Castle Country Radio is conducting weekly Legislative updates with Representative Christine F. Watkins while the general session is taking place this year. She will give a brief report on the dealings taking place on the hill twice a week, so she took time on Tuesday to speak over the telephone about Utah Fits All Bill.
“This bill they did hook two things together, a scholarship program for students to go to private schools, homeschooling, micro-schools, or there’s a variety of things that if you think out of the box that would probably qualify. They tied it together with a historic pay raise, increase for teachers,” said Representative Watkins. Generally, this bill would have been discussed throughout the general session and possibly voted on near the end of the session but the legislation is starting to hit the hard topics right out of the gate.
There were some people that were not happy with the bill but there were three provisions applied to get enough votes to pass the bill and get it on to the Senate. One was that there has to be some accountability, so a student in order to get the scholarship would have to provide a portfolio or take a norm reference test. Secondly, the student can be dual enrolled, meaning they can do homeschool and take other courses through the public school system, but would only be allowed to take half of the scholarship. “The third one is we eliminated the automatic increase to the $42 million price tag, not going to be automatically raised every year. We had a lot of people who one legislator who is currently a teacher, we had a lot of us that are past retired teachers and some other people that are in that world of education that said okay, okay, I can do this now,” said Representative Watkins.
The bill passed the Senate Committee on Monday with only two descending votes so it’s on its way to the Governor’s office. “I’m going to tell you that both the house and the senate had already done what they needed to do to get the votes to pass it out. So by putting the two issues together, the governor said he indicated he would sign it,” said Representative Watkins.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTINE F. WATKINS