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Public Education Budget

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Public ed funding committee presents budget priorities during its final meeting – February 9, 2021

During its final meeting of the 2021 General Session, the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee presented its final requests for funding, which included funding requested by the UEA. The subcommittee provided its final Motion List and a Co-Chair Prioritization list that will be delivered to the Executive Appropriations Committee for action (see “How the Public Education Budget is Set”).

The prioritization list includes $54.5 million in requests. Among the requests: $8.6 million for Optional Enhanced Kindergarten, $5 million for HB114: Early Learning Training and Assessment Amendments (defunded in 2020), $900,000 for EARS, $7.5 million for Utah K-12 Computer Science Initiative, $700,000 for USDB additional FTE, $4 million for the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, $5 million for UPSTART, and $4 million for MOST. This funding is in addition to the historic FY2022 Public Education Base Budget signed by the governor on Feb. 5 (see below).


Governor signs bill to provide educator bonuses this year, 6% WPU increase next year – February 5, 2021


Members of the UEA Legislative Team met virtually
with Gov. Spencer Cox and Senior Advisor for Education
Brittney Cummins on Feb. 2 prior to the governor signing
the historic FY2022 Public Education Base Budget.
Gov. Spencer Cox signed all the 2021 Base Budget bills passed by the legislature, including the historic Public Education Base Budget. In addition to re-approving the nearly $6 billion in education spending from last year, the FY2022 Public Education Base Budget sets a new precedence as it now includes growth and inflation. It also includes a 6% increase on the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) and bonuses of $1,500 for licensed educators and $1,000 for most classified employees.

“I believe this is a historic bill,” said House sponsor Rep. Steve Eliason. “It probably won’t end up on the front page of the national newspapers, but I believe that (the bill is) worthy of such headlines because of the tremendous effort that this is putting towards funding in public education in the midst of a national recession.”

The bill passage was the culmination of months of work that included the passage of Constitutional Amendment G by statewide voters in November 2020. The Base Budget proposal was first approved by the Executive Appropriations Committee on December 16, 2020. The measure originally passed the Legislative Executive Appropriations Committee on December 16. It passed the Senate Jan. 27 unanimously and the House Jan. 28 on a vote of 59-14.

“This is indeed reason for celebration! As a member of the UEA, YOU did this! WE did this,” wrote UEA President Heidi Matthews after passage by the Executive Appropriations Committee in December. “Our UEA pushed hard for legislators to keep the promise made during the 2020 legislature, the necessity of supporting our educators now, and for alleviating any further stress and anxiety by having these funds committed at the beginning of a session.”

Among other things, the final public education Base Budget includes the following new money:

  • The remainder of the promised of 6% on the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) from March 2020 ($141 million)Student enrollment growth ($33 million - $5 million one-time and $28 million ongoing)
  • Inflation ($62 million)
  • Fluctuations in enrollment due to the pandemic ($43 million over two years)
  • Supplemental Educator COVID Stipend ($121 million)…enough to provide a BONUS of $1,500 for every licensed educator and $1,000 for most other school employees (see more about the stipend).
  • Public Education Stabilization fund ($128 million)

“Not only is this one of the highest levels of funding we have received in years (equivalent of 6% WPU increase plus a bonus!) the significant step of establishing the increase as the starting point for education funding makes this truly remarkable,” said Matthews. “While the end product appears in the press, so much more happens behind the scenes…in rooms where we are included because of our collective power and influence. YOU made this happen as a member of the UEA. And, yes, as stated in a Salt Lake Tribune article, I am ‘ebullient’.”

The final FY2022 public education budget will be set by the Executive Appropriations Committee and voted by the House and Senate near the end of the 2021 General Session (see “How the Public Education Budget is Set”).


Gov. Cox recommends significant education investments in his first budget - January 11, 2021

The UEA expressed support for the first budget recommendation unveiled Jan. 11 by Governor Spencer Cox. The Governor’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget calls for a public education budget increase of nearly $431 million in ongoing funding and $180 in one-time funding.

