After meeting Monday morning with education leaders, Gov. Norm Bangerter appeared ready to encourage legislators to stand by public education recommendations he made in his original budget.
The current proposal being considered by the Legislature's Executive Appropriations Committee leaves school districts not knowing until after school starts in the fall how much money they'll get.Not knowing how much state money is available for teachers' salaries would hopelessly compromise salary negotiations, Utah Education Association President Lily Eskelsen said. Also in Monday's meeting were State Superintendent Jay B. Taggart and representatives of school boards and district superintendents.
Monday afternoon UEA members were to meet at Farmington Junior High School to discuss the legislative actions.
Eskelsen told reporters Monday morning that the governor seems to share concerns about the budget proposed by the joint Executive Appropriations Committee.
The committee plan is to give education what money it can now, based on revenue projections, while promising to grant supplemental funds in September if more money becomes available. Bangerter told education leaders he might have to consider a veto if the plan passes.
Eskelsen said that plan "makes it impossible for schools to open in the fall."
School districts conduct negotiations with teacher unions throughout the spring and summer and generally have negotiations completed by the time school opens. By law, teachers must be notified by March 15 whether their contracts will be renewed. In addition, many teachers in year-round schools begin their contract years in July.
The UEA favors using projected revenue figures from December, which were higher than those presented last week. Then, the state's "rainy day" surplus fund should be used as a guarantee for adequate education funding, Eskelsen said.
Bangerter appeared open-minded, Eskelsen said, although last week he asked legislators not to touch the rainy-day fund. Manipulating supplemental funds to meet education needs would be preferable, the governor said.
Bangerter also seems determined, the union leader said, to salvage his proposed $4.8 million plan to reduce first-grade classloads by an average of three students per class.
Though a bill supporting the proposal was passed by both houses last week, the appropriations committee could find no money to fund it, and legislators proposed that the bill be recalled for further consideration.
Eskelsen said the UEA meeting Monday does not automatically portend a strike. The Legislature, even with only two days remaining in its session, has not considered all the the options.
Eskelsen said that though large numbers of teachers were expected at Monday afternoon's meeting, it would be an informational session, not a call for action.
The UEA board of directors and local leaders will meet Saturday to further discuss the results of the legislative session.