[library-media] Fwd: [uted] Message from the Utah State Board of Education

Fawn Morgan fmorgan@dsdmail.net
Tue, 22 Feb 2005 11:45:56 -0700


Please forgive any double posting as it is very important that we all
receive this message from the uted listserv at uen.

>>> uted-admin@uen.org 2/18/2005 4:16:13 PM >>>
February 18, 2005
                                
Utah's $306 Million Opportunity
 
Dear Fellow Educator:
 
As the Utah State Board of Education, we write to update you on the
status of Utah's public education budget as the Legislature comes to a
close. This year's budget, we believe, presents Utah with the $306
million opportunity of a lifetime for our students. The Board thought
this information important enough to send to every licensed educator
in
the state.

For the past several years, slow economic growth has curtailed the
Legislature's ability to meet education's funding needs.  As a result,
we tightened already tight belts.  We became even more efficient as
costs increased in excess of available funding.  Now that funding is
available, we are calling upon the Legislature to significantly
increase
public education funding.
 
Last Monday, February 14th, the Legislature approved an increase in
the
base budget for public education of $97 million. We are pleased to
report that this budget includes a much-overdue pay increase for you.
It
also will mostly cover the anticipated growth coming next year and
covers some of the cost of inflation over the past several years of
smaller increases or decreases. 

We are not at all pleased to have to report to you that this budget
does not include anything new for your students, our children. This
comes about despite the fact that, though about one half of state
sales
and income tax revenue goes to public education, less than one quarter
of the new money expected next year has been given to public
education.
 
How do we figure that? Because, also on Monday, the Legislature
announced revenue estimates are much higher than originally projected.
Ongoing income tax revenue is now projected to increase by $258
million
next year. One-time money now totals $166 million. After paying for
growth and inflation in higher and public education, the Legislature
will have $306 million left to allocate and that's our students'
opportunity.

Let's face it: The budget the Legislature passed is a status quo
budget
for our students.  It leaves our public school students treading water.

Nothing has been set aside to increase student achievement and
precious
little to make up for the past few years of little or no increases.

Members of your elected Utah State Board of Education encourage all
Utah educators to familiarize themselves with the public education
budget. And though there are many possible uses for the additional
$306
million, the State Board has listed three major areas of concern:

Increasing the value of the weighted pupil unit (WPU) to at least 5
percent;
Appropriating ongoing funds to help children who may not pass the
UBSCT;
Providing ongoing funding to enhance math education in grades 4-6.

WPU Increase
 
The increase in the WPU is simply to cover ground lost to inflation
over the past few years. The Utah State Board of Education also
believes
it is the best way to give local school districts maximum flexibility
in
budgetary matters. The difference in the WPU amounts to only $43
million
out of the available $306 million.
 
UBSCT Support
 
The status quo funding does not include anything to help students who
are in danger of failing the legislatively mandated Utah Basic Skills
Competency Test.  Students who don't pass this test won't get a
diploma.
 Instead, when they finish their high school course work, they'll get
a
certificate of completion. Don't we owe these students every chance we
can give them to get a high school diploma? UBSCT support amounts to
only $6 million of the $306 million.

Funding to Improve 4th-6th Grade Math Improvements
 
Another top State Board of Education priority that won't be covered in
the status quo budget is funding for extra help in learning math in
grades 4 through 6.  Last year the Legislature recognized the need for
additional funding for reading programs in kindergarten through grade
3.
 Just as it is crucial for children to learn reading in the early
grades, it is equally critical that they learn certain math concepts
in
grades 4 through 6.  The State Board of Education requested $16
million
ongoing from the Legislature to strengthen math instruction in these
grades.  That's less than 5 percent of the $306 million.  Of course,
there are other needs, but these are the most important.

Fund Education First
 
Since income tax revenues are required by the state constitution to go
to education, it's natural to assume that the Legislature would take
the
opportunity to invest in our children and look at funding the needs
identified by the State Board of Education.
 
Don't count on it.  Some of the $306 million could go to fund needs in
higher education.  But most of the money will go through a budgetary
laundry scheme that will remove the education earmarkings and send it
to
the state's general fund coffers.  There, it will be used to fund road
construction, prisons, and other state programs.
 
The Utah State Board of Education wanted you to be aware of the
situation. We encourage you to lobby your legislators.  You have that
right!  But, do remember that you may not do it on school time or on
school equipment.  Email addresses can be found at
http://www.le.utah.gov. 
 
Thank you for all you do for Utah's public school children.
 
Sincerely,
 
Utah State Board of Education         
                       
Kim R. Burningham
Chairman




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