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FY2017 Public Education Budget Summary

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Final approved FY2017 budget puts 3% on WPU - March 15, 2016

The Utah Legislature passed a 2016-17 budget that includes $90 million to address enrollment growth, and a 3 percent increase, about $80 million, in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU). Other budget items include $20 million for charter schools and a $15 million grant program for classroom technology. This graphic shows that public education represents 30 percent of the state budget and received 41 percent of the new funding. This graphic shows what was budgeted for all students compared to selected groups, such as charter schools.

The budget process began before the session with Gov. Gary Herbert unveiling his proposed budget in December. His proposal was highlighted by a 4.75 percent increase on the WPU. He indicated that this would give local districts the most flexibility to address their needs. This theme was echoed by UEA and other education entities as they presented their budgetary requests to the Legislature.

“We believe Utah public school students are best served by allocating as much funding as possible directly to the WPU,” said UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh in a letter to legislators. “Specifically, we are requesting that rather than designate line items for technology, professional development or other earmarked uses, those funds be rolled into the WPU.”

The Utah School Board Association, the Utah School Superintendents Association and UEA all requested between 4.5-5 percent on the WPU. One key message was the crisis level in the teacher shortage statewide and the need to address it. “Today we face arguably the most critical teacher shortage of our lifetime,” Gallagher-Fishbaugh’s letter continued. “A student today faces a greater chance of sitting in a classroom with an unqualified teacher than perhaps ever in modern history.”

A UEA video highlighted the teacher shortage and stressed the importance of contacting legislators to address the issue.

As the session progressed, the message was delivered that the WPU was primary and as bills were introduced with large fiscal impacts, the focus needed to be on increasing the WPU first before addressing other needs. Some of these bills included very worthy causes such as:

  • HB28: Grants for Educator Professional Learning – This bill would have created grants to districts and charters for professional learning for educators. The original funding request was $30 million. The request from Public Education Appropriations was $10 million and in the end it received no funding.
  • HB42: Early Learning Amendments – This bill would have provided for $10 million in grant programs to extend the opportunities for optional extended day kindergarten. This bill was also not funded.

One project that did receive funding, although on a much reduced level than the $96 million originally proposed, is HB277: Personalized Learning and Teaching Amendments. In the end, this school technology proposal was funded at $15 million, with about $10 million of it being ongoing money.

Another key theme for 2016 was “equity” of funding—whether it was the discussion surrounding charter schools or equality of property tax funding for all districts. SB38: Education Funding Amendments, which originated in the Charter School Funding Task Force but changed substantially along the way, was a significant piece of legislation. It adds elements to the formula for Charter School Local Replacement Funding, creates a District Property Tax Levy for charter schools, and provides for that levy to be placed on the county property tax notices. The result is $20 million additional ongoing funding to charter schools.

No new revenues were implemented this session, despite efforts by Sen. Jim Dabakis and members of the business community. Sen. Dabakis sponsored SB104: Amendments to Income Tax, which would have provided for marginal income tax increases at the $250,000 and $1 million income levels. Education First Utah urged legislators to place a referendum on the ballot asking voters to approve a 7/8 of one percent income tax increase for education. Neither proposal was successful.

Letter urges legislators to allocate money to WPU – February 23, 2016

Citing a “critical teacher shortage” in Utah, UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh shared a letter with legislators asking them to allocate as much funding as possible directly to the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU). “Specifically, we are requesting that rather than designate line items for technology, professional development or other earmarked uses, those funds be rolled into the WPU,” she said, noting that “this position is a shift from recent years.”

“Today we face arguably the most critical teacher shortage of our lifetime,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “Educators, school boards, administrators and parents are all feeling the crunch…and it’s the students who suffer. We must address the situation before the crisis escalates.”

“Our local school boards, administrators, teachers and parents need the flexibility to collaboratively address teacher shortages in ways as unique as the communities in which they live and work. Directing funds through the WPU provides this flexibility,” she said. The letter was distributed to all 104 Utah legislators.

Budget Update – February 12, 2016

The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee considered its prioritization of budget requests. This prioritization list is important because the Executive Appropriations Committee typically relies heavily on this list when it makes final budget decisions. The most controversial prioritization item discussed in the committee was $42 million, or about 1.5% of a WPU, to fund SB38: School Funding Amendments. Being referred to as the Equity Pupil Unit, this bill would fund charter school students incrementally more to bring them to equal funding with traditional school students. According to the co-chairs, the bill would allocate $25 million to school districts and $17 million to charter schools. The committee forwarded the priorities to the Executive Appropriations Committee. UEA Executive Director Lisa Nentl-Bloom also had the opportunity to present the UEA’s budget priorities to the committee. These priorities focus on first funding growth and adding 5% on the WPU. Other funding needs should follow.

