SALT LAKE CITY — Both chambers of the Utah Legislature have passed a version of a bill that would allow school districts to use up to four instructional days for teacher training and preparation.
On Wednesday, members of the Utah House voted 50-24 in favor of SB103, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, following a 21-6 vote of the Senate earlier this month. The bill will now return to the Senate to reconcile different language between the versions passed by each chamber.
"We’re not taking a lot of (classroom) time if the school boards use this correctly as one day a quarter on a Friday," said the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan.
The main point of opposition toward the bill is that it provides for teacher training at the expense of instructional time for students. Rather than take time away from the classroom, lawmakers said, the Legislature should work to restore funding for professional development days outside the academic calendar, which were largely cut during the economic recession.
"We need professional development time, we need it desperately, but we need to pay for it," Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, said.
Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Salt Lake City, said students need more time in the classroom and not less. She said mandates from the state regarding assessments and testing have forced schools to take more time to "weigh and measure the children than to feed them."
"I feel bad that we’re having to make a choice of one over the other," she said. "We really need to fund professional development."
But supporters of the bill argued that SB103 grants school districts the flexibility to use time for teacher training if they choose to do so.
"I just want to assure everybody that I don’t think we’re going to fall off the edge of the earth by giving districts the ability to use some time for professional development," Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, said.
Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said the proposal may not be ideal, but it allows for school districts to address their needs while lawmakers work on a more long-term solution for professional development.
"Our teachers need the extra time to hone in and develop their skills," he said. "Unless we’re ready to pony up to do it, we need to look for other opportunities."
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