Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Preschool, tech, basic Utah education funding recommended
Education » A legislative committee set priorities for the eventual education budget.
First Published Feb 13 2014 11:20 am • Last Updated Feb 13 2014 03:19 pm

A legislative committee is recommending a 2.5 percent boost to basic per pupil spending next school year — despite arguments from some that it won’t be enough to make much of a difference to teachers or classrooms.

After two weeks of hearing requests, the committee voted Thursday on a list of education funding recommendations that included the per pupil spending boost, $61 million to fund enrollment growth and millions of dollars for software and preschool programs, among other things.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

That list will now go to the Executive Appropriations Committee, which will craft a final education budget bill to be voted on by the full House and Senate.

The recommendation that basic per pupil spending — known as the weighted pupil unit (WPU) — be increased by 2.5 percent falls just shy of what state education leaders wanted.

The state school board is asking for a 2.7 percent increase. And the Utah Education Association wants a 4 percent increase, saying it’s needed to get schools back on track after cuts during the recession.

A Tribune investigation found that in some districts, all of the 2 percent WPU increase last year went toward increasing health insurance and retirement expenses, over which districts have little to no control.

Still, some lawmakers wanted to see even less put toward the WPU on Thursday.

The WPU, which is now valued at $2,899, doesn’t represent all the money the state spends per student, but unlike other pots of cash, school districts can use it on almost anything.

Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, said he would rather see the money put toward other programs on the list, saying the WPU "is one of our least innovative areas of the state budget."

"We’re not giving innovation by funding the WPU," Urquhart said. "We will give innovation if we fund more items below the WPU."


story continues below
story continues below

Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, disagreed.

"I have seen across the state innovation at the school district level that we will never be able to replicate here at the state house," Nielson said.

Ultimately, the committee voted to recommend the 2.5 percent increase, with two lawmakers, Urquhart and Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain, voting against it. Lifferth was hoping for a 2 percent increase.

For a short time, the committee also discussed taking some of the $62.5 million needed for the WPU increase from Speaker Becky Lockhart’s proposal to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on technology for schools, finding money for that elsewhere.

But they quickly backed off that idea after Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, urged the committee to be "realistic" and show support for the proposal. He said trying to take money from the technology proposal could create confusion and potentially "backfire on us."

"Just look at the landscape and see this is going to happen," Last said of the speaker’s proposal.

The recommendation list approved Thursday includes $100 million for the speaker’s proposal, but Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, cautioned that’s just a placeholder, and the actual amount will be outlined in the Executive Appropriations Committee.

The recommendation list also includes, among other things, millions to continue the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program for elementary schools; $5 million to continue and expand UPSTART, an at-home software preschool program; $5 million for HB96 and/or SB42, which would expand other preschool programs; and $10 million for the STEM Action Center, much of which would be spent on continuing use of math software and training for teachers.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.