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Huntsman's Proposed Education Budget

Governor Huntsman is proposing huge increases in public education funding. Exactly how much of an increase, as usual, depends on how you measure it.

Total state public education funding: 11.6% increase over FY2007 pre-supplemental budget
This includes several sources, such as education fund, general fund, federal funds, some local property tax (basic, voted, board, K-3 reading), and other misc. sources. It excludes many local property tax levies including capital, debt service, recreation, 10% of basic, and tort liability.

Most of these expenditures will occur at the district level, but some of these expenditures will occur at the State Office of Rehabilitation and Schools for the Deaf and the Blind.

Minimum School Program including School Building Program: 14.97% increase over FY2007 pre-supplemental budget
The Minimum School Program (MSP) is the major funding mechanism for Utah public school districts. It is funded mainly by state individual and corporate income taxes (about 80% in FY2007), local property taxes (about 18% in FY2007) and a small amount from the education permanent trust fund. MSP sources exclude federal funds, several local property tax levies such as capital, debt service, recreation, 10% of basic, recreation and others.

Weighted Pupil Unit: 7.0% increase over FY2007
The weighted pupil unit (WPU) is the most misunderstood term in Utah public education finance. Education groups and newspapers frequently equate WPU increases with per student funding increases, but this is not accurate (see Holly Mullen's article in today's Tribune for an example of how the MSM understates increases in education spending). We'll have a post or two in the future explaining the WPU.

Unfortunately, most people will think that spending per student is increasing by 7% when the increase will be much higher. So-called "below the line" items are not included in the WPU, and Huntsman is proposing a massive 21.7% increase in below-the-line expenditures. In Huntsman's 2008 budget, below-the-line items account for more than one-third of total MSP expenditures.

Assuming a 3% enrollment growth, MSP expenditures per student will increase by about 11.5% if Huntsman's budget is approved, much more than the 7% WPU increase.

Will it be enough?
Since 1970, inflation-adjusted per student spending in the U.S. has increased by 122% yet 12th grade NAEP scores have been flat. Right now, reform is at least as important as additional spending. Spending increases must be accompanied by real education reform including

- vouchers for low and moderate income families
- merit pay for teachers
- differential pay for teachers
- removing the cap on new charter schools
- funding equity for charter schools

Governor Huntsman has already committed to signing a voucher bill. It's time for the Republican-controlled legislature to deliver.

Amen, amen, and amen.

I couldn't agree with you more.

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