A bill unanimously endorsed by the Senate Education Committee Friday will add value over time to the $6,000 teacher supplement granted to licensed educators under the Utah Fits All Scholarship bill.

SB183, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, will index the $6,000 supplement to the same percentage that lawmakers increased the value of the weighted pupil unit the previous fiscal year. The WPU is the basic building block of public education funding in Utah.

“This bill is actually quite simple but it’s very profound in the policy that we’re proposing to change,” Vickers told members of the Senate Education Committee.

Senate gives final passage to school choice scholarships, teacher raises

Jay Blain, director of policy and research for the Utah Education Association, urged the committee to give HB183 a favorable recommendation.

“The changes here are very positive and will benefit educators in the state. We give appreciation here to the sponsor and would encourage everyone to support this bill,” he said.

The bill also eliminated language that said any teacher who received a negative evaluation would be ineligible for the supplement. HB183 amends that language to say an educator would have to receive three consecutive unsatisfactory evaluations to lose the supplement.

Vickers said the language was changed at the suggestion of Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton. Adams’ daughter, who is a public school teacher, brought the existing language regarding teacher evaluations to his attention, Vickers said.

Vickers said the bill’s effects will be profound “especially on our teachers that are working so hard in the education community.”

HB183 is a companion bill to the HB215, which created a state-funded scholarship program allowing eligible parents to use $8,000 for private school, home schooling or other private educational options.

The bill, which also established a $6,000 compensation increase for educators, was controversial because it tied the educator supplement to the choice scholarship, which is a significant change in education policy.

The Utah Fits All Scholarship can be used for private education expenses such as curriculum, textbooks, education, software, tutoring services, micro-school teacher salaries or private school tuition. State funding for the program’s inaugural year is capped at $42 million.

One lawmaker who is a public school teacher said the teacher salary boost was akin to a “bribe,” but he voted for HB215 nonetheless.

The educator salary adjustment created under HB215 is for teachers who hold Utah State Board of Education licenses or other education professionals licensed by the Division of Professional Licensing such as social workers, psychologists or audiologists.