Although still four months away, the Utah State Board of Education has begun discussion of its possible legislative policy requests for the 2020 Utah Legislative Session.
On Friday, State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson said the board’s potential requests are aligned with its four major goals: enhancing early learning, personalized teaching and learning, safe and healthy schools and effective educators and leaders.
One priority the board may pursue for a second year in a row is school safety funding. During the 2019 session, the Utah Legislature declined to appropriate $66 million that districts could use to add or improve security features such as single points of entry at their schools.
“At the end of the day, several universities’ buildings got funded instead,” Dickson said.
Dickson said that after the session concluded, she heard that some state lawmakers were under the impression that districts had already taken care of these safety needs. Other lawmakers took tours of new schools that had many safety features built in.
According to Dickson, funding to enhance school building safety is especially critical for older school buildings in rural school districts. She says they aren’t easily able to raise that money through property taxes like urban school districts can.
Expanding optional full-day kindergarten opportunities is also on the board’s current priority list.
Currently, 40% of incoming Utah kindergarten students are not ready for school, according to the board’s data. The full-day kindergarten program now receives $7.5 million in ongoing funds from the state. The board plans to ask for an additional $18.6 million to help Utah students who need early intervention.