Host of Laws Go Into Effect On Tuesday
by Billy Hesterman
May 8, 2012
Beginning today it will be state law that all students enrolled in Utah's public education system recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily in the classroom.
The law comes from a bill, Senate Bill 223, passed by Utah's Legislature during the 2012 session and joins a host of other bills that go into effect today. Despite the bill going into law, the bill's sponsor and the state office of education expect that most school districts will wait until the new school year, beginning in the fall, for the actual implementation of the law.
"I think the plan for most school districts and charter schools is to begin reciting the pledge daily when the new school year begins," explained Carol Lear, legislative director for Utah's state office of education.
"Making it at the end of the year would be ineffective and be sort of messy."
The bill, which Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, sponsored, changes Utah's practice of having only elementary students recite the pledge each day to having all students in elementary, middle and high school preform the recitation daily. Previously middle and high school students were required by law to state the pledge at the beginning of each week.
The new law states that students are to be instructed once a year that participation in the Pledge of Allegiance is voluntary and that students should be respectful of those who opt to not recite the pledge.
Students are to be led by a fellow classmate in the activity. Teachers are to assign the student who leads the class in the pledge on a rotating basis. The law does not require teachers to recite the pledge.
Another change coming to Utah's school system this year is an alteration to how teachers and school administrators are evaluated.
Senate Bill 64, which passed with only one dissenting vote in each body, updates the evaluation system used in the public education system. The law mandates that principals are to be evaluated yearly on their abilities and accomplishments.
"We want to have a higher level of accountability with the leadership in our public school system," Osmond, the bill's sponsor, said. "We are saying it is time for us to raise the bar."
The new law, which was supported by the UEA and the state school board, creates a yearly evaluation for school administrators. According to Osmond, administrators only have evaluations about every four years.
The bill changes how administrators' pay is determined, with the new law requiring that their pay will be partially based on their performance. Principals will be evaluated on their leadership skills, student progress indicators, competence and consistency in completing teacher evaluations and local school district criteria.
"We feel like this is going to move the needle, in terms of quality of education, in the right direction," Kory Holdaway, UEA's government relations director, said.
The bill also gives districts more control on termination of teachers than they have had in the past. Administrators will have more control on terminating employment of teachers who receive poor evaluations.
Other notable bills that go into effect today include a law that extends the wait time for a woman seeking an abortion in Utah from 24 hours to 72 hours. Another law will increase the bounty the state pays hunters for killing coyotes, which lawmakers hope will better protect Utah's deer population. The Legislature also changed Utah's fireworks law to adjust the legal period to ignite fireworks to three days before and after July 4 and July 24 holidays; the old period to ignite fireworks went from June 26 to July 26.
Also going into effect will be the so-called Lonnie Johnson law. The bill was created to close a loophole that allowed accused child rapist and convicted sex offender Lonnie Johnson to remain a free man. Johnson has avoided trial because he has been deemed mentally incompetent and not a danger to society. The new law will allow prosecutors to attempt to get Johnson under the supervision of the state.