable way to go in advocating for fair labor practices, economic growth in our communities, and environmental protection. For this negotiated item this year, we admit to holding our noses while agreeing to something that will be beneficial and convenient for District processes. We only hope you will understand in this instance, use your Teacher Wallet as best you can, and buy local for everything else!
GEA members have approved ratification of the 2020-21 Professional Agreement, including a revised salary schedule and ongoing benefits. The negotiations process and notification to GEA Board of Directors, GEA Association Representatives, and final ratification by GEA Members was completed electronically. Because of this GEA received questions regarding some aspects of the agreement. In this post we will, hopefully, answer your questions.
Revised Salary Schedule: This was likely the biggest challenge for negotiations this year. GEA has had its traditional salary schedule for many years, and it’s served our members well. Each year GEA and GSD negotiate, the cost of paying for increases in the salary schedule Steps and Lanes is the first expense agreed upon; continually honored by the GSD Board of Education and Administration. Funding for Steps and Lanes this year cost approximately $6 million.
GEA and GSD have addressed state and national teacher shortages in past negotiations. You may recall three years ago we negotiated an 11.67% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) which started a statewide movement to enhance salary schedules in all Utah school districts to compete for new teachers. As a result, several districts and local associations moved to dismantle their traditional salary schedule by creating a single lane schedule with over 20 years of steps. Some salary schedules go as high as 45 steps before an employee can reach their maximum earning potential. Note: this is the same amount of money spread over 45 years. This resulted in increasing teacher starting salaries to approximately $50,000 and providing some increases for endorsements gained by career educators. However, the negotiated risk in moving to a single lane salary schedule was a reduction of lifetime earnings for mid-to-late career educators.
This year, GEA and GSD discussed varying ideas to improve the beginning salary for educators in order to make GSD competitive with surrounding Districts. GEA worked to protect the integrity of our traditional salary schedule which provides built in step increments and additional compensation for advanced post-secondary education. The resulting agreement was the outcome of these negotiations. The modified salary schedule will have the first five steps collapsed, making Step 6 a beginning salary for educators hired by Granite District. Current employees who have been on Steps 1 – 5 would be placed on Step 6 for the 2020-21 contract year and will move to the next step in subsequent years. This amounts to a higher annual increase for current early career educators in Granite. Any negotiations are a “give and take” and if its to be successful, both parties give something up in exchange. This schedule change has pros and cons:
We would have liked to soften the pain the salary schedule changes would make for teachers in their fifth years and above with Granite District, but balancing GSD’s goals and ours was a challenge. We believe we negotiated as much of the ongoing funding available to us as we could this year. In addition to the 5% COLA, we were also able to negotiate the District funding the 1.7% increase in insurance this year without reducing the current benefits in the plan. The on-going expense cost $438,000.
Having negotiated as much new money as we possibly could, GEA asked about one-time funding that was still available in the budget and we were able to negotiate for you a 3% Bonus this year at the cost of $7.8 million. These monies would not have been available for any ongoing expenses, like salary, but is a nice touch for all educators to receive mid-year.
In closing, GEA/GSD is the first local/district to finalize negotiations this year. The current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and decrease in the economy has made school districts hesitant to even begin to negotiate. The fact that the Granite School Board and Superintendent moved to close negotiations early was an assurance to educators that they are valued as employees, and to hopefully, ease fears of loss of jobs or salary this year and moving forward. This was a way to show good faith in these most uncertain times. GEA appreciated the willingness of the District to compromise on many issues and we believe this settlement will secure employment for Granite teachers going forward.
Fact: this new “normal” we are working and living under is not something we planned or have ever experienced. This goes for everyone. Everyone. In. The. World.
Think about that for a minute and with compassion for yourself, parents, students, and Granite District administrators, know that the intention for everyone is to get through this chaos together by creating continued learning opportunities for our students.
GEA is hearing from many of our members who express that they are working harder and longer under the new distance-learning protocols than they did when they had the luxury of being in the classrooms and schools. Feeling as if they need to justify working from home, educators (and this includes teachers, counselors, social workers, psychologists, and all of Granite’s special educators) feel they need to be on-call for parents and students 24/7. Not so.
