Utah schoolchildren might soon have eight more days of holiday so teachers can hone their professional development skills and prepare more thoroughly for the classes they teach. Senate Bill 103, proposed by Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-Salt Lake City, breezed through the Senate Education Committee this morning.
The bill would cut 60 hours, or eight days, of school time from the calendar to accommodate for more teacher development. A key piece of the legislation will allow funding to roll in on these eight days even though students won't be in the classroom.
“When a teacher is highly trained they have a significant impact on success in the classroom,” Osmond told the committee, adding that he has failed to find any studies showing that student success is dependent on the number of days or hours they're in class. In Utah, students are supposed to attend 180 days of school, or 990 hours.
The Utah School Employees Association opposed the bill, saying it would unfairly punish bus drivers and other non-teachers it represents who need these work days.
Mike Kelley, a spokesman with the Utah Education Association, says the union has not taken a firm stand on the bill, though he has concerns. “We support Senator Osmond's push for additional professional development for teachers. That's important,” Kelley says. “We don't particularly agree with doing that at the expense of instructional time.”
Details on the bill are sparse, since it was heavily amended prior to the committee hearing. For instance, where and from whom teachers receive any professional development expertise was not discussed. Sara Jones, director of educational excellence and community outreach with UEA, says it appears local school districts will be able to decide how to use these days and how many to use.
Kelley says he anticipates the details will be hammered out in the coming days, at which point, the UEA will take a stand.
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