Whittney Evans

Reporter

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West. 

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Anna Botz via Wikimedia Commons

A professor at Utah Valley University who founded the Utah Women in Education Project says women in the state continue to lag behind the rest of the nation in college graduation rates, despite gains in recent years. Dr. Susan Madsen was speaking at an annual meeting of the independent research group Utah Foundation.

The focus of this year’s Utah Foundation meeting was growing the state’s economy with graduates.

Dr. Susan Madsen, a keynote speaker at the event says in a statewide comparison between men and women, women are outpacing men by about 6 percent.

About 450 elementary and middle school students were in Lehi today competing to see who could build the best underwater robot.  The event is part of an annual competition that gives students a hands-on introduction to science, technology engineering and math or STEM education.

Ashton Adamson and Brenna Pope are sixth graders at Snow Springs Elementary School in Lehi. They’re sitting poolside, where Adamson says they’re preparing to submerge their robot named Nemo into a tiny obstacle course. 

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill says he’s got a lot of work left to do in the office. That’s why he announced today he’s seeking re-election. 

The Democrat says in his last term he jealously guarded taxpayer dollars, balanced four budgets and dramatically reduced annual debt.

“These efficiencies are saving hundreds thousands of dollars each year for the Salt Lake County taxpayer,” Gill says. “Daily we do more with less waste in more efficient ways.”

United States Department of Transportation via Wikimedia Commons

Starting this summer accessing 1300 south in Salt Lake City might be a challenge. Construction is slated to close down the bridge over the railroad tracks between 500 and 700 west for the next year.

The $10 million facelift includes a full deck replacement, widening of the overpass, seismic upgrades and improved pedestrian and cyclist access. Salt Lake City will select a contractor for the project this spring and begin construction as early as June. It’s being paid for through the federal highway trust fund with a 6% match from Salt Lake City. 

Early education won big this legislative session. State lawmakers set aside $6 million for preschool programs.

The Utah legislature had been reticent to fund preschool programs in previous years. Some were concerned about taking kids out of the home too soon. But Republican House Speaker Becky Lockhart says this year legislators were swayed by information about the value of preschool, especially for at-risk kids.

Some of the fastest growing Utah colleges and universities also receive the lowest amount of state funding per student. But this year, the state legislature has set aside $50 million to strike a balance at these institutions and keep costs low for students.  

Utah Valley University, Weber State University, Salt Lake Community College, Dixie State University and Utah State University regional campuses will all get some of the so-called equity funding.

A bill that would provide training for teachers and parents on child sexual abuse and give schools the option to educate students about avoiding abuse cleared its last major hurtle in the state legislature on Tuesday.

House Bill 286, sponsored by Democratic Representative Angela Romero requires the State Board of Education and Department of Human Services to approve the required curriculum by 2016.

Brian Grimmett

Utah House and Senate leaders have finally come to an agreement on the state budget following a week’s-long impasse. The sticking point was primarily House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart’s proposed $200 million technological upgrade for public education. But that bill is now off the table.

House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart says the technology initiative would have required up to $50 million in ongoing revenue to make it worthwhile. But Senate leaders were unwilling to spend more than $26 million.

Utah won’t be subjecting state school board candidates to partisan elections this year. House Bill 228, sponsored by Republican Representative Brian Greene, would have done away with the current process of choosing candidates for the ballot in favor of partisan election. The House narrowly voted it down on Friday.

Right now, a seven-member committee appointed by the governor is responsible for recruiting and vetting candidates. The governor then takes the committee’s recommendations and narrows the list down to two candidates for each district.

When fine particle air pollution along the Wasatch Front reaches the high end of what the Utah Division of Air Quality deems unhealthy, the Utah Department of Health recommends schools keep students inside for recess. But some wonder if that recommendation should come when pollution levels are even lower. Officials with the Utah Asthma Program say discussions about revising those standards are underway.

State Library and Archives of Florida

The Southern Poverty Law Center says Utah is about average among other states in how well it covers the civil rights movement in the classroom. But the organization’s  latest report from the Teaching Tolerance Project shows the average grade is pretty poor.

The possibility of a new convention hotel in Salt Lake City is one step closer to becoming a reality. The Utah House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would provide tax incentives for a private developer to build the hotel.  

Members of the House Government Operations Committee voted this morning to advance a newly-minted compromise between legislators and organizers of the Count My Vote ballot initiative. But several members of the committee say they won’t support the bill when it reaches the House Floor. 

Brian Grimmett

A bill that aims to protect children from sexual abuse through education got unanimous support on the House floor today despite some initial concerns.

About a dozen state lawmakers representing both political parties met Wednesday night with countless members of the LGBTQ community to hear their about their struggles. The meeting comes after a decision by House and Senate leadership to ignore statewide anti-discrimination legislation filed this session. 

New mother and school teacher Candice Green-Berrett joined her wife Megan and six-month-old daughter Quinn to highlight the joys of her recent marriage.

A bill that would allow schools to set aside regular classroom days for teacher professional development advanced in the Utah House of Representatives on Wednesday--but not without some contention.

