More funding for student enrollment growth tops a want list compiled by school districts across the state in preparation for the 2015 Utah Legislative Session.
At a meeting last month, a joint legislative priority list was completed by the Utah School Board Association, the Utah School Superintendents Association, and the joint legislative committee for the Utah Association of School Business Officials.
The three statewide organizations represent local school boards, superintendents and school business administrators.
Scott Rogers, Tooele County School District superintendent, reviewed the list of priorities at the Tooele County School Board’s meeting Tuesday night.
Rogers serves on the legislative committee of the state superintendents’ association.
“These are the things that we will work on when the legislature starts up in January,” he said.
First on the priority list is a request that the legislature fully fund enrollment growth, according to Rogers.
“We need to make sure the legislature includes an allocation of additional funds to cover the expenses to continue current programs for all students,” he said.
Current programs on the list for an increase in funding include everything from administrative costs to teacher supplies. Reading improvement programs, transportation, enhancements for accelerated students and enhancements for at-risk students are a few other programs included on the list.
Keeping the allocation for these programs constant in the face of climbing enrollment is tantamount to a budget reduction, according to Rogers.
Second on the list are five specific requests for additional funding. The first is for an increase in the value of the weighted pupil unit (WPU).
WPU is the primary source of funding for basic education programs. Each year the legislature sets an amount to be allocated to each district per WPU.
It is essentially a per student amount, with some students counting as more than one unit and some as less than one unit.
No amount of increase for the WPU is specified on the priority list.
“An increase in the WPU is needed to keep up with increased costs for materials, salaries and benefit costs for employees,” Rogers said.
The three associations also want the 2015 legislature to fund district-directed professional development targeted at Utah Core standards, college and career readiness, computer testing, school grading, STEM instructional strategies and educator evaluation.
Last year the legislature discussed, but did not pass, a proposal to put a technology device in the hands of every student, according to Rogers.
Rogers wants this year’s legislature to know there is more to technology in education than funding devices.
“I don’t know what the plans are for this year on student personal technology,” he said. “But we want the legislature to continue to advance the implementation of technology with ongoing funding, but realizing that more technology devices require professional development, additional support personnel, infrastructure and funding for repair and replacement,”
The three groups are also asking for two, one-time strategic investments from the 2015 legislature: help with purchasing alternative fuel buses and vehicles, and an increase in the allocation to the capital foundation program.
The request for alternative fuel vehicles and buses is tied to air quality legislation, according to Rogers.
The legislative priority list asks the state to restore cuts made to the capital foundation program during the recession. The program assists school districts in building and facility projects, including constructing new buildings to accommodate growth.
The reductions in the capital foundation program had a big impact on the Tooele County School District, according to Rogers.
In 2009 the school district received over $5 million from the state’s capital foundation program. However, since then the state has reduced capital outlay payments to the school district. In 2014 the school district received $430,094 from the program, according to Rogers.
“An increase in the capital foundation program would help our district,” he said.
The 2015 legislative session will start on Jan. 26.