Public Education Budget
FY2014-15 Budget Summary
By UEA Policy and Research Director Jay Blain
The UEA advocated for a 4 percent increase on the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) throughout the 2014 Legislative Session and asked for as much when testifying before meetings of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee. In the end, legislators settled on a 2.5 percent WPU increase. While it’s not the 4 percent we wanted, the outcome was above the 2 percent increase we were hearing for much of the session.
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:
Teacher supply money was funded with the same amount and rules for distribution.
The STEM Action Center received additional funding this year; $15 million in one-time money from the education fund and $5 million in ongoing funding from the general fund. This money will be used for, high quality professional development for teachers, developing endorsements in STEM, and math initiatives in K-8. They will also continue with the work they began last year.
A public/private partnership Pre-K initiative bill was passed and funded at $3 million.
A grant program for after-school interventions for students in intergenerational poverty was passed and funded at $1 million.
$1.5 million was appropriated for the initial work on a new building for USDB in Salt Lake. $400,000 was also allocated for additional USDB teacher positions.
Public education budget disappointments included:
No separate line item to cover mandatory retirement increases for education employees;
No restoration of funding for teacher professional development; and
Failure of a bill to significantly increase public education funding by eliminating tax deductions.
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.
Teacher Survey —
A poll of Utah teachers conducted in February 2014 showed the majority (67.8%) of public school educators support new technology in schools, but not if it comes at the expense of existing education needs. Fewer than 2% of teachers would support the proposal if it means giving up money in other areas of the education budget and about 30% reject the technology proposal outright.
As a result of these findings, the UEA urged Utah legislators to first fund the following basic public education needs before considering new projects:
- Fully fund new student growth* ($35 million)
- A minimum 2.5% increase on the WPU* ($62.5 million)
- Social Security/retirement as a separate line item ($25 million)
- Restore 2 days of educator professional development ($24 million)
*As recommended by the Governor and the Public Education Appropriations Committee
Committee Recommends 2.5% WPU Increase — February 13, 2014
The Public Education Appropriations Committee recommend a 2.5% increase on the WPU to the Executive Appropriations Committee. In the Committee meeting, Sen. Steve Urquhart argued that a 1% WPU increase is sufficient as the WPU is “the least innovative part of the budget.” Rep. Jim Nielson disagreed saying he has seen many innovative things happening in school districts without legislative direction. Rep. Francis Gibson mentioned the retirement line item dilemma, a concern consistently expressed by the UEA. The motion to recommend a 2.5% WPU increase passed with Sen. Urquhart and Rep. David Lifferthvoting against. The UEA has requested a 4% WPU increase (see below).
The Committee also finalized its list of funding priorities to forward to the Executive Appropriations Committee, which will make final budget decisions before sending a budget bill to the House and Senate for approval.
UEA's Position on the FY2015 Public Education Budget
Utah per-student public education funding has declined significantly since the beginning of the Great Recession. Consider the following important Utah public education funding facts:
- Per-student state funding for K-12 public education is down 9.6% from its 2008 pre-recession level (before inflation).*
- With 1% on the WPU required to maintain Social Security and retirement and 1.5% expected inflation, schools need a 2.5% WPU increase just to maintain current funding levels. In other words, 2.5% on the WPU = ZERO increase.
A return to pre-recession funding levels would require a public education budget allocation of about $283 million in addition to the $61.6 million needed for a break-even 2.5% WPU increase and $64 million to fund new student growth. This is before even beginning to address the additional resources so desperately needed in our grossly underfunded public school classrooms.
The $420 million price tag is a significant and worthwhile investment in Utah’s schoolchildren and its economy.
Still, the UEA recognizes the political and economic difficulties in attempting to make up a six-year funding crisis all at once. The UEA proposes a more conservative three-year approach to restore funding losses.In addition to funding growth for FY2015, the UEA proposes the following:
$98.56 million = 4% WPU increase
$24.46 million = Social Security and retirement (line item)
$23.3 million = Partial restoration of Professional Development funding
$146.32 million proposed additional public education allocation
This investment would begin the process to restore funding to our public schools over a three-year period and give local school boards discretion over how to best utilize those restored funds. The UEA urges local boards of education to consider the following for the restored WPU funding:
- Restore school non-attendance, furlough and professional development days
- Restore cuts made to school programs
- Reduce class sizes to pre-2007 levels
- Restore school employee wage and benefit reductions and deferrals
Until public education funding is fully restored, Utah legislators should resist siphoning off precious education dollars for pilot programs and education experiments.
