Utah lawmaker unveils teacher employment bill
SB64 • Proposal aims to "fix academic performance."
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After months of work, discussion and meetings with teachers, a Utah lawmaker has unveiled a bill aimed at changing educator employment laws.

On Wednesday, Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, released the text of SB64, which he said is scheduled to be heard in committee next week. The bill would aim to hold teachers, administrators and other district employees more accountable for their performance by tying it to their pay and employment.

"I'm trying to fix academic performance and the output of our schools," Osmond said Thursday. "At the end of the day, there are great pockets of innovation, wonderful academic achievements, but it's not consistent throughout the state, and I feel that by focusing on leadership and how we compensate, that we will increase that focus on academic performance."

For district employees, the bill would establish four new performance categories based on annual evaluations. An educator who receives a low rating would not be allowed to get scheduled raises. A district employee who repeats poor performance twice in three years could be fired. The bill would also limit the time given to administrators to remediate poorly performing teachers to 120 days before they would have to make an employment decision.

For administrators, the bill would require annual evaluations based on student achievement, leadership skills, ability to complete teacher evaluations and other areas decided by a local school board. Districts would have to begin paying administrators based on their evaluations over time, eventually tying at least 15 percent of administrators' pay to performance.

Osmond presented the bill Thursday to the state school board, which voted to support it. The bill, as it's now written, also has the support of the Utah Education Association (UEA).

UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh said Thursday that the UEA, along with others, has been working on the bill with Osmond.

"It has been thoroughly vetted through my organization, and we think it represents some real positive changes, some real positive developments in ensuring we have a quality instructor in every classroom," Gallagher-Fishbaugh said.

An earlier version of the proposal would have limited teacher contracts to five years at a time, at which point districts could have either continued those contracts or fired teachers. But after meeting with teachers across the state, who were critical of that idea, Osmond reworked the proposal.

lschencker@sltrib.com