In consultation with the Legislature, the Governor vetoed six items of appropriation for technical reasons. Five of them – House Bill 3, Items 47, 52, 125 and 149; and House Bill 2, Item 111 – because they funded the implementation costs of various bills that ultimately did not pass the 2016 Legislature. He vetoed one additional budget item – House Bill 3, Item 31 – because it duplicated an appropriation contained in Senate Bill 43, Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention in Public Schools.
The Governor also vetoed a seventh item of appropriation, without consulting with the Legislature or the State Board of Education – Senate Bill 2, Item 6 – for policy or political reasons and not technical errors. Senate Bill 2, Item 6 contained funding for the following public education initiatives:
- A cut of $1 million ongoing education funding to Electronic High School. This appropriation would have discontinued the ongoing funding for Electronic High School. The program could have continued on a limited basis for one more year funded mainly with estimated balances of $693,300. During the 2016 interim, the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee plans to conduct a study of the program.
- An increase of $1.5 million ongoing education funding plus intent for an additional $500,000 TANF for UPSTART. This appropriation was for tuition subsidies so that the program could serve more children. UPSTART is designed to give Utah four-year-olds an individualized reading, mathematics and science curriculum with a focus on reading using home-based educational technology. Currently, UPSTART is comprised of three software programs: Rusty and Rosy Learn with Me (reading, math and science), the Waterford Assessments of Core Skills (testing; assesses children who do not know how to read) and Camp Consonant (reading). Children participate in the program the year before they attend kindergarten. Authorization for the $500,000 TANF portion was also provided in the DWS budget, so it is possible that that portion could continue. Estimates suggest the program will end FY 2016 with a non-lapsing balance of $2,900,000. The State Board of Education says that these funds are encumbered for use towards the UPSTART contract.
By withholding this $1.5 million from the UPSTART program, about 2,300 children who could have participated during the next school year will be unable to do so. UPSTART continues to maintain a substantial wait list and has been shown to be a unique solution for rural families that have limited access to pre-k opportunities in addition to UPSTART’s focus on low-income and ELL families.
Year after year, third-party evaluations have shown UPSTART children to be two to three times as prepared for Kindergarten as children evaluated within a control group.
- An increase of $275,000 for one-time education funding for ProStart. This appropriation request was titled ProStart – Teen Chef Masters, but included additional funding for the culinary arts program to provide training and certification for high school students. In the materials detailing this request, ProStart representatives requested $400,000 ongoing, which includes $225,000 for teacher supplies such as equipment and food for competition; $80,000 in administrative costs; $40,000 for student training, career fairs, competitions and events; $35,000 for teacher training, scholarships and professional development; and $20,000 for classroom resources. ProStart is a school-to-career program that has been training Utah culinary professionals for twenty years. It is in 62 schools and every district in Utah.
- An increase of $500,000 for ongoing education funding for Elementary Reading Assessment Tools. This appropriation was for a statewide tool to administer the DIBELS early literacy assessment. Currently, there are two providers who provide services to enhance usability of DIBELS data, for example mechanized data collection, accessible data that teachers can drill down into as soon as the assessment is complete and identification of relative strengths and weaknesses by teachers and administrators. This funding would have enabled all local education agencies in the state access to these types of tools. The funding was intended to provide access to either program to every school district and charter school in the state.
