Full implementation of these goals will require a sustained, long-term funding effort over many years. TO BEGIN THIS EFFORT,
the UEA recommends the 2019 Legislature:
- Fully fund student enrollment growth, including all impacted line items ($37.3 million)
- Provide a 6.5 percent increase on the WPU, allowing LEAs maximum flexibility in addressing the above-referenced goal areas ($206.3 million)
- Allocate new, ongoing revenue to the WPU rather than create costly and time consuming new distribution methods (such as TSSA)
- Implement a teacher preparation scholarship incentive ($2 million)
- Initiate “Educators Rising” to support K-12 Teaching CTE Pathway ($350,000)
- Fully utilize new revenues created by strong economic growth to invest in current student needs and reject proposals to divert public education money to tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy
7% Equivalent WPU Bump for Public Education Funding – March 9, 2018
For more than a year prior to the 2018 Legislative Session, the UEA worked with members of the business community to increase revenue for schools. The group formed the Our Schools Now coalition and introduced The Teacher and Student Success Act, which included several key components:
- Established the Teacher and Student Success Fund to distribute revenue on a WPU basis;
- Allowed 25% of the new revenue each year to be used for salary and benefits; and
- Directed the remaining 75% of new revenue to go to the individual schools for work on student achievement.
This plan, and the accompanying initiative, helped to drive the conversation on school funding in the months leading up to the 2018 legislative session. Desperate to resolve this issue, the Legislature worked with the coalition on a compromise. These negotiations impacted budget talks right up until the last night of the session.
The compromise led to a change in the way school funding is distributed. Historically, educators have looked to the WPU as a measure of funding increase. This year, new pieces are added to the education funding stream, making it difficult to focus only on the WPU.
The approved budget fully funded new student growth and increased the traditional WPU by just 2.5%, which most school districts argue barely covers inflation costs. But new funding allocations significantly increase the overall budget. For example, a property tax adjustment measure (House Bill 293) provides an additional $36 million to be used for property tax equalization. It also creates a new property tax increment on the basic rate indexed to the WPU increase, generating $18.5 million this year. In addition, $46.5 million from the Education Fund will be placed in the Flexible Allocation line item and distributed on a WPU basis.
Other items of note funded in the budget include:
- $9 million enhancement for at-risk students (in addition, homelessness and chronic absenteeism were added as risk factors)
- $500,000 additional on-going for teacher supply money, bringing the total to $5.5 million.
- $23.6 million increase in the school land trust program distribution.
Combined, these increases approach an equivalent growth of 7% on the WPU. When all was said and done, some long-term building blocks were put in place for some sustainable education funding increases into the foreseeable future for Utah public education.
How the Public Education Budget is Set
The first few weeks of the session, legislators meet in appropriations committee meetings where they consider appropriations requests received from various entities. There are eight appropriation subcommittees, including the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Each subcommittee considers appropriation requests relevant that topic, then prioritize requests and submit a budget proposal to the Executive Appropriations Committee for final approval. The Executive Appropriations Committee is made up of Senate and House leadership and is responsible for setting the final budget for the upcoming year. This final budget is then voted upon by the full House and Senate, usually during the session’s closing days.