The Utah Education Association (UEA) will take a significant step forward to address a pressing concern in the state’s education system by asking the Utah lawmakers to increase funding during the 2024 General Legislative Session. Recognizing the pivotal role of paraeducators in special education and the need for enhanced support, the UEA is set to request an eight percent increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) from state lawmakers in 2024.
This proposed increase is in addition to the projected four percent inflationary adjustment. It aims to bolster special education staffing, ensuring all students can access the necessary resources and assistance to succeed. UEA Director Jay Blain made the announcement during the Utah State Board of Education meeting on September 7, 2023. Blain asked for support from USBE members before the legislative session begins in January.
“We need to be able to attract and retain special educators and paraeducators,” Blain told USBE board members during public comment. “Therefore, we hope you consider this WPU ask to align with your recommendation.”
If approved by state lawmakers, the additional funds generated by this increase in the WPU could be directed toward special education and at-risk student populations, who are among the most vulnerable in Utah’s education system.
“We highly value our paraeducators as they play a crucial role in students’ success in special education. They provide vital support to educators,” Blain said.
Special education students often require specialized services, individualized attention, and tailored educational plans to thrive academically and personally. This proposed increase will help them receive the resources and support they need to reach their full potential. Attracting and retaining dedicated special educators and paraeducators is crucial to reaching Utah’s highest standard of special education services. A competitive compensation package is a significant factor in achieving this goal. The proposed eight percent increase in the WPU will enable school districts to offer better salaries and benefits, making the profession more appealing to talented individuals passionate about serving students with special needs.
The 2024 General Session of the Utah State Legislature is scheduled for January 16 to March 1, 2024.