- An increase of $3 million one-time for K-3 Early Intervention. This appropriation was to purchase statewide software contract licenses to address early reading learning for a second year. The funding for software licenses was first provided in FY 2016 with a one-time appropriation of $3 million. There are currently five software programs being used for early reading intervention: i-Ready, Imagine Learning, lstation, SuccessMaker and Waterford ERP. Schools can choose the provider with whom they want to work with. The majority of schools use Imagine Learning which served about 38 percent of the students in the early intervention program in the 2014-2015 school year. The second most used program was i-Ready serving about 28 percent of enrolled students and Waterford served the lowest number of students at about 9 percent of licenses for last school year. The lstation program served 13.6 percent of students and SuccessMaker served 11.8 percent of students. In his explanation as to why the funding was vetoed Governor Herbert stated that there were “small negative impacts for first and second grade,” when in fact the third party evaluation showed significant positive effects in kindergarten and first grade, with some positive impacts in second grade as well. Through an RFP process the Utah State Office of Education evaluated software programs and selected seven providers that met the research-based criteria. Educators at each school then decide which program to use out of those providers, giving them local control of the decision-making process to help their students. To ensure accountability, the Utah State Office of Education recently enacted measures toward participating schools to meet fidelity requirements. Schools who do not meet fidelity requirements will be ineligible to continue participating in the initiative. Utah has one of the fastest growing student populations in the nation and the legislature approved the funding to help these young students at the most critical time in their education. Research shows that a student who can’t read on grade level by third grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time (American Educational Research Association). A lack of reading proficiency has a devastating effect on a student and eventually on Utah’s economy. This is why the legislature approved the funding for K–3 students.The $3 million that was vetoed was not an expansion to the early literacy program, but was one-time funding replacing previous one-time funding. As a result of the veto, 22,000 students that are currently receiving high quality instruction through technology will not receive it. In many cases it is also used to train the teachers on how to use the data they receive from the technology to drive further instruction.
- An increase of $500,000 one-time education funding for IT Academy. This appropriation was for software licenses and certification testing. This is a current program that has been funded with one-time money for the past three years. The main purpose is to provide opportunities for high school students to obtain basic to advanced certifications in software and network administration using MS Office products to equip students with technology skills needed for college and career readiness. The IT Academy connects staff, teachers, students, employers and local communities through technology skills development. The program does not have non-lapsing balances and without funding will discontinue in FY 2017. Utah currently leads the nation with a 22% increase in pass rate of certification exams. The program is created in statute, 53A-13-111.
Claudia Miner, program director for UPSTART, David Crandall, chairman of the Utah State Board of Education and Sen. Howard Stephenson, chairman of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, spoke in support of S.B. 2 in a Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News article.
Sen. Stephenson was quoted in a Deseret News article saying “When it came to the funding line items, he did not consult with the Legislature to find out what we were thinking when we decided to fund those items. It was really surprising to me, and I was extremely disappointed that he wouldn’t even ask why we did fund those items.”
“It would have been nice if the governor had given us more heads up that he was concerned with some of these issues because we could have explained our position before he actually took the action,” said Crandall in a Deseret News article.
“Unfortunately, the misinformation means UPSTART will be unable to serve about 2,300 additional children we could have served had we gotten the appropriation,” said Miner in a Salt Lake Tribune article.
House Majority Whip Francis Gibson’s response to the Governor’s action:
“I am disappointed by the Governor’s action to veto line items that provide funding for successful education programs and for not discussing them with us, or the stakeholders involved, prior to taking action. Approximately 55,000 students are benefitting from the K-3 Early Intervention Reading Program and without this additional funding 22,000 of them will not be able to participate next year. The IT Academy and ProStart programs provide students the ability to be trained and workforce ready upon graduation. We remain committed to these programs and working closely with members of our state board of education to ensure they have the tools necessary to enhance education for Utah’s school children.”
Overall Governor Herbert vetoed three bills and seven line-items on the final day of the bill signing period, which was Wednesday, March 30, 2016. 474 bills were passed during the 2016 General Session session of which 453 required action by the Governor.
The House will conduct the traditional veto override process as directed by the Utah Constitution. A poll will be sent to the 75 House members, which asks for a “for” or “against” vote to hold an override session. The Senate will poll their members as well. If two-thirds of each chamber votes to reconvene for an override session the Legislature may be called back to the Capitol for further action.
If the general consensus is not to have an override session, the House and Senate will begin interim work. If elected to hold an override session, the legislature must assemble on or before May 9, as per Article VII, Section 8 of the Utah Constitution. The Speaker of the House and Senate President shall agree on a time to hold the veto override session that should not exceed five calendar days.
Speaker Greg Hughes released this statement about the override process:
“While we feel that each bill and budget item has been thoroughly vetted by the Legislature, we respect the checks and balances of the constitutional system we have in place. We will now work through our process of polling representatives to see how the House would like to proceed and expect to have those results by Monday, April 18th.”
Click here to read more about the veto override process in a press release sent by the House Majority on April 1, 2016.