The 2023 Utah legislative session was a historic one for education funding, with an 18.5% increase in education funding compared to the previous year.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on Wednesday traveled to Daniels Canyon Elementary in Heber City to ceremonially sign eight different bills focused on education and to commemorate that investment.

Previously passed bills that were signed by Cox on Wednesday include a bill that makes full-day kindergarten available for all local education agencies with an option for half-day kindergarten and one that creates a state security chief position within the Utah Department of Public Safety, as well as the School Security Task Force.

"This is the most important bill signing we're doing, even though it's at the end of our (ceremonial) bill signing period," Cox said. "Education is a top priority for Lt. Gov. (Deidre) Henderson and I."

Here's a rundown of the eight bills ceremonially signed by Cox and what they'll accomplish:

  • HB477 provides the option of full-day kindergarten for all local education agencies while retaining the option for half-day kindergarten.
  • HB2 provides the necessary funding to support education-related items for all-day kindergarten. It increases the value of the weighted pupil unit for the fiscal year 2023-2024 by 6% and adjusts the number of weighted pupil units to allow for full-day kindergarten.
  • HB61 creates school safety requirements, including a state security chief position within the Utah Department of Public Safety and the School Security Task Force.
  • HB102 requires colleges and universities within the Utah System of Higher Education to grant residency status to individuals who are not citizens of the United States but have been granted or have applied for one of the following immigration statuses: special immigrant visa recipient, refugee, humanitarian parole, temporary protected status or asylum.
  • HB163 ensures that certain associations and educational organizations can't prohibit student-athletes from wearing religious clothing or other closing consistent with their beliefs while participating in athletics.
  • HB308 removes the State Board of Education's requirement to assign schools an overall rating by using a letter grade.
  • HB332 creates the Fallen Officer Memorial Scholarship Program, providing scholarship funds to children of public safety officers and firefighters who have died in the line of duty.
  • SB183 adds an automatic appropriation adjustment for inflation to the awards from the Educator Salary Adjustments Program and the Teacher Salary Supplement Program, modifying what constitutes an eligible teacher — in terms of performance evaluation — for purposes of these programs.

"I just want to thank everybody in this room for the work that you've done on behalf of, well, all of Utah. The students of this state of Utah, our children, our future," Henderson said. "There are a lot of things that we did this year that were heavy, heavy lifts and many years in the making and I want to thank the legislators that stuck with it."

Cox said the ceremonial bill signings he held mark a chance to celebrate the "good things that happen" in Utah.

"Our society needs that. They need hope. They need to see that we can solve some of the biggest challenges that we're facing out there," Cox said.