Lawmakers to fund enrollment growth, boost per pupil spending
Utah schools would get $36 million to pay for nearly 12,500 new students expected in schools in the fall, under an education budget bill the Legislature passed Tuesday.
SB2 also would increase base per pupil funding by more than 1 percent next school year to $2,848, in most cases. That increase, however, may not translate directly into raises for teachers, as it would likely be just enough to cover expected retirement cost increases.
"I think we always hope for more, but I think it represents a legitimate effort on the part of the Legislature to take care of the needs of public education within the resources that they have," said State Superintendent Larry Shumway.
He warned, however, that it will still be tight for schools next school year as the increases must cover a number of costs. "Districts will face difficult choices once again," Shumway said.
The bill also, among other things, includes $2 million to continue the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program in elementary schools and $5 million for teacher supplies.
Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said in recent years the Legislature hasn't always given schools enough money to cover enrollment growth and retirement costs, but SB2 would give them money for both.
"I think we can say we have truly funded growth," Gibson said.
Some education items were still noticeably absent from SB2, such as $800,000 to expand dual-immersion language programs to 23 more elementary schools in the fall, and $7.5 million to continue optional extended day kindergarten. But Senate Budget Chairman Lyle Hillyard said Tuesday it was possible more programs would still get funding before the end of the session in separate bills.
"We anticipate because we haven't finished all the bills yet that we will have spent more money in public education than the governor recommended," Hillyard said. The governor recommended the state spend $111 million more on education next school year.