UEA supports Governor’s proposed FY2016 education budget


Largest WPU increase in 25 years helps restore funding lost during Great Recession


Gov. Gary Herbert presented his FY2016 budget
proposal at Granite Park Jr. High, Dec. 11.
(Photo: Steve Griffin, Salt Lake Tribune)

In a press conference Dec. 11, Gov. Gary Herbert released his recommended FY2016 Utah state budget that directs $342.7 million in new tax revenue to public education. His budget calls for $58 million to cover an anticipated 8,000 new students and another $161 million to add 6.25 percent to the WPU, the largest increase in a quarter century.

The Utah Education Association strongly supports the Governor’s proposed investments in the WPU, student enrollment growth, technology infrastructure and providing educators with classroom supply money.

“The proposed $342.7 million public education increase is a significant and worthwhile investment in Utah’s schoolchildren and the state’s economy. It also goes a long way toward restoring funding to pre-recession levels and positions us to begin addressing the additional resources so desperately needed in Utah’s grossly underfunded public school classrooms,” said UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh.

The Governor’s 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, she noted.

In his press conference, the Governor emphasized that the money will flow to school districts, where he believes local officials can spend it most effectively to address specific needs.

"We believe in local control," Gov. Herbert said. "We also expect the local superintendents and school boards, the local principals, to manage the resources as they see fit as they have unique needs in the local community. The demographics in Utah are not the same, and we would not expect a one-size-fits-all solution to education."

The UEA believes investing in the WPU allows local school boards the flexibility to address priorities specific to their individual schools’ needs, whether that be providing classes small enough for one-on-one attention, purchasing new technology, restoring teacher training opportunities or offering competitive compensation to attract and retain quality school employees.

“The business community recognizes the positive impact a world-class public education system has on the economy,” Gallagher-Fishbaugh said. “As Utah’s economy continues to improve, educator compensation, teacher training and classroom resources must keep pace if we want to retain our quality public school classroom teachers.”

Over the past five years, 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 stretched budgets.

“Utah teachers have stepped up and done more with less for many years,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “Now it’s time for our legislators to step up and recognize the importance of investing in public education.”

The Legislative Fiscal Analyst has announced that the state can expect an overall $638 million increase in state tax revenue for next fiscal year.
Of the $500 million Gov. Herbert proposed for education, more than half would go to public education.

The increased per-pupil spending comes on top of $58 million in his budget to cover nearly 8,000 new students expected to enroll in Utah’s public and charter schools next year. He also seeks $56 million for to build and renovate schools and to upgrade the technology infrastructure.

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