Governor requests $292 million new K-12 funding, 4.5% WPU increase – January 10, 2020
Utah Governor Gary Herbert released his FY2021 Budget Recommendations on January 8, calling for $292 million in new public education funding. This new funding would include:
- Enrollment growth for 7,900 new students
- A 4.5% increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU)
- A funding increase for optional enhanced kindergarten
- A new computer science initiative
The 4.5% WPU increase falls short of the 6% requested by the UEA, the Utah School Boards Association and the Utah State Board of Education. If implemented, however, 4.5% would be the largest WPU increase since 2006, according to UEA Research Director Jay Blain.
Gov. Herbert's overall recommendation adds up to an average increase of $432 per K-12 student. The UEA is asking for an increase of $1,234 per student this year.
“We look forward to working with the governor and the legislature to find long-term funding solutions for our students,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “We’re concerned the Governor’s budget does not fully reflect education improvement goals recommended by his own Governor’s Education Excellence Commission.” Goals adopted by the commission include:
- Increase salaries to start at $60,000 and grow to $110,000 over a career
- estimated annual cost: $535 million
- Provide more scholarships for prospective teachers
- estimated annual cost: $45 million
- Ensure access to high-quality pre-school and extended kindergarten programs
- estimated annual cost: $150 million
- Increase school counselors per student to national standard optimum of 1:250
- estimated annual cost: $130 million
- Increase student access to school psychologists, social workers and special education teachers
- estimated annual cost: $285 million
(see: Governor’s Utah Education Roadmap, 2018-2027 and A Vision for Teacher Compensation - Envision Utah 2019)
Ultimately, the Governor’s budget recommendation is just that, a recommendation. The legislature has final say in how public education is funded. The 2020 Utah General Legislative Session runs January 27 through March 11.
2020 UEA Public Education Budget Request
The UEA proposes a long-term funding focus on four major goal areas: Individualized Student Attention, Address the Teacher Shortage, Student Equity and Student Health and Safety. Full implementation of these goals will require a sustained, long-term funding effort over many years. TO BEGIN THIS EFFORT, the UEA recommends the 2020 Legislature:
- Fully fund student enrollment growth, including all impacted line items (est. $50.2 million)
- Provide a 6% increase on the WPU, allowing LEAs maximum flexibility in addressing the above-referenced goal areas (est. $208 million)
- Implement investments recommended in the Envision Utah: A Vision for Teacher Excellence task force report (as adopted by the Governor’s Education Excellence Commission):
- Increase salaries for all teachers ($500-600 million)
- Strengthen teacher induction programs ($32.5 million)
- Provide more scholarships for up-and-coming teachers ($45 million)
- Devise and implement a tax system that will deliver sustainable and growing long-term revenue to address the chronic underfunding of public education.
- Safeguard and expand long-term revenue available for public education such as provided by the Utah constitutional guarantee directing income tax to education.
- Oppose schemes to funnel public education money to personal student accounts or privately-run entities where taxpayer accountability is lost.
Early in the legislative session, typically in the first few days, the legislature approves a "base budget," essentially funding public education at the same level as the previous year. 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.