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Funding for Education News!

Incoming Budget Cuts to Education

Here is a sobering update on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis impact on the education budget. Overall, the total budget of the state of Utah could be reduced by as much as 10% (2 billion out of about 20 billion) and all state Agencies in Utah, including the Utah State Board of Education, have been asked by the Utah Legislature to prepare recommendations for budget cuts of 2, 5, and 10 percent as a means of preparing the state for cuts should they be needed in light of the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Utah State Board of Education (USBE) met last Thursday and approved its scenarios  of budget reduction, 2%, 5% and 10% (382 Millions). These will be proposed to the appropriation committee at the legislature next week.

What an incredible difference from just 2 months ago!

Just 2 months ago, we celebrated a ‘win’, with H.B.357, the Public Education Funding Stabilization (see my email from April 7th).
# Increase the WPU per-student spending by 6% for FY2021 (from 3,532 to 3,743) — or more than $200 millions.
# $200,000 for teaching T.H. Bell scholarships to retain teachers.
# A statutory requirement that Utah boost education funding each year by at least the cost of enrollment growth and inflation.
# Lawmakers will set aside money each year — starting with $75 million and capping out at roughly $400 million — in a new reserve account for use during an economic downturn.
# Funding enrollment growth and inflation

During  their Thursday meeting, the USBE recommended up to 382 Millions in budget cuts – about 10% of the overall budget. Please find the excellent article from the Deseret news (

Some highlights are below. You’d expect that if cuts were done, they’d affect these expenses, but it is nevertheless very painful and will have negative consequences in our classrooms.

Regardless, at the 2% cuts – 76 Millions,
# Professional staff – 20 Millions
# Chart school cuts, cuts of 12 Millions
# School turnaround, cuts of 7 Millions
# Flexible allocation cuts 7.8 Millions
# Teacher and Student Success Act (TSSA) cut of 5.3 Million, The TSSA was passed in law recently, and just took effect on….. Jan 1st, 2020 and was supposed to support teachers and school performance.
# Upstart early education, cuts of 3 Millions
# Special ed intensive services, cuts of 2.8 Millions

The 5% would eliminate the class size reduction program, cutting another $150 Million.

The 10% cuts would do further cuts, with the TSSP and TSSA being the biggest victims
# Complete elimination of the Teacher and Student Success Act (TSSA), cuts of 94 Million, The TSSA was passed in law recently, and just took effect on….. Jan 1st, 2020 and was supposed to support teachers and school performance.
# Complete elimination of the Teacher Salary Supplement Program (TSSP) which incentivizes math & science teachers in middle schools. 19 Millions.

Please click here to see the details of the cuts proposed.

I will keep you posted on the legislature’s decisions, and will let you know when I know the impact on the GSD budget, but these measures will inevitably have a dramatic impact on all school districts budgets, including ours.

Academics Coronavirus

Lessons Learned

Well this is it…. well almost. This week is the last week of ‘classes’ or ‘school’ at the Granite School District. Phew! We will all agree that this was very challenging for educators, students, parents and administrators alike. I have witnessed countless heroic and heartwarming stories, but I have also heard of the challenges of switching to distance learning so suddenly. Our teachers have done an amazing job, and parents will truly appreciate them for the heroes that they are. Expectedly however, this has not always been a smooth transition and our teachers are also reporting unprecedented levels of exhaustion.

As superintendent Sidnee Dickson explained during her talk at the Eccles School of Business last Friday, the state is already planning for a few scenarios for the fall, some of which will involve continuing distance learning.

So the uncertainty that we have experienced in the last few months is here to stay. So let’s use the summer months and capitalize on the lessons learned by all of us before the summer break hits and we gleefully forget about our experience hoping to put it behind us.

I suggest a simple survey sent to each parent, student and educator, of their ‘top 3’. Top three things that worked well, and top three things that did not. Such a student / parent survey would be easy to compile for each teacher and for each school, and results could be shared within a school, and across schools. So that if we have to return to some form of distance learning, our educators would have the benefit of their own experience, as well as useful feedback from their students as well.

