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From the Hill, Ep. 9: Teachers walk out of Friday classes, demand more funding

Lawmakers closed out the fifth week of the state legislative session, with only two more to go. Gov. Gary Herbert has begun signing bills into law, with 12 already enacted. 

Two of these signed laws include the revisions done to Prop. 2 — legalizing medical marijuana — and Prop. 4 — keeping an eye on gerrymandering with the creation of an independent redistricting commission. 

Lawmakers have also spent a lot of time focusing on education during this legislative session, which was highlighted this week. Salt Lake City School District teachers walked out of classes Friday afternoon to march to the Capitol and demand more funding. 

As of right now, Utah ranks 50 in the country for funding-per-pupil. Teachers are demanding a 6% increase, which would roughly come out to $1,200 per student, to level the playing field. 

Teachers say this would provide for more school supplies, smaller class sizes and more substitute teachers. They didn’t demand more compensation, saying the march was a “walk for students” rather than a teacher walkout.

Lawmakers want “reset button” for high school students with convictions

A proposed bill would allow former student offenders to still be eligible for state-funded scholarships. Sponsor Todd Weiler said it would provide them with a “reset button” that would let them start their adult lives with a clean slate. 

Right now, these students with criminal records are ineligible to apply for some state funded scholarships, especially the one that is subject to be reversed through this bill: New Century Scholarship. Weiler said these prohibitions should be lifted, because the students had time to think about what they did while they were incarcerated.

The bill has received some support, but questioning the significance. Some lawmakers argue that when high school students graduate and turn 18, they have the option to seal their records and apply for scholarships anyway. 

The bill would remove the policy that students with criminal record can’t apply to scholarships — however, it would still maintain that students with misdemeanor traffic citations are ineligible.

Fewer classes to graduate high school?

Under H.B. 355, Rep. Karianne Lisbonbee wants to decrease the number of required credits from core classes needed to graduate high school. 

Right now, the Utah State Board of Education requires students to take three math, three science and four language arts credits — on top of elective courses — to graduate. However, this bill would decrease each of those requirements by one to be two math, two science and three language arts. 

It would also implement a new requirement, having high school students take a financial literacy and budgeting class. 

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