Utah legislators have approved a resolution that could increase teachers’ salaries, but it’s contingent on the state taking control of half of its federal lands.
House Joint Resolution 8 states that if Utah could take control of half of its federal lands–and that is a huge “if”– then half of the net revenue from the land would be used to increase teacher salary in the state, up to 25%.
Republican Senator Ann Millner is one of the sponsors of the resolution. She says this is an effort to attract and retain teachers during a time when many school districts have reported shortages.
“It’s a resolution that just says our teachers are important we would like to raise our salaries," says Millner. "The challenge that we’ve always had is the resources to do that.”
A resolution like this primarily just expresses intent. Basically, lawmakers are saying they would like to pay our teachers more but Utah needs control of it’s public lands first.
For Steve Haslam, a teacher at Copper Hills High School in West Jordan, this kind of statement is discouraging.
“It kind of hits me in the gut, I feel like it’s a brilliant strategy but it’s very manipulative at the same time," says Haslam.
Haslam says he is a big supporter of protecting federal lands. He doesn’t want to believe that those lands are the only way to make Utah teacher salaries more competitive.
Andrea Rorrer, director of the Utah Education Policy Center at the University of Utah, says it’s always encouraging to see teacher retention discussed at the legislature.
“I like that it checks the boxes of identifying the issue, calling attention to it and stating that it is a need we need to address," says Rorrer.
But as far as this approach being a practical one, that remains to be seen.
The resolution has now passed both the House and Senate.