By UEA Policy and Research Director Jay Blain
The UEA advocated for a 3 percent increase on the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) throughout the 2013 Legislative Session and asked for as much when testifying before meetings of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee. In the end, legislators settled on a 2 percent WPU increase. While it’s not the 3 percent we wanted, the outcome was nearly double what the Governor asked for and the highest increase in five years. It was also done in the face of the unknown effects on the state budget of the federal sequestration.
We entered the 2013 Legislative Session cautiously optimistic about the outcome for public education funding. Both one-time and ongoing revenue forecasts were up and everyone from the Governor on down was declaring education as a top priority for funding.
We were disappointed with the Governor’s proposed budget when it called for an increase in the WPU of just over 1 percent. This increase would barely cover the increase in the Utah Retirement System (URS) rate increase, leaving nothing for any other compensation items, including possible raises. We knew we had work to do with the Legislature to increase this amount.
We also advocated long and hard for the Legislature to cover the cost of new students entering the system. The approved budget fully funds growth throughout the Minimum School Program with new money. This means that all programs will receive increases based on enrollment growth.
A few other budget highlights:
- Early Intervention (Optional Full-Day Kindergarten) was funded with ongoing money this year when in the past it was one-time money.
- Teacher supply money was funded with the same amount and rules for distribution.
- The Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts was funded with $4 million one-time money.
While the UEA sees this as a good year considering all of the factors, this is only a beginning. We need a long-term strategy for funding public education in Utah that includes examining the revenue side as well. We will continue to work with policymakers to improve Utah’s education funding.
2013 Legislative Session Updates
The Legislature finalized the 2013-14 public education budget and sent it to the Governor for signature. HB2: Public Education Budget Amendments passed both the House and the Senate unanimously. This bill appropriates $139.8 million in new, on-going funding, and $16.8 million one-time money from the Education Fund.
The on-going appropriations include:
- $68.5 million to fund student enrollment growth;
- $47.7 million for a 2 percent increase in the WPU;
- Early intervention kindergarten funding;
- Dual-immersion funding;
- Fine Arts and Science Outreach; and
- Financial management for the Utah State Office of Education.
The one-time appropriations include:
- $5 million for teachers’ supply reimbursements (unchanged from the current year);
- Beverly Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts program;
- Testing infrastructure grants;
- Utah Core Academy teacher development; and
- Special education add-ons.
Hundreds of teachers, classified school employees, parents, students and others packed the Capitol Rotunda March 11 in a show of support for public education. UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh presented Lt. Governor Greg Bell, Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart and Senate Assistant Minority Whip Pat Jones with more than 6,000 petitions urging the legislature to support a public education funding increase (view the petition).
“If we were to put all of these petitions end to end, it would reach from the Capitol Building all the way down State Street to the City County Building,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “This demonstrates the public support for additional public education funding.” (See more about the event)
The Executive Appropriations Committee presented a Budget Proposal that recommends a 2 percent increase the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) and $68.5 million for enrollment growth. It also restores the $25 million budget shortfall created by calculation errors at the State Office of Education last year. The budget now has to be written up into the final bills and approved by the full legislature.
Encouraging news from the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee! This Committee, which makes recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee for statewide funding, made a major change in direction with a recommendation to restore the Social Security and Retirement line item to the amount of about $25 million. This is approximately the amount of this year’s retirement rate increase. The UEA strongly advocated for this change (see more on this issue).
The Committee also voted to increase the WPU by 1 percent in addition to funding the retirement line item funding. Rep. Joel Briscoe moved to increase the WPU by 2 percent. His motion passed the with the House members on the Committee but failed with the Senate members. Sen. Stephen Urquhart then moved to recommend to the Executive Appropriations Committee that they raise the WPU as much as possible. That motion passed. The UEA continues to advocate for a 2-percent increase in the WPU along with restoring and fully funding the Social Security and Retirement line item.
There was much discussion about the prioritizations of the remaining budget items and the committee made some adjustments to the list that they had voted on prior to the meeting and then sent it on to the Executive Appropriations Committee where the final decisions will be made.
During the early weeks of the 2013 Legislative Session, the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee heard reports and budget requests from various entities. On Feb. 7, a state fiscal analyst summarized voted and board local levy programs for the subcommittee. The analyst discussed the different funding options and provided the Subcommittee with a report showing the funding detail. The analyst then summarized the minimum school program related to basic school program funding breakdown. He said there are a number of one-time funding allocations made last year that will dissolve this fiscal year without a re-allocation (approximately $18 million in one-time allocations). Among these were the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts Program, which is historically funded at $4 million, but was reduced to $2 million last year; Early Intervention funding; $800,000 for dual immersion, which allowed 22 new schools to start dual immersion programs last year; and teacher reimbursements for out-of-pocket expenses on classroom supplies, which was funded at $5 million dollars last year.
The Governor’s Education Advisor Christine Kearl presented the Committee with an outline of the Governor’s budget recommendations, including numbers for enrollment and graduation rates. The Governor’s funding priorities were named as: the growth of new students coming into our system; additional money for computer-adaptive testing; a one-to-one initiative in technology (one student per one piece of technology); professional development for math and language arts teachers; teacher supply money; special education money; dual immersion funding; protection of student and teacher data; teacher evaluation tools; funding for the Beverly Taylor Arts Program; ACT funding; utahfutures.org online counseling tool; and funding for Utah data alliance. In response to a question, Kearle indicated the Governor’s recommendation for any new money was to add to the WPU.
During the first week the 2013 Session, the State Fiscal Analyst’s office provided the Committee with several budget documents, including a Public Education Budget Overview, Total LEA Revenues by Source and Major Budget-Related Issues for the 2013 Session and a budget summary.
State Superintendent Martell Menlove outlined State School Board budget priorities FY2013-14 budget, including:
- Full funding of student growth (anticipating 13,254 new students)
- 2 percent increase in the WPU
SB1: Public Education Base Budget passed both the House and the Senate on Feb. 1. This bill is the “base” appropriation for the support and operation of public education for the fiscal year of 2013-14. It sets the value of the weighted pupil unit initially at the same WPU value set for the 2013-13 fiscal year ($2,842) and sets the estimated minimum basic tax rate at .001691 for fiscal year 2013-14. (NOTE: This is just the “Base” budget. Near the end of the session, the House will introduce a supplemental appropriations bill that will contain the bulk of the additional education funding.)
- Current Public Education Budget