- Printable UEA FY2015 Public Education Budget Brief (PDF)
Governor’s Proposed Education Budget Maintains Status Quo – Dec. 5, 2013
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 budgetincludes 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)
- Appropriations committee sets priorities for education, recommends 2.5 percent increase in WPU 02/13/2014
(Deseret News) The Public Education Appropriations Committee finalized its budget recommendations and priorities Thursday. Final funding totals are dependent on action by the Executive Appropriations Committee and the Legislature as a whole.
Lockhart’s $300M tech push to include $50M for school wireless 02/12/2014
(Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said he and Lockhart are still eyeing a $300 million investment, but neither he nor Lockhart provided specifics for where the money would come from or over what period of time they would implement their plan.
School technology plan would begin with infrastructure and training, House Speaker Becky Lockhart says 02/12/2014
(Deseret News) House Speaker Becky Lockhart on Tuesday described the direction and scope of her plan to flood Utah schools with learning technology. But the specifics of her modernization proposal — including its hefty price tag — remain undeveloped.
Committee approves two bills to fund schools through tax reform 02/11/2014
(Deseret News) Two bills that would charge Utah families more in taxes to fund schools advanced out of a legislative committee Tuesday. The bills seek to freeze the basic property tax rate and remove tax deductions for dependents.
Senate panel OKs bill requiring big families to pay more for schools 02/11/2014
(Salt Lake Tribune) SB118 would limit families to two state personal income-tax exemptions, which workers can claim for themselves and their dependents. Now, families may get the exemptions for each child — a situation that has left some Utahns complaining over the years that those with the most children end up paying the least into the school system, which is largely funded through income-tax revenue.
Utah considers all-out attack on schools’ digital divide 02/10/2014
(Salt Lake Tribune) As Utah lawmakers weigh a $200 million to $300 million investment in devices, results from the state’s first digital experiments are mixed.
Utah schools funding boosts don’t always reach classrooms 02/10/2014
(Salt Lake Tribune) When lawmakers decided to boost per-pupil spending last year by 2 percent, many Utahns cheered, envisioning that cash raining on teachers and classrooms. In reality, much of that money was spoken for — by the state retirement system — long before it ever hit schools, a Salt Lake Tribune investigation has found.
Lawmakers identify $67 million in possible budget cuts 02/04/2014
(Deseret News) House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said earlier Monday that "potentially" the money identified could be used to help cover the cost of her new education initiative to bring more technology into the classroom.
Teachers to lawmakers: 'Give us a voice in education policies' 02/01/2014
(KSL) Teachers are Utah's education experts and should have an active voice in policy decisions affecting schools, they told state lawmakers Friday. The teachers called on education stakeholders to create an education plan centered on students, adding that such a plan would require "ongoing, sustainable funding" for public schools in Utah.
UEA panel: boost teacher pay, cut class sizes, upgrade tech 02/01/2014
(Salt Lake Tribune) The Educational Excellence Task Force spent 18 months studying ways to improve education. The group presented its nearly 50-page report Friday to the UEA and policymakers at the Capitol.
Utah teachers want an active voice in education policy decision-making 02/01/2014
(Deseret News) The teachers called on education stakeholders to create an education plan centered on students, adding that such a plan would require "ongoing, sustainable funding" for public schools in Utah.
Teachers present an innovative new vision for Utah public education 01/31/2014
Independent task force members ask lawmakers to consider their education policy recommendations, detailed in a new report.
Utah gov seeks money for education, prisons, air quality12/04/2013
(Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Gary Herbert presented his annual budget blueprint Wednesday, asking legislators to boost public education spending by about $100 more per pupil, expand the state prison in Gunnison, give more state support to colleges and provide a small raise to state employees.
Gov. Gary Herbert unveils $13.3 billion budget12/04/2013
(Deseret News) His budget would provide $64 million to pay for the 10,300 new students expected in the state's public schools and increase the funding mechanism for schools — the weighted pupil unit — by $61.6 million, or 2.5 percent.
Utah will have more to spend in new budget year11/25/2013
(Deseret News) There's going to be $206 million in new revenue to spend in the new budget year that begins July 1, 2014, plus another $132 million in surplus funds, the Governor's Office of Management and Budget announced Monday.
Utah finishes budget year with $242 million surplus09/19/2013
(Salt Lake Tribune) "This surplus is not only encouraging, it’s needed," Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement. "We can now augment the critical investment we make in education and economic development."
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