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FY2018 Public Education Budget Summary

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WPU Gets 4% Boost, Educator License Fees Now Paid - March 13, 2017

By most accounts, public education fared well coming out of this year’s legislative session, considering the work done with the revenues available. Approximately 57 percent of new money available was allocated to public education.

Here are some budget highlights from House Bill 2, which provides new public education funding:

  • A 4 percent increase on the WPU ($116 million);
  • Fully funding of student growth ($64 million);
  • Ongoing funding for teacher supply money reimbursement ($5 million);
  • Payment for educator licensing fees ($2.6 million ongoing);
  • Ongoing funding for the Regional Service Centers ($2 million dollars); and
  • Funding for a Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind building in Utah County ($10.5 million).

The education budget process started late in the fall of 2016 with various education groups making funding proposals to the Governor. The UEA’s proposal called for a 7.5% increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU), 2.5 percent just to remain even and 5 percent to make progress in public education funding. This request, while aggressive, recognized that current the Utah tax system is not meeting the needs of Utah’s public schools and students and that additional sources of new revenue are needed. In his proposed budget released in December 2016, Governor Gary Herbert called for a 4 percent WPU increase.

During early weeks of the session, the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee met and made an original proposal for a 3 percent increase on the WPU. The 4 percent WPU increase was the result of tremendous effort by the legislators involved in the process and involvement by the UEA, local governance and staff, and educators contacting their legislators.

No new long-term revenues for education funding were passed this session despite a great deal of talk about education funding prompted by the proposed Our School Now ballot initiative. While many new funding options were discussed, only two actually made it to a vote. A proposal to raise income taxes on high-income earners (Senate Bill 141 by Senator Jim Dabakis) failed in the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee.

Senate Bill 255 by Senator Howard Stephenson would have generated about $20 million per year over five years by freezing the basic property tax rate. This proposal was later combined with Senate Bill 80 that would use the new money to equalize property tax funding. SB255 passed the Senate, but time ran out on the last day before the newly combined bill could be considered in the House.

With no major new funding, there is still work to be done to find a solution to the chronic underfunding of Utah’s public schools. Even Governor Herbert acknowledged this fact when he said that the Our Schools Now initiative needs to go forward because it is causing people to talk about the school funding issue. 


UEA's Position on the FY2018 Public Education Budget – January 2017

Background

Utah per-student public education funding has declined significantly since the beginning of the Great Recession. Despite recent increases, per-student state funding for K-12 education remains down 8.3% from its 2008 pre-recession level (Center on Budget Policy Priorities). Over this period, school districts have increased class sizes, eliminated teacher training opportunities, cut student instructional days and reduced school employee take-home pay in order to balance budgets.

In December 2016, Gov. Gary Herbert recommended a FY2018 Utah state budget that directs ???

UEA’s Position:

  • Increase the WPU by 5%. The UEA believes increases in education funding should be directed through the WPU, allowing local school boards the flexibility to address priorities specific to their individual schools’ needs.
  • Provide an additional 2% WPU increase annually for the next five years to bring teacher salaries up to the national average.
  • The UEA strongly supports the Governor’s proposed investments in student enrollment growth and increasing the allotment for classroom supply money.
  • Increase the Flexible Allocation - WPU Distribution line item to help fund retirement, Social Security and other employee cost increases.
  • The UEA encourages local school boards to consider the following priorities for restored WPU funding:
    • Reduce class sizes to pre-2007 levels, allowing for more one-on-one classroom attention
    • Provide cost-of-living salary adjustments for school employees
    • Restore school non-attendance, furlough and professional development days
    • Restore cuts made to school programs such as arts, music, PE, etc.
    • Restore school employee wage and benefit reductions and deferrals
    • Begin the process of increasing teacher salaries to the national average over a five-year period
  • The Governor’s proposed budget reflects his and the legislature’s long-standing stated belief that the primary way to increase funding for public education is to grow the economy and invest the resulting tax proceeds in education.
  • School employee retirement and Social Security should be funded as a separate item “above the line.”
  • The UEA encourages the Utah Legislature to consider the following in relation to the public education budget:
    • Reject the siphoning off of precious education dollars through earmarks to unproven and unaccountable education experiments and pilot programs.
    • Direct investments in urgent school needs through an additional WPU increase to allow school districts flexibility and local control in determining budget priorities.
    • Develop a long-term plan to fund public education and ensure a quality public school for every child.
  • Even with the proposed increase, Utah’s education system remains compromised by lack of adequate funding. Utah remains last in the nation in per-student public education investment. While Utah taxpayers once spent a high amount on public education relative to incomes, that is no longer true when compared to other states.


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