Professional development days give teachers time out of the classroom to collaborate and train on new technologies, learning materials and curriculum. Prior to the recession, Utah spent roughly $70 million dollars on professional development but that money is no longer available. 

The Salt Lake County Council, in a preliminary vote on Tuesday approved a resolution to launch a motorist and bicyclist safety study of Emigration Canyon Road. Parties involved say the tension between cyclists and drivers has come to a head.  

Emigration canyon’s proximity to downtown Salt Lake City and the grand views make it one of the most heavily used canyons in Utah by bicyclists.

For the same reasons, the canyon is also inviting to motorists… who live and recreate there as well.

State lawmakers in the Senate Education committee voted unanimously Monday morning to support proposed changes to the controversial school grading system. Republican Senator Stuart Adams’ bill would provide additional flexibility for schools, including the option to opt out of the system.

Last fall, Utah schools received, for the first time letter grades “A” through “F” under the state’s second and newest grading system. Senator Stuart Adams says it’s has already increased transparency.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams announced a plan today that he hopes will calm the bickering in the county’s unincorporated areas over boundaries and governance. The plan includes statewide legislation sponsored by Democratic Senator Karen Mayne.

File: School Lunch Tray Credit Casey Bisson/Flickr

The Salt Lake City School Board plans to discuss tonight how to move forward with an outside investigation into the seizure of more than 30 school lunches from Uintah Elementary School. The decision comes as the district’s human resources department continues its ongoing probe into the incident.

A bill that would give a private developer financial incentives to build a new hotel and convention center in downtown Salt Lake City has been made public. The proposal recently gained the support of Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, but opponents say it’s not good policy.

Proposed legislation could give Utah teachers more days to train and prepare at no additional cost to taxpayers –but it would mean fewer days in the classroom with students. Members of the Senate Education Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to advance the bill.  

Senate Bill 103, sponsored by Republican Senator Aaron Osmond would give local school districts the flexibility to swap regular instruction days for teacher professional development days.

Whittney Evans

Utah House Majority Leader Brad Dee announced today he is crafting legislation that he hopes will get every jurisdiction in Utah on a single 9-1-1 emergency response system. The Ogden Republican was joined by Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams who’s been trying to do the same thing at the county level.

Riverton Mayor Bill Applegarth says it’s time to change the 9-1-1 system in the Salt Lake Valley.  

“I don’t feel safe frankly, totally safe with the dispatch system, the way it’s set up now,” Applegarth says.

Brian Grimmett

Republican U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch touched on health care, immigration this morning when he addressed the Utah House and Senate Floors at the State Capitol.

Earlier this week, Hatch announced he is co-sponsoring a new Republican-led healthcare bill that he hopes will replace the Affordable Care Act. He says the Patient Choice Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment — or CARE — Act will cost less and have fewer mandates than the current health law.

Casey Bisson/Flickr

A spokesperson for Salt Lake City School District says Uintah Elementary School made a mistake by taking away the lunches of students who owed money. Now state lawmakers say they want to get to the bottom of it.

District Spokesman Jason Olsen says on Tuesday cafeteria workers at Uintah Elementary School threw away the lunches of about 32 students whose lunch accounts were in the negative. Those students were instead given a partial lunch of fruit and milk.  

Utah Governor Gary Herbert says the state is strong, but there are still several challenges that Utah must confront. Herbert was speaking at his 5th annual State of the State Address.

Herbert highlighted investigations into former Attorney General John Swallow as a success, as well as the state’s 4.1 percent underemployment rate –which is among the lowest in the nation. But he was also quick to acknowledge the hardships—a booming population, federal overreach and economic development  

Utah Fourth Graders are all improving their reading scores, but child advocacy group Voices for Utah Children notes that over the past decade, fourth graders who come from low-income families have not improved as quickly as their peers. 

According to a report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, from 2003 to 2013 the gap between reading scores from low income children and upper income children increased by 22 percent – meaning kids from higher income households are improving at a faster rate.

Brian Grimmett

On the first day of the 2014 legislative session, Republican leaders in the Utah Senate say there is little support for changing Utah’s liquor laws this year— specifically those laws dealing with the so-called “Zion Curtain” and a requirement that restaurant patrons announce their intent to eat food before ordering alcoholic beverages.

West Valley City’s new police chief spoke candidly with members of the community Thursday night about the future of the long-embattled agency. It was the first in a series of monthly community meetings Chief Lee Russo says he plans to hold. 

Lori Bailey is part of the Solomon Farms Neighborhood watch in West Valley City. She told Russo, she’s not getting a timely response from the police when she report crimes like drug deals and graffiti. Russo took Bailey’s information assuring her he’d follow up. Bailey says she’ll come to every community meeting from now on.  

Brian Grimmett

House and Senate Democrats unveiled their plans for the 2014 legislative session today. Chief among them is a proposal to increase the minimum wage and another to create an independent elections commission in response to investigations into former Utah Attorney General John Swallow.

Representative Lynn Hemingway would like to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.25—what he calls a living wage. Hemingway says the bill would only impact workers over the age of 17.

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