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Controversial bills jumped up the first day of the 1991 Legislature, including one doing away with teachers' career-ladder pay plan.

"The UEA (Utah Education Association) won't tell the truth about teacher pay in Utah," said sponsor Sen. Chuck Peterson, R-Provo. "We really rank about 40th in teacher pay. But the UEA keeps refusing to include career-ladder money and says Utah teachers rank 49th."Peterson proposes to scrap the career-ladder program, which outlines pay raises for seniority, additional degrees earned and other career performance. Millions of dollars poured into the career-ladder program would instead go directly into the weighted pupil unit, the basic, statewide lump sum given to each school district for each pupil enrolled.

It's from the WPU that most of the teachers' salaries are drawn. "I'd give the career-ladder money to the districts and let them decide where it goes. They could set up their own programs or give it to teachers however they see fit," said Peterson.

"That's not all I'm doing," Peterson said. "I'm going to amend my bill to move the teacher contract from 180 days to 187 days." Such an amendment would mean teachers would have to work a week longer. Peterson believes students need to have a longer school year.

UEA officials vehemently oppose Peterson's plan. Lily Eskelsen, UEA president, said, "It's unfair to judge the career-ladder program as a failure when in the last five years it has received no increase in funding while the number of teachers has increased." She said the amount of money some teachers receive has been watered down to the point that it's not very attractive but said "throwing the program away is not the answer."

The UEA wants the career-ladder money not only retained but indexed to the WPU so that it rises at the same rate.