Prior to 1896 when Utah became a state, the US Congress set conditions under which Utah could gain statehood. In order to gain statehood, Utah agreed to many provisions. One of which was to ensure Utah citizens would receive access to an education. To help ensure funding for education in Utah, Congress granted land to the state in a trust to support public schools. One-ninth of the land was granted in trust. At that time, four one-mile square sections in each township became school trust lands.
Today the school trust includes approximately 3.3 million acres. When the state trust lands were designated, Utah became the trustee and the schools in the state became the beneficiaries. In 1983 the trust land funds were composed of $18 million dollars, which were derived from land use and revenues from land sales (such as the trust land sale that took place last month in Garfield County). Money from the interest on the endowment flows directly to each individual school and is spent under the School Community Council’s direction.
In 1989 people began to question if the trust lands were being utilized to their maximum capacity. Studies and legislative reviews took place until 1999. HB 350 created the School Land Trust program, which had grown to $333 million and required the monies to be distributed to school on a per pupil formula. Individuals are again questioning if the funding is being utilized to the maximum potential.
In 2015 the estimated trust land funds have grown to $2 billion thus making roughly $45 million available to public school next year. The Utah Board of Education recently adopted a resolution asking for legislators to modernize the funds distribution formula, which would allow access to where the $2 billion dollars may be used. Schools in the Garfield County School District will receive approximately $139,000 next year. The District will continue to give input to the State School Board and legislators regarding this issue.
Garfield School District