Two bills that would serve as incentives for school districts to offer extended school year options for specific educator groups received nods from the House Education Committee Friday.

HB270 would establish an optional grant program to provide an extended year for math and science teachers through the creation of Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR) Centers.

The program would set aside $11 million to provide grants to charter schools and school districts as an incentive to adopt programs that result in a more efficient use of teachers and buildings.

It would nudge districts in the direction of using school buildings in the summer while increasing pay for math and science teachers and providing extended opportunities for students.

Exactly what those centers would look like is vague in the bill by design, which would give the school districts the latitude to craft the centers to fit their individual needs, according to Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley.

Other potential benefits of the program include the ability to compete in getting quality teachers in the critical shortage areas of math and science, decreased class sizes, improved student college preparation and opportunities for earlier high school graduation.

HB67, sponsored my Rep. Ronda Rudd Menlove, R-Garland, would also give extra teaching days to special educators during the year and provides $200 a day stipends for up to 10 additional days for special education teachers. That bill is also aimed at recruiting more qualified teachers.

Moreover, the Senate also passed a resolution that would request the State Office of Education send out information to school districts, principals and teachers for the next three years reminding them of the alternative routes to licensure that are available in the state.

Resolution sponsor, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, said over the past few years Legislators have put into place a number of alternative routes to licensure with the hope of netting more qualified educators.

But there are a lot of things in place that school administrators aren't always aware of, Dayton said.

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