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The House advanced a bill Wednesday that would prohibit school districts from paying teachers on leave from the classroom for union duties.
HB183 would also require teachers or unions to reimburse districts for unpaid association leaves of more than 10 days.
For the past two years, similar bills have failed to win passage, but the House voted 46-22 on Wednesday to move HB183 to the Senate.
"We should not be using state dollars to compensate teachers on association leave," said bill sponsor Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo, an assistant principal at Oak Canyon Junior High. "The issue is transparency and the issue is ethics."
Several other lawmakers also spoke in support of the bill. Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, said, "It's actually taxpayer dollars that are going to pay the union rep who they may disagree with and many times they do disagree with."
Other lawmakers spoke in opposition to the bill, saying the issue should be up to local school districts. Now, three Utah districts, Salt Lake, Granite and Davis, pay a portion of their local union presidents' salaries, though the employees are on leave from teaching, and the union pays the rest of their salaries according to contract agreements.
"I think we should be very cautious when we try to usurp control over local decisions because this is just one more slide down that proverbial slippery slope," said Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay.
Utah Education Association (UEA) leaders have argued that those local union presidents devote much of their time to activities that benefit their districts, such as speaking for teachers on district committees and helping districts and teachers work through various issues.
"We absolutely agree 100 percent that taxpayer dollars should not be used to subsidize association activities, and they are not being used currently to subsidize association activities," said UEA president Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh after the debate.