The Governor’s budget priorities align very closely with the UEA’s 2021 Legislative Priorities and the budget proposal approved by the Executive Appropriations Committee in December. 

“We applaud the public education budget proposed today by Governor Spencer Cox in his first budget recommendation to the Utah Legislature,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews in a media statement. “(The Governor’s) recommendation combined with a similar budget vote by the Executive Appropriations Committee in December signify a significant commitment by both the governor and the legislature to invest in the students of Utah.”

In a typical year, the Base Budget enacted by the legislature at the beginning of the legislative session is set at or near the previous year’s budget. Any new expenditures are debated later. This year, the legislature is proposing the Base Budget that includes significan public education funding increase. “When enacted, not only would this budget represent one of the highest levels of funding for Utah education in recent years, the significant step of establishing much of the increase in the Base Budget, as proposed by the Executive Appropriations Committee, makes this truly remarkable,” said Matthews.

Gov. Cox’s budget proposal, which will be considered by the Legislature during its General Session beginning Jan. 19, includes a 5.82% increase in the weighted pupil unit (WPU), the primary funding mechanism for Utah K-12 schools. Cox said the extra money for education would help fund enrollment growth and allow districts to provide “meaningful pay increases to teachers.”

“I cannot overemphasize how essential teachers are to our state’s long-term success as they educate the young Utahns that literally are our future,” Cox said. “Let’s give them our support as a state.”

Cox also proposed a $26.3 million increase to help students at risk of academic failure, $9 million for optional enhanced kindergarten for at-risk children, and $8 million for rural school districts. He also recommended $2.8 million for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind, a one-time allocation of $12 million for special education intensive services, $7.5 million to expand access to computer science for all students, a $22 million increase for the Teacher and Student Success Program, and an additional $30 million to help equalize funding for poorer districts.

“On behalf of Utah teachers, we express appreciation to the governor and the Utah legislature for their willingness to prioritize our students and our public schools. Our educators are doing remarkable work in extraordinary circumstances. The bonuses for all school employees are a recognition of those efforts,” said Matthews.

“As legislators begin their work later this month, we respectfully ask that they reverse the overwhelming workload and support Utah educators during the COVID pandemic crisis by strictly limiting education-related bills to the budget and essential legislation that must be accomplished during the 2021 General Session.”


Great news for education! Huge funding increase, teacher bonuses receive preliminary approval – December 17, 2020

The Legislative Executive Appropriations Committee passed a recommendation to include an unprecedented $400 million investment in public education in the Base Budget. The Base Budget is typically approved in the very early days of the Legislative Session. In a typical year, budget increases are not voted on until near the end of a session.

“This is indeed reason for celebration! As a member of the UEA, YOU did this! WE did this,” wrote UEA President Heidi Matthews in a message to UEA members. “Our UEA pushed hard for legislators to keep the promise made during the 2020 legislature, the necessity of supporting our educators now, and for alleviating any further stress and anxiety by having these funds committed at the beginning of a session.”

Here’s what’s included in the recommendation:

  • The remainder of the promised of 6% on the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) from March 2020 ($141 million)*
  • Student enrollment growth ($33 million) **
  • Inflation ($62 million)**
  • Fluctuations in enrollment due to the pandemic ($43 million over two years)
  • Supplemental Educator COVID Stipend ($121 million)…enough to provide a BONUS of $1,500 for every licensed educator and $1,000 for most other school employees.
  • Public Education Stabilization fund ($128 million)

“Not only is this one of the highest levels of funding we have received in years (equivalent of 6% WPU increase plus a bonus!) the significant step of establishing the increase as the starting point for education funding makes this truly remarkable,” said Matthews. “While the end product appears in the press, so much more happens behind the scenes…in rooms where we are included because of our collective power and influence. YOU made this happen as a member of the UEA. And, yes, as stated in a Salt Lake Tribune article, I am ‘ebullient’.”

