As school district officials consider budget cuts, Parents for Choice in Education is initiating a bill that forbids districts from paying salaries of their local teacher-association representatives.

"Tax dollars should be spent on educating children," said Judi Clark, PCE executive director.

Utah Education Association officials call the action revenge, pure and simple, for UEA's support in overthrowing the voucher referendum that PCE strongly supported.

HB381, sponsored by Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, is meant to ensure that K-12 funding goes toward education expenses rather than teacher union salaries, as is the case in several school districts, said PCE officials in a statement issued Monday.

"With the budget crisis, we are trying to get as much money as possible into the classrooms," Herrod said.

PCE Chairwoman Robyn Bagley said, "One of the great concerns about bills this year is whether or not they have a fiscal note attached to them. This bill actually puts money back into the budgets of school districts — money that belongs in the classroom where it can directly benefit the children."

UEA President Kim Campbell said she believes PCE is still bitter over the vouchers defeat.

"PCE is driving the bus on this one," agreed Jay Blain, president of the Granite Education Association.

Clark denies the accusation. "Our opponents are going to constantly claim retribution so they have the public on their side," she said, adding UEA just wants to discredit PCE.

"This bill has everything to do with ensuring all the education dollars collected for educating Utah's students are actually used for that purpose," Clark said.

Campbell said, "This bill would take away the voice of teacher associations. We hope the public will see it as such."

Through GRAMA requests and research of collective bargaining agreements, PCE discovered some school districts pay up to 50 percent of the local teacher union president's salary even though the employee is granted full release time from their teaching responsibilities.

According to PCE, Susan Firmage, representing Davis School District teachers, makes $50,549 full time. The district pays up to 50 percent, or $25,275, for her salary.

Jay Blain, president of Granite Education Association, earns $56,492, of which 50 percent is paid by the district: $28,246, according to PCE's report.

Virginia Ellison, representing Salt Lake School District's teacher association, makes $73,032 of which the district pays 33 percent for a total of $24,344, according to PCE.

"They (PCE officials) don't understand all we do," Ellison said.

Clark said, "All this is about is just making sure we are really fiscally responsible, especially in lean budget years. We cannot afford to divert money away from the classroom."

E-mail: astewart@desnews.com