Thoughts from Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee Meeting, Jan. 29

State Board of Education Vice-chair, Jennifer Johnson, said today at  the end of the Education Appropriation Committee meeting that there may be a legislator who will sponsor a bill to raise the 2% cap on the School Trust interest and dividends that are distributed (after administrative costs for USOE staff are subtracted) to public schools (both traditional schools and charters—on a modified WPU basis) to use for academic needs. We are interested to see a bill that would change/remove the cap.  Our questions are, if the cap is raised, would schools receive more money?  A great hope and the essence of local control!  As a couple of committee members noted in the Jan. 29 discussion, Community Council use of School LAND Trust money is a great boon for individual schools.  And most often spent responsibly.  Or could increased funding (if the cap is raised) fund raises or bonuses for public employees?  Mr. Bruce Williams noted that there is now almost $2 billion in the Trust Fund.  Could more of that “savings account” for schools reach local schools in the near future to bring Utah from the basement of school funding?

Also on the agenda…

Education Appropriations co-chair, Senator Howard Stephenson proposed an interesting idea for Youth in Custody programs, which are funded by the state through school districts.  He wondered if those programs could  continue at secure facilities (Sen. Stephenson noted that he and his wife currently volunteer at the Decker Lake facility) through the summer months?  Students incarcerated in these secure facilities would benefit from ongoing education programs.  As Sen. Stephenson said, we want these students to progress and graduate also.  Interestingly, we also learned from the USOE YIC specialist that YIC funding was cut by $2 million in 2011 by the legislature.  That cut was a fatal blow for YIC extended services.  If the funds are restored, per Sen. Stephenson’s suggestions, perhaps the extended services could be restored to what they were before 2011.  And we come full circle.

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