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PM News Brief: Excessive college fees, teacher sub shortage & sage grouse protections

Sage Grouse
Phil Douglas
/
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
The Bureau of Land Management is once again reviewing land use as it relates to the sage grouse. That story and more in this evening's news brief.

Monday evening, Jan. 31, 2022

State

State audit finds excessive college and university fees 

Utah’s state auditor released a report Monday finding several problems with course and program fees at state colleges and universities. The audit looked at 15 fees from each of the eight degree-granting schools. It found that some institutions created the expenses outside of existing policies, fees were not properly tracked, they generated excess revenue, and that payers did not receive proportional benefits. The auditor’s office is recommending each university reassess its fees so they don’t generate large carry over and make sure the purpose for them is clearly stated. — Ross Terrell

Utah announces new plan to deal with substitute teacher shortage 

Utah is struggling to find substitute teachers. To help with that, Gov. Spencer Cox announced Monday state employees can take leave time to help fill gaps. The executive order gives people 30 hours of paid leave to work as a sub or on the staff of any public or private school, but it has to happen by the end of June. Cox’s office said the omicron wave of the pandemic has led to an unprecedented number of teachers missing time. In a release, the governor said he hopes many of the state’s 22,000 employees will be willing to help Utah schools. — Ross Terrell 

Utah will be well represented at Beijing Winter Olympics

The opening ceremony for the Beijing Winter Olympics is Friday. The games will kick off as omicron rages and China’s human rights violations loom large. The U.S. is also imposing a diplomatic boycott. Seventy-five athletes with ties to Utah will make their way to Beijing, including 24-year-old Bella Wright — an alpine skier from Salt Lake City. She’s been training with the U.S. ski team in Park City and said everyone is excited but it has definitely been stressful. Wright will compete in the downhill and super-G events where she could reach speeds of 85 miles per hour. Read the full story.Leah Treidler 

Two new high volume COVID test sites opened

Utah’s surge of COVID cases caused by the omicron variant appears to be cresting. Over the weekend, Utah saw nearly 10,300 new cases. That’s about half the cases compared to the same time last week. Sewage monitoring data from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality also show COVID rates either decreasing or holding steady in most places. There are still 813 people hospitalized for the virus. The health department announced Monday it has opened two new high volume test sites. One is at the University of Utah and the other is at Utah Valley University. Each can administer PCR tests to 1,200 people per day. — Caroline Ballard 

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Northern Utah

How two new policies could affect protests and hirings at BYU 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints changed two policies recently. Demonstrations on the prominent Y Mountain at Brigham Young University are now banned and new Latter-day Saint hires are required to always be worthy of a temple recommend. Matthew Bowman, a Mormon history professor at Claremont Graduate University in California, said this is BYU’s way of addressing the trend of younger people being against institutional religion. Another historian called the policies “muscular reassertion” by the Church to show its unique identity. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery 

Region/Nation

Bureau of Land Management reviewing land use plans to protect sage grouse

The Bureau of Land Management is once again reviewing land use as it relates to the sage grouse. In 2015, stakeholders created a land use plan to protect sage grouse. For many Western states, that plan changed in 2019, favoring more industry and development. But a federal judge in Idaho blocked that move. Now, the BLM is looking at its land use plans again, reviewing new sage grouse science, and growing threats like wildfire, development and a large wild horse population. A lot of this work to save the sage grouse is to avoid it being listed as endangered, because that would mean more regulations. Public comments on the plan close Feb. 8. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau 

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