Budget Update – February 5, 2016

The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee continued to hear reports and budget requests, but took no action on the overall education budget during the week. There were concerns expressed by committee members that projected state revenue numbers could be revised downwards, leaving less money available for public education than originally anticipated.

Budget Update – January 29, 2016

The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which consists of 20 legislators from both the House and the Senate, met twice during the first week to begin the work of preparing a budget recommendation for the Executive Appropriations Committee. The draft HB1: Public Education Base Budget Amendments bill was shared with the committee.

Legislative analyst Ben Leishman gave a short history of the WPU and school funding and other budget items. Committee members also heard several reports, including:

Governor Proposes 4.75% WPU Boost — Dec. 10, 2015

UEA supports recommendation that includes new student growth, teacher supply money


Gov. Gary Herbert meets with Salt Lake Community
College students Dec. 9, 2015, prior to presenting his
recommendations for the FY2017 state budget.
(Photo: Scott Sommerdorf, Salt Lake Tribune)

In a press conference Dec. 9, Gov. Gary Herbert released a recommended FY2017 Utah state budget that directs $422 million in new tax revenue to public and higher education. His budget calls for $91 million to cover an anticipated 9,700 new students and another $130 million to add 4.75 percent to the Weighted Pupil Unit, the basic public school funding mechanism. The budget also proposes $9.5 million in teacher supply money, up from $6 million this year.

“Everyone should know my No. 1 budget priority since I came into office is education,” Gov. Herbert said. “It’s not all about the money, but it is some about the money, so we’re putting the bulk of this new money into education. Seventy percent of the new money is going into education.”

The Governor’s proposed public education budget matches very closely with the budget Utah Education Association representatives encouraged the governor to adopt in meetings with the governor and his staff over recent weeks. The UEA strongly supports the Governor’s proposed investments in the WPU, student enrollment growth and providing educators with classroom supply money.

“We appreciate that Gov. Herbert continues to listen to the concerns of teachers as we meet with him,” said UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “His proposed budget represents a significant and worthwhile investment in Utah’s schoolchildren and the state’s economy. It goes a long way toward addressing the critical needs in Utah’s grossly underfunded public school classrooms.”

In his press conference, the Governor emphasized that by making a significant investment in the WPU, the money will flow to school districts, where he believes local officials can spend it most effectively to address specific needs. In recent years, the Legislature has been less apt to add to the WPU, preferring instead to specify where the money goes.

The UEA agrees with the Governor’s position that local school boards should have 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 proposed 4.75 percent increase to the Weighted Pupil Unit amounts to about $206 more for every Utah student. According to Gov. Herbert, his budget would bring education spending increases to $1.7 billion over the five years since the state emerged from the Great Recession. “It’s a good start,” he said. “It’s not enough. My plan is to invest another billion over the next five years into public education.”

The Utah State Board of Education proposed a budget that includes a 2 percent WPU increase and $100 million directed to purchasing learning devices for students and train teachers on incorporating technology into their classrooms. Where the Governor prefers giving control over spending to local school districts, the board sees a need for targeted funding to support a statewide technology plan, said Board President Dave Crandall.

The Legislative Fiscal Analyst has announced that the state can expect an overall $561 million increase in state tax revenue for next fiscal year. More than 70 percent of that money would go to public schools and colleges under the Governor's plan, putting total education funding at $4.4 billion. The Governor’s budget proposal includes no tax cuts or tax increases. It also would not add to the state's debt.

The governor’s annual budget proposal represents his recommendations to the Utah Legislature, which is ultimately responsible for passing a final state spending plan. The 45-day 2016 Utah General Legislative Session begins January 25.

UEA's Position on the FY2017 Public Education Budget – January 2015


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 2015, Gov. Gary Herbert recommended a FY2017 Utah state budget that directs $422 million in new tax revenue to public and higher education. His budget calls for $91 million to cover anticipated enrollment increases and another $130 million to add 4.75% to the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU). His budget also proposed $9.5 million in classroom supply money, up from $6 million this year.

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.

Public Education Budget Archives