7% Equivalent WPU Bump for Public Education Funding – March 9, 2018
For more than a year prior to the 2018 Legislative Session, the UEA worked with members of the business community to increase revenue for schools. The group formed the Our Schools Now coalition and introduced The Teacher and Student Success Act, which included several key components:
- Established the Teacher and Student Success Fund to distribute revenue on a WPU basis;
- Allowed 25% of the new revenue each year to be used for salary and benefits; and
- Directed the remaining 75% of new revenue to go to the individual schools for work on student achievement.
This plan, and the accompanying initiative, helped to drive the conversation on school funding in the months leading up to the 2018 legislative session. Desperate to resolve this issue, the Legislature worked with the coalition on a compromise. These negotiations impacted budget talks right up until the last night of the session.
The compromise led to a change in the way school funding is distributed. Historically, educators have looked to the WPU as a measure of funding increase. This year, new pieces are added to the education funding stream, making it difficult to focus only on the WPU.
The approved budget fully funded new student growth and increased the traditional WPU by just 2.5%, which most school districts argue barely covers inflation costs. But new funding allocations significantly increase the overall budget. For example, a property tax adjustment measure (House Bill 293) provides an additional $36 million to be used for property tax equalization. It also creates a new property tax increment on the basic rate indexed to the WPU increase, generating $18.5 million this year. In addition, $46.5 million from the Education Fund will be placed in the Flexible Allocation line item and distributed on a WPU basis.
Other items of note funded in the budget include:
- $9 million enhancement for at-risk students (in addition, homelessness and chronic absenteeism were added as risk factors)
- $500,000 additional on-going for teacher supply money, bringing the total to $5.5 million.
- $23.6 million increase in the school land trust program distribution.
Combined, these increases approach an equivalent growth of 7% on the WPU. When all was said and done, some long-term building blocks were put in place for some sustainable education funding increases into the foreseeable future for Utah public education.
Unveiled budget proposes 3% WPU increase – February 12, 2018
After deliberating for three weeks, the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee recommended a 3% WPU increase, full funding of enrollment growth and paying for property tax equalization from the Education Fund. Total funding proposed by the subcommittee is about $157 million for the big items and about $40 million for the smaller items, for a total of about $197 million total ongoing. Here are a few highlights:
- Enrollment growth: $33,488,500
- WPU Increase (3%): $93,000,000
- Equity Funding (SB145): $33,000,000
Smaller Items (all ongoing money, additional to current budgets)—
- Teacher Supplies: $500,000
- CANVAS LMS (in conjunction with UETN): $1,900,000
- Elementary Counseling (HB264): $2,100,000
- Enhancement for At-Risk: $10,000,000
- UPSTART (SB115): $1,000,000
- Digital Teaching and Learning Expansion: $6,000,000
- Special Education Intensive Services: $2,000,000
- To and From Pupil Transportation: $4,500,000
- Special Education Scholarships (Carson Smith expansion): $2,000,000
- K-3 Reading Growth: $3,500,000
View the full proposed budget. The budget recommendation now goes to the Executive Appropriations Committee for further consideration.
How the Public Education Budget is Set - January 30, 2018
The first few weeks of the session, legislators 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 that topic, 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.
education budget details emerge during legislature's first week – January 26,
negotiations are in very early stages with the Public
Education Appropriations Subcommittee hearing reports from various
entities. The Subcommittee discussed HB1: Public Education
Base Budget Amendments, the primary funding bill for public education,
which essentially sets the next year’s budget before any new money is
considered. Any increases to the “base budget” are typically decided in a
supplemental budget bill near the end of the session.
The Utah Education Association supports Governor Gary Herbert’s public education budget recommendations directing increased funding for the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU), student enrollment growth, at-risk student populations and providing educators with additional classroom supply money. The statewide teachers’ association remains concerned, however, that the state’s current tax structure generates insufficient revenue to make significant improvements in a public education system plagued by severe teacher shortages and large class sizes.
“The governor’s proposed increase for public education is a significant and worthwhile investment in Utah’s schoolchildren and the state’s economy,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “His recommendation to increase the WPU combined with an additional investments in at-risk student programs and property tax equalization gets us very close to the 5.5 percent WPU increase the UEA and other education stakeholders are seeking.”
During a press conference Dec. 13, Governor Herbert released his proposed FY2019 Utah state budget. In it he directs $208 million in new tax revenue to public education, calling for $36 million to cover anticipated enrollment increases and another $121 million to add 4 percent to the WPU. The budget also proposes $34 million in new money for children at risk of academic failure and $25 million for property tax equalization. The Legislative Fiscal Analyst has announced the state can expect an overall $382 million increase in state tax revenue for the next fiscal year. In his remarks, Governor Herbert attributed the revenue increase to a booming state economy.
“We must seriously look at updating Utah’s tax structure if we want any hope for addressing critical issues such as our ongoing teacher shortage, overburdened public school workforce and the nation’s largest class sizes,” said Matthews. “While we applaud the governor for proposing a budget that directs 72 percent of all new revenue to education, I am unconvinced that growing the economy alone is sufficient to deliver the resources our students need.”Matthews points to the ‘Our Schools Now’ initiative as one way to address the tax structure issue. If approved by voters, the business-led initiative would generate about $700 million per year for Utah schools – money that would go directly to Utah classrooms. According to initiative organizers, the money could be used to reduce class sizes, increase teacher pay, provide updated technology in schools, add counselors and specialists, or for other needs determined locally by the school.
“The business community started the ‘Our Schools Now’ initiative because they recognize the positive impact a world-class public education system has on the economy,” Matthews said. “As Utah’s economy grows, educator compensation, teacher training and classroom resources must keep pace if we want to attract and retain quality public school classroom teachers.“Utah teachers have stepped up and done more with less for many years. Now it’s time for our legislators to step up and recognize the importance of investing in our students,” Matthews said.