SALT LAKE CITY — A bill meant to ensure K-12 funding goes for education expenses rather than teacher union salaries failed Tuesday in the House.

SB77, sponsored by Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, would have forbidden school districts from paying salaries of their local teacher association representatives.

Several lawmakers spoke in support of the bill, saying taxpayer money should go to classroom teachers — not union leaders. However, local control became part of the hourlong debate on the floor, which was the kiss of death for the legislation. It failed on a 43-25 vote.

"They are trying to confuse the issue, saying `local control' is convenient when it works to your advantage to try and kill something," said Robyn Bagley, chairwoman for Parents for Choice in Education, a nonprofit group that supports the charter school movement and was behind SB77.

Dayton and Bagley said in interviews after the vote they will bring the bill back next year.

Kory Holdaway, spokesman for the Utah Education Association, said the statute is clear the way it is, and if districts are following it, there should be no problems.

"We're happy with the vote," Holdaway said.

Dayton called the defeat of her bill a "UEA endorsement of cuts to the classroom." She pointed out the money school districts are using to pay union reps is dollars that are better spent in the classroom.

"Right now, we have money being taken from the classroom and paying for teachers to be out of the classroom, doing union duties," Dayton said. "I want all the money earmarked for education to be going to the classroom."

According to Parents for Choice, full-time Davis School District teachers representative Susan Firmage makes $50,549 a year. The district pays up to half, or $25,275, of her salary. Jay Blain, president of Granite Education Association, earns $56,492, of which the district pays $28,246. And Virginia Ellison, representing Salt Lake City School District's teacher association, makes $73,032, of which the district pays $24,344.

Each district has one union president who represents the teachers. Work generally includes teacher salary negotiations and serving as a liaison between teachers and administrators, as well as being on task forces and committees. Only three districts in the state are large enough to warrant a full-time paid union president. Smaller districts have volunteer presidents who also work as teachers. Each school in a district has a volunteer union representative as well.

The impetus for the bill is a report out of the Legislative Auditor General's Office. Go to www.le.state.ut.us/audit/09_bilr.pdf to view the report.

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