UEA won’t meet, but fall break still happening

This October Utah families can still plan for their kids to be out of school for what has always been known as “UEA Weekend,” but for the first time in its 100-year history, the largest teachers’ union in the state will not hold an annual fall convention. Utah Education Association leaders will instead focus on pushing the “Our Schools Now” nonbinding question on November’s election ballot that would increase education funding with a proposed gas-tax increase.

The traditional two-day convention had been slated for Oct. 18 and 19 but has seen an extreme lack of participation over the years. Less than a quarter of the organization’s 18,000 members attended the event in 2017. “This was not a quick decision,” UEA President Heidi Matthews announced. “But we have decided to take a break from it for now… We’re just shifting our energy.”

Utah’s public schools will include the annual break in their calendars, because the UEA decision was made after most calendars had been set, often more than a year in advance. It seems most families, students and teachers enjoy the time off.

“It’s something they’ve come to rely on and enjoy,” said Matthews, who said teachers need the break as much as kids do. She sourced a new study from the Utah Education Policy Center that found teachers most often leave the education profession because of “emotional exhaustion, stress and burnout.”

Internal surveys UEA has conducted have found that most of its members who skip the annual conference do so because they want time off. When asked what could be changed to get them to come, Matthews added, the most common answer is “nothing,” she told the Salt Lake Tribune.

A UEA convention has been tentatively scheduled in 2019, but Matthews thinks it may be cancelled, too. She said people don’t want to travel to the conference, or spend time away from their families.