Author: Kim Burningham
More dismal news about education funding caught the headlines last week: A new report out of the national Center on Budget and Policy Priorities quantified the recent decline in education funding in Utah. Between 2008 and today, according to the report, Utah funding for schools “plunged by more than 8 percent.”  True, much of that was due to the economic recession, but that does not alter the truth.
Add that to the fact (as I have reported before) that Utah already provides by far the lowest funding for education of any state in the nation and the picture is more than bleak. It is catastrophic!
Lest anyone think I exaggerate, I suggest you examine the figures. Below I published the figures from the National Center for Educational Statistics for the 2009 school year. As you will note, Utah is dead last in student funding: The national highs exceed $16,000. And Utah embarrassedly is less than 44% of that amount!
Some defend this dismal figure, by stating that we try hard. False! According to the Utah Foundation, Utah’s effort to fund education as compared to personal income is in a downward spiral and has “fallen significantly since 1995.” Whereas in the mid 1990s we were in the top 10 states in effort, by 2009 we had dropped to 26th. The Foundation concludes, “Utah’s downward trend in funding effort over this period has been unprecedented.”
What is the result of this appalling disregard for the children of the State? Bulging class sizes, failure to fund student support systems, and demoralized educators.
USBE recommendation: fund growth and increase WPU!
Now is the time to encourage legislators and potential legislators to make increased funding for education a high priority. I strongly suggest that you check with the individuals running for the Legislature in your area and ask them what they intend to do about the poor funding of education in Utah. Their answer needs to be concrete and should have an effect on how you vote.
The Utah State Board of Education (USBE) has approached funding requests modestly in the last few years, mostly just trying (and not always succeeding) in getting the Legislature to fund the growth of new students. For the coming budget year, USBE is beginning what needs to be a campaign to increase education funding. The USBE request for the coming year is to totally fund growth and to increase the WPU by 2%.
That would only make a modest gain (especially when you consider the mandatory increase in retirement funding), but it is a start in the right direction. Personally, I believe that far-sighted legislators will look at a figure higher than 2%. Still it reverses the trend, and is, I believe, a minimum which must be pursued.
I urge you to speak up for the children of the State and insist on increased funding for education. Ask your legislative candidates what they intend to do!
Current per-pupil expenditures for elementary and secondary education in the United States: 2008–09
 Phil Oliff, Chris Mai, and Michael Leachman, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “New School Year Brings More Cuts in State Funding for Schools,” September 4, 2012.
 Lisa Schnecker, Salt Lake Tribune, “Per pupil funding down in Utah since 2008, report says,” September 4, 2012.
 U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, fiscal year 2009.
 Utah Foundation Research Report, “Utah Education Funding Effort: State Faces Long Term Challenges,” June 2011.
 Utah State Board of Education preliminary funding recommendation for 2013, voted on September 9, 2012.
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