Remember, you have a professional agreement that outlines contract time. Utilize the guidelines and work the best you are able during the regular contract timeline and then, shut down! Allow yourself to have personal time for self-care and for your family. Parent and student emails will still receive a returned message within 24 hours, which means responses can wait until the following day. Create healthy boundaries.
Brené Brown, leading research psychologist and author of five books on vulnerability is a great resource for anyone needing to find the internal voice that say’s “I Am Enough”. Visit Brown’s website which has a blog and podcast which may be helpful if you are feeling vulnerable and need validation that your courage during this time of chaos does indeed begin with vulnerability. https://brenebrown.com/blog/
We are all on the right track. Why? Because the journey is unknown from here and any direction in which we move is the right one, for now. When Granite district administration requested that principals make a list of expectations of teachers, including showing proof of student work, daily check-ins, and lesson plans, here is how one Granite principal responded:
“My teachers are professionals each working hard in their own professional teaching styles to ensure students are given daily/weekly opportunities to continue to excel in their goals of achieving higher levels of learning. I know their work ethic and they will be very conscientious in giving students the best education they can under the circumstances.”
GEA asks that all principals be like this one and trust the professionalism and hard work that all educators are giving to students. Hang in there – and remember to take care of yourself, and when in doubt, email or call your AdvoCats!
Earlier this week, while walking through my neighborhood, I saw many chalked messages like this one here. Each house had a variety of skilled artists, colors, and ambition, but the same message was shared, “you are not alone.” It was comforting to know that when my anxiety spiked and I couldn’t stay another minute inside my house, that people (those I knew and didn’t know) understood and were there to uplift in these simple ways. GEA’s ambitions at this time is to do the same – to be present for you when you need support, available to answer questions, and to let you know you’re not alone. We’ve received several questions and will attempt to answer them as we go along.
Question: As a special education teacher, will I need to make up service minutes for my students over the summer?
Answer: Your responsibility right now is to provide online learning for your students and their parents to the best of your ability. Videos via Google Classroom are a fun way to share information. You will track and document minutes of service and communication as best you can. If a parent believes additional service minutes are “owed” then it is up to the Special Education Department to navigate when and how those minutes will be provided. You may be asked to provide services during the summer, however, that is voluntary on your part and since its after-contract time, you should be paid for the additional time worked.
Question: As a classroom teacher, do I need to provide a DFL form in order to teach remotely from home?
Answer: No, you do not need to provide a DFL form. Simply meet with your principal and share your plan for remote teaching. Once your plan is approved, you should be able to work from home. There may be times when you will be asked to be at the school, for instance, assisting with the home packet distribution, etc. If you are asked to come in, please make sure you take responsibility for social distancing (6 feet from the next person). Be safe. In its update today the State Health Department recommends employers NOT request doctor letters from employees for remote work because this bogs down an already overwhelmed system.
Question: With remote learning, I feel like I need to take calls from students and parents on my personal phone. What are my protections?
Answer: Right now, we do not have lenience from the District for teachers to communicate via personal phones to students, nor is it the expectations that teachers communicate via their personal phone. If you need to call a parent, document the time you called, the subject matter you discussed and the length of the call. If you answer a call and it’s a student, politely ask that they send their questions to you via Google Classroom (or whatever platform you are choosing to work with). All communication with students should be kept to Google Classroom or Remind 101. GEA recommends you not use your personal phone or computer for work because doing so makes you vulnerable to accusations.
Question: Now that school is dismissed until May, is there a chance my pay will be reduced?
Answer: No. The District has not made any movement or comments to GEA regarding change in your contract pay. The effort teachers are making to provide remote learning for students satisfies your work requirements under the contract.
These are exceptional times. Your GEA AdvoCats are working hard to ensure that you are protected contractually and financially. Together we’ll get through this. Check back to this space for regular updates. Meow for now!