Academics Equity GraniteSchoolDistrict

Dismissal Grading Scale

We are soon wrapping up this strange school year.
Below is an easy reference to the dismissal grading scale implemented by the Granite School District due to Covid-19 for the 4th quarter of the school 2019-2020.

Click here to access the granite school website and see more details on the options possible.

Academics Coronavirus Equity

Phases to Recovery

The Utah State Board of Education recently outlined their plan for students to recover from the slowdown or lack of learning. You can read the complete document here. Highlights are below.

Yet, I wonder how realistic this plan is. In the Salt Lake Tribune article evokes another reality. “It’s been 5 weeks and thousands of Utah students still haven’t logged on for school amid the coronavirus

By the end of the school year, the article that about 20% of the students will have missed about 2 months of learning. What will our percentage be in the Granite School District ? Granted, we can take out a few days for spring break, and time for testing, but overall, this is a massive amount to make up, especially if you have no internet access, no computer, no parent to guide you over your homework of a combination of these (I applaud GSD’s valiant effort to palliate internet and computer access).

I am grateful that the Utah State Board of Education is planning the recovery phase that will no doubt come, even if comes later than planned.
But I am not sure that planning on summer months for the phase 2 and bridging the learning gaps will be either practical or sufficient in a number of cases. And what are the implications of not being able to catch up during the summer months on the upcoming school year, even assuming that we’d all start school in August ?
I know that some teachers are already adjusting their lesson plans and building more review time at the beginning of the year. Will this more sufficient ? We will also need to worry about the grades the students are going into, dedicating perhaps additional resources for some critical grades? But this may not be enough: it will likely take more creativity and the proverbial ‘village’ to ensure that all students are caught up.
I’d like to see the Granite School District create a position that would ensure that all catch up efforts are coordinated, best practices disseminated across our schools and teachers, and results carefully tracked.
If elected on the board, following up on this issue will be my first and highest priority.

Academics News! Other Districts in Utah Well-being & Mental Health

Canyons hires a new superintendent

A few days ago, Mr. Robins was announced as the new superintendent for the Canyons district. Mr. Robins will replace Mr. Briscoe who is retiring.
This is noteworthy news, because of Mr. Robins’s accomplishments at the Juab district where he served as superintendent.

Mr. Robins has an impressive resume and the trust of the Canyons school board who unanimously voted for his appointment.

Please read the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune articles below for more information.

What interested me greatly was the fact that under Mr. Robins’s leadership, the Juab district has emerged as a national leader in competency-based education and personalized learning.

The accomplishments of Juab school district are described in the Deseret News article.

“In 2015, the school district was inducted into the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, which recognizes some of the nation’s most innovative and forward-thinking school models. There are only 114 districts which have earned that distinction in the nation. In 2018, Juab School District was honored at the National School Boards Convention by the Center for Digital Education .”

I am also impressed by Mr. Robins’ priority in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, both in bridging the academic gap and taking care of the looming mental health crisis. As reported in the SL Tribune, “A lot of students, Robins said after the announcement, will likely come back with new fears and concerns, and some with ongoing ones. His goal will be making sure all have a place to go to talk about what they’re experiencing.”

I applaud his priorities as I believe that these should also be front and center in our district.

Congratulations, Mr. Robins, on your new appointment.


Coronavirus Resources

Last updated on April 16th, 2020

Covid-19 is an unprecedented crisis that has changed the world as we know it.
Because taking care of our loved ones, finding the right resources or helping others in need is by far the most important at the moment, please find below useful links and resources.
For parents, the ‘soft closure’ is in effect was extended from May 1st, 2020 for all schools statewide to then of the school year. For Granite Schools, it is extended to May 22nd, 2020, which was the official end of our school year.

Utah PTA Covid-19 resource Page.

