Gov. Cox recommends significant education investments in his first budget

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.”