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Park City High School teacher Renee Pinkney to lead statewide Utah Education Association

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Utah Education Association
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Renee Pinkney

Park City High School will lose a veteran teacher, but the state teachers union will gain an experienced educator as its new leader.

UEA Vice President Renee Pinkney believes in public education. She has taught Park City students about government, civics, and the constitution for 27 years.

“I've taught just about everything that we offer, but currently, I'm the AP-U.S. Government, AP Psychology, Concurrent Enrollment Government and then Government.”

In July, Pinkney will take over as president of the statewide teacher’s union, the Utah Education Association, replacing outgoing president Heidi Matthews. The union has about 18,000 members.

Pinkney said her plans include advocating for her profession, for students, and democracy.

Pinkney said the Utah Legislature has chronically underfunded public education. The pandemic shined a spotlight on students’ access to technology, yet many are still catching up from several years of pandemic-related disruption. It also strained educators as they balanced the challenges of online learning and a shortage of substitutes.

As UEA president, she will keep pressure on public education funding.

“With the pandemic, all of those inequities were just brought to the surface and really highlighted, and I think our legislature in the last two years is seeing that we need to be funded at higher levels. And that's why we've seen the 6% increase [in the weighted pupil unit,] and that is going to go a long way. But when you've been so chronically underfunded for so long, to get us to where we need to be, we still have more work to do there.”

Pinkney said private school voucher bills come up every year, but most Utahns do not support diverting funds from public education.

“When we keep seeing these voucher bills with, you know, different titles and different populations that they're targeting, and from my perspective as someone in the in the school system in Utah for 27 years, if public education was funded at the levels that we need it to be funded, we would be able to meet all of the needs of the kids.”

Pinkney said retaining teachers, paraprofessionals, and classroom aids is a challenge because educators can’t keep up with the workload. The class sizes have increased to a level that means the needs of all children aren’t being met.

“And you've got people who are leaving the profession in the middle of the year. Just a lot of hiccups that you're trying to navigate, and that is why if we have adequate funding, and I want to say right now, we have to have beyond that, to really target the needs of our kids.”

Pinkney said she isn’t sure what she will do after her term as UEA president ends in 2025. But she thinks she’ll know more after a couple of years under her belt.

“So, I do have options so that I can come back to Park City school district. I can run again for a second term. I have actually thought about running for the State Legislature.”

Her term as UEA vice president ends July 14. She assumes her new position on July 15.