Members of the Utah House of Representatives passed a bill Friday that would fund grants to help school districts pay for teacher development.
House Bill 28 sets aside $30 million for schools to provide continuing professional development for their teachers. Republican Rep. Justin Fawson voted against the bill. He said while he isn’t against professional development, he would rather use the money to increase the weighted pupil unit, or the amount of money the state pays school districts per student.
“This is the equivalent of a 1% increase on the WPU," Fawson said. "So we can either hand this funding to districts through the WPU in an unrestricted form where they can use it for teacher development or we can tell them exactly what to do with it.”
Funding more professional development is a top priority for the Utah Education Association, but so is raising the WPU. Republican Rep. Brad Dee said with limited resources that creates a conflict, but his decision to support the legislation is about setting good policy and not about budgets.
“I’m going to weight those things on a policy issue not on a fiscal note," Dee said. "I’m going to say, what do I feel, as a legislator, can best help these teachers in the classroom. And I’m going to ask them to develop their skills.”
The House passed HB28 by a vote of 61 – 12. While the bill currently sets aside $30 million for grants, lawmakers admit that amount will likely be lowered as it continues to move through the legislature.