With the 2016 Utah Legislative session coming to a close on March 10th, I thought it might be beneficial for the public to be informed of the distribution of a $14.7 billion dollar state budget. Approximately, $440 million in new money is available for public and higher education. The majority of the increased funds goes to 3 to 3.75 percent increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU is the amount of state funding received on a per student basis) along with approximately 9,700 new students enrolled in Utah schools next year. Additional funding means more accountability by public schools in the form of additional legislation changing the school grading expectation. I might be wrong but I think this is the fifth legislation change in the last six years to the grading mandates. Three educational bills are receiving significant floor time. One is HB 193/SB38 Charter School Funding Amendments, which would place a stat tax levy on the county property tax notices for charter schools. According to the house floor debate on March 3rd, HB193 provides a 3.8% increase to charter school funding and a 3.0 increase to school districts. At the time of this article, it remains to be seen if HB193/SB38 will be approved. A compulsory education bill SB45 continues to be discussed. If this passes, it would remove the requirement for students to attend school. Finally, HB221 would change the requirements for student immunization by requiring parents to watch a vaccination video before they could receive a vaccine exemption form. The last time I saw HB221 debated, it was on its 9th substitute and passed the House of Representative with a single vote. These are just three of the one-hundred plus bills being considered by the Utah Legislature this year that affect public education.
Ben Dalton, Superintendent