Udall to put education bills to the test

Katie Campbell//January 21, 2019

Udall to put education bills to the test

Katie Campbell//January 21, 2019

Michelle Udall (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Michelle Udall (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Rep. Michelle Udall is putting the bright ideas of her fellow lawmakers to the test with a teacher-approved grading system.

Lawmakers who think their bills can improve the state of education in Arizona will first have to get through Udall’s new rubric for proposed legislation.

Udall, R-Mesa, is chair of the House Education Committee, and she’s using the rubric to determine which of the many bills up for consideration will actually be heard.

“I thought it would keep me and other members focused on what’s most important to education,” she said.

She declined to share a copy of the rubric with the Arizona Capitol Times, explaining she may still make revisions. As it stands now, she said it includes five sections that account for whether the bill is unifying or divisive, reflects Arizona Education Progress Meter goals, prepares students for college and career, is fiscal responsibility and whether the bill actually has the votes to pass. Each section is worth 20 percent of the final “score” given to each bill.

Udall said she will score each proposed bill using those standards at her discretion as chair, see which score the highest and start there, working through the top tiers until the committee can hear no more.

The Education Committee is short on time but is not likely to be short on bills this session.

Members would have typically had six hearings on the committee for House bills, Udall said, but they’re only getting four this time around because of the late start to the 2019 session and the decision to take Jan. 21 off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. House Education meets on Monday afternoons.

“We’re just limited in how much we can hear, and I’d rather focus on the things that are going to actually bring people together to improve educational outcomes,” she said.

Some bills have easily risen to the top of the class.

Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, earned high marks from the rubric for his SB 1014 to reduce the amount of classroom time spent on English language instruction for non-native speakers.

That bill earned top scores in all five of Udall’s categories. Udall said it has been embraced by both legislators and the education community, improves outcomes for English language learners, speaks to college and career readiness, is fiscally responsible and passed the House almost unanimously in the 2018 session as HB 2435 before it died in the Senate.

Some bills won’t survive the grading process, but Udall declined to provide an example of one that has already missed the mark. She wants the rubric to help her say something isn’t going to be a top priority this year without being disrespectful of other people’s ideas.

Still, she said her colleagues have been surprised to hear their bills are being scored – an idea that started as a joke with her husband.

Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, had not yet seen the rubric when he spoke to the Capitol Times, but said he’s hopeful it means bills will be heard based solely on their merit. As the ranking Democrat on the Education Committee, Bolding just wants to see his party’s ideas get a fair shot.

“Of course, if you’re the one creating the rubric, it’s from your perspective,” he said. “But as long as there’s opportunity for input from a different perspective… I’m excited.”