by Elizabeth Garbe

Public Policy Director

The end of 2012 Legislative session is quickly approaching. Coming off of a packed week that included United Way Day on the Hill–United Way is re-energized! We will continue the push for our priorities, including $10 million for Optional Extended Day Kindergarten (OEK) and a YES vote for SB226, High Quality Preschool Program Project. Day on the Hill attendees advocated for both of these priorities and YOU can help by responding to the Action Alert for OEK and email the Executive Appropriations Committee members urging them to fund the program.

Great news! Senator Osmond’s High Quality Preschool Project, SB226, has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee and will be heard on Wednesday at 7:30  a.m. in Room 415 of the Capitol. Please take 5 minutes to email the Senate Education Committee and ask them to vote YES on SB226.  While the bill was not prioritized for funding because it was introduced late in the session, this is a great educational opportunity. As you may have read in the newspapers, the new revenue projections brought good and bad news. The good news is that they were a little higher than the last projection, so programs will not be cut this year. However, they were not significantly higher so new programs such as SB226 will be hard-pressed to receive funding this year. The hearing on Wednesday is a great opportunity to bring attention to high quality preschool that will not only close the achievement gap, but will save tax payer dollars in the long run.

Late Friday night the House Education Committee debated a variety of bills, including HB156 Public Education Program Amendments. United Way and many of our income priority partners were there to oppose efforts to eliminate the high school financial literacy graduation requirement. The requirement was added in 2005 and was the first step in making sure kids have the knowledge they need to live financially stable lives. Being maxed out financially can lead to other problems such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, and domestic violence–it is vital to receive financial education at an early age. Representative Mathis moved a motion to keep the requirement and add a test out option. The amendment and bill were not voted on Friday but committee members will resume debate on Tuesday at 8:00 a.m. in room 445 of the Capitol.

You can see where our other priorities are in the process by checking out our bill tracker. Follow the conversation on Twitter by following @uwsl and by searching #utleg or #utpol.