The news was soured somewhat by the inclusion of legislative intent language that would potentially exclude Salt Lake City School District employees from the bonus.

“What should have been a day of united celebration quickly soured with the legislative efforts to overturn local control so inconsistently and conveniently applied,” said Matthews. “Our UEA stands in solidarity with our Salt Lake Education Association members. No Utah educator should be denied the bonus, especially based on a decision out of their control. We believe #AnInjusticeToOneIsAnInjusticeToAll. There is still time, since the final vote will not happen until after the legislature begins its General Session on January 19.”


2021 UEA Public Education Budget Request

Education Funding

  • Fulfill statutory funding obligations created in 2020 (HB 357 and HB 5011) in the FY2022 Base Budget, including:
    • Fully restore $140 million in WPU funding cut during 2020 interim special sessions;
    • Fully fund student enrollment growth;
    • Include a WPU inflation adjustment in the Base Budget; and
    • Support long-term education economic stabilization through a working fund.
  • Reinstate cuts made during 2020 interim special sessions, including:
    • Administrative Cost Factor;
    • Flexible Allocation; and
    • MOST/USTAR.
  • Hold all schools harmless for enrollment fluctuations during the 2020-21 school year due to COVID.
  • Allocate $40 million in one-time funding for COVID-driven expenses related to health and safety, equity, student learning, staffing needs and educator support.
  • Devise and implement a tax system that will deliver sustainable and growing long-term revenue to address the chronic underfunding of public education.
  • Oppose/repeal schemes (such as vouchers or tax credits) that funnel public education money to personal student accounts or privately-run entities where taxpayer accountability is lost.
View the 2021 UEA Public Education Priorities


Victory for education! Legislators increase public education budget by 2.2% thanks to UEA – June 19, 2020

After all the doom and gloom about cuts up to 10%, the legislature voted during a Special Session to grow the public education budget by 2.2% over the current year, including a 1.8% increase in the per-student Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) and full funding of student enrollment growth. While not the 6% WPU increase passed during the General Session, the growth is significant in a post-COVID-19 environment.

“This was not an easy win…far from it,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews in an email to UEA leaders. “Even legislators in leadership are saying this increase would not have happened without the UEA. The groundwork laid by UEA members participating at Educator Day on the Hill during the General Session was critical, along with a lot of long hours and hard work by our UEA Legislative Team.”

In addition to the budget increase for the upcoming school year, the legislature previously added statutory guarantees to automatically fund student enrollment growth and inflation in all future years, guarantees we’ve never had before. During the Special Session, legislators also included a make-up increase (HB5011), designating 10% of all new Education Fund revenue to the WPU before any other budget items are considered. These guarantees are conditional on voter approval this November of a Constitutional amendment allowing Income Tax to be used for certain Social Services programs, primarily to benefit children.

The news from the Special Session was not all good for education. There were cuts to the Flexible Allocation Line item (-$7.8 million), Administrative Cost Factor of Small Districts and Charter Schools (-$13.3 million) and the Math and Science Opportunities for Students and Teachers program (MOST - formerly USTAR, -$6.2 million). The UEA indicated they are still working with the legislature to restore some of these. In speaking to HB5011 on the House floor, Rep. Mike Shultz said, “As we have been working on this with education stakeholders and the UEA, there’s been a lot of concerns brought up. A lot of those are valid concerns with some of the cuts that have been made. I have made my commitment to work with (the UEA) and the Legislature and other stakeholders to try to fix some of those cuts that still need to be addressed.”


How the Public Education Budget is Set

The Utah Legislature controls public education funding and our elected legislators must pass a budget each year during the General Legislative Session. Until the passage of Constitutional Amendment G by voters in November 2020, a public education "Base Budget," set early in the legislative session, essentially funded public education at the same level as the previous year. After passage of the constitutional amendment, the Base Budget must now by law include student enrollment growth, a cost factor for inflation and investment in a stabilization fund to ensure future funding.

After passing a Base Budget, legislators then 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 to that area, 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.


Public Education Budget Archives