Utah State Board of Education
Coronavirus page
Map of emergency meals for chilren available
Self care resources. How to stay healthy of mind and body during this pandemic

Granite School District Covid-19 Page
Parents in need: talk with your principal or call 385.646.5000 with any questions and you will be directed to the right place
Distance Learning resources.
4th quarter grading policy (announced on April 16th)
The Granite School District has repurposed buses to distribute meals!
The district will also provide internet hot spots in public places. Stay tune for more information.

Resources for people in need
Utah Unemployment Insurance
Child Care: Utah’s Office of Child Care at 1-800-670-1552
Free Internet Access: Call Comcast special line at 1-844-488-8395
Utah Food Bank.
Rental Assistance – Utah Apartment Association (801)-487-5619
Not sure where to turn? Call 2-1-1 Call 2-1-1 to learn about resources in your community that can help meet your needs

What can you do to help?
Financial donations: Granite Education Foundation;
United Way of Salt Lake
Blood donations: ARUP; Red Cross;

Academics Coronavirus Equity GraniteSchoolDistrict News! Well-being & Mental Health

The soft closure is officially extended to the end of the school year

We will all remember this school year 2019-2020, won’t we ?

The end of the school for the Granite School District was planned for May 22nd, 2020. March 16th, when the soft closure was announced by the Governor to the end of May 2020 is a period 10 weeks. 10 weeks of uncertainty, financial anguish, exhausting role-changing, responsibility-juggling, disease-worrying times. Say no more.

We will survive this once in a lifetime pandemic. But we do have to acknowledge the losses that this crisis forced us into and the challenges ahead.

Besides the obvious ones, I’d like to consider a few school-related ones.


Awards were given and earned by terrific teachers and students, but went pretty much unnoticed.
I’d like to acknowledge the Sterling Awards, made official on March 19th.
A large number of these remarkable young students came from our Granite School District. The ceremony was cancelled, but let’s recognize them here.
GENERAL STERLING SCHOLAR (English category) – Cindy Phan, Skyline High School

Runner-up: Lily Bruce, Skyline High School.

Winner: Zoe Schramm, Olympus High School

Seyij Jung, Skyline High School

Winner: Sreemanti Dey, Skyline High School

Runner-Up: Julane Machado, Skyline High School.

Runner-Up: Nicholas Heiner, Skyline High School.

Congratulations to these fine young students for a well deserved award. We admire and respect you !

Also, the Granite School District Excel Awards have not been officially announced yet. Our fantastic teachers and administrators will need to be recognized by all of us in style at some point.

Saying goodbye !

We have missed our teachers, and our teachers have missed our kids. It would have been nice to part as we do other years. We will find a way to say goodbye, but it will involve a safe physical distance.


Seniors will miss a typical graduation and will have to have find a way to a different, still meaningful but safe rite of passage. Students have been surveyed and schools are hard at work coming up with an acceptable alternative.


As we are in the middle of a 10-week period of soft-closure, I am very concerned that a large number of our students have fallen through gaping cracks. Yes, parents now understand better what teachers have been doing in the classroom. I hope that this gives a much larger appreciation for our teachers. But how is the Granite School District planning on addressing the little learning that has happened in so many households ?
If I am elected on the board, I will make it my number 1 priority for the upcoming school year.


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Funding for Education GraniteSchoolDistrict News! Teachers

Successful GEA and GSD Teacher Package Negotiation

I’d like to recognize the new agreement that the Granite Education Association (GEA) and the Granite School District just brokered. The GSD and GEA reached an agreement for a 5% COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) and 3% One-time Bonus to teachers for next year 20-21.

The date of the agreement is as meaningful as the agreement itself. On April 1st. We are facing massive downwards swings in the stock markets and layoffs are common occurrence as life as we know it is practically as a standstill.

As a reminder, the agreement for last year (2019-20) was a 2.5% COLA, 3 additional work days, and a 3.0% one-time bonus for both teachers and education support professionals.