Governor’s proposed FY2015 education budget maintains status quo
UEA says additional funding necessary to make up for recession cuts
Calling education his highest priority, Utah Governor Gary Herbert asked lawmakers to set aside $157 million in anticipated new state revenue for public education. His proposed FY2015 budget includes fully funding new student growth and a 2.5 percent increase on the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU).
“We appreciate the governor’s continued support of public education,” said UEA Executive Director Mark Mickelsen. “His proposed 2.5 percent WPU increase allows us to maintain the status quo, however, we believe the state can do better. Our teachers cannot be expected to meet the Governor’s own education goals without significant and targeted additional resources.”
The Governor proposed the following increases for public education funding:
- Public education enrollment growth for 10,300 new students ($61.2 million)
- A 2.5% increase in the WPU ($61.6 million)
- One-time funding for:
- Alternative fuel school buses and infrastructure ($14 million)
- Beverly Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts ($4 million)
- Educator evaluation implementation ($450,000)
- Enrollment growth, educator salary adjustment ($2.9 million)
- STEM Action Center ($3 million)
- Utah Futures and student counseling program ($2 million)
- Teacher supplies ($5 million)
- Utah Data Alliance ($1.2 million)
- Maintain ongoing funding for early intervention/all-day kindergarten ($7.5 million)
An increase of 1 percent on the WPU is required to cover mandatory Social Security and retirement costs and inflation is estimated at 1.5 percent, meaning a 2.5 percent WPU increase essentially leaves funding flat, according to the UEA. In addition, the Utah State Office of Education estimates public education funding has declined 9.6 percent from its 2008 pre-recession levels.
The UEA estimates that a return to pre-recession funding levels would require a public education budget allocation of about $283 million in addition to the Governor’s request for a 2.5 percent WPU increase and funding new student growth.
“We need to get back to pre-recession funding levels before we can even begin to address the additional resources so desperately needed in our grossly underfunded Utah public school classrooms,” said Mickelsen. “We believe that will require an investment of $146.32 million in each year for the next three years, in addition to funding new student growth.”
The UEA is calling for a 4 percent ($98.56 million) WPU increase this year, another $24.46 million to pay for mandatory employee Social Security and retirement costs as a separate budget line item, and $23.3 million to partially restore professional development funding for educators and improve classroom outcomes.
“This is a fiscally conservative approach that will help Utah schools recover from a six-year finding crisis over the next three years,” said Mickelsen. “It will allow school districts to restore lost furlough and professional development days, restore school employee wage and benefit reductions, restore cuts made to school programs, and help return class sizes to pre-2007 levels."