Utah consistently ranks last in per-pupil spending, as it struggles to keep up with more students enrolling in school. So, what did the Legislature prioritize in its education budget this year?
The Legislature’s Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee forwarded its final budget recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee for approval Tuesday, with more than $300 million allocated for ongoing funding and $104 million for one-time funding.
The subcommittee recommended $35.7 million in continued funding to support enrollment growth as well as a 4% increase to the weighted pupil unit. That increase shapes up to be $128 million—the largest amount allotted for a single item in the education budget this year. South Summit School District Superintendent Shad Sorenson says any increase in per-pupil spending is welcome, but it likely won’t stretch very far.
“Everything is great, but by the time you pay for new staff and insurance benefits, it makes that WPU very limited for funding for cost-of-living increases,” Sorenson said.
The subcommittee also prioritized school safety in the budget, allocating $67.7 million for assessments of school security and safety protocols. Sorenson says the South Summit School District has made structural improvements to the entrances of its elementary schools and high school and that the district is confident in the surveillance and policies in place.
As another component of school safety, the subcommittee approved $32.1 million for school counseling, to provide students with more mental health resources. Sorenson says that amount probably won’t pay for a new counselor in every school, but that the district is prioritizing that type of student support.
“Our focus is really on student safety at this point, in regards to mental health and wellbeing, and so we’re closely watching that counseling ratio.”
The subcommittee also designated funding for student transportation, computer science programs and a reading clinic.