Happenings from Feb. 4

The Education Appropriations Subcommittee met yesterday morning and engaged in a heated discussion about how to finance public education.  More on this topic to come later today…

In the meantime, the House Education Committee spent almost all of its time discussing Representative Last’s Charter School Financing Amendments, HB119.  The discussion involved some education regarding how charter schools are financed and the evolution of that financing:  when charter schools first developed in Utah, school districts were required to cover the capital costs for the charter, the philosophy being school boards can levy taxes to cover costs for students in its district boundaries and if those same students are going to be educated by the charter school instead of the district school, the district school should share the tax revenue it collects for education that student with the charter school.  Rep. Last explained this has caused  “quite a battle” between charters and districts. And so the State made the decision to cover most of the capital costs of charters, while still requiring some contribution from the districts.  The contribution districts were required to pay was the lesser of two formulas: either (A) 25% of the district per pupil revenues or (B) 25% of charter school students’ average local revenues (which is the average of all districts per pupil revenue for all charter students in the state).  Districts with high property valuation would pay more if they went with formula A, so they have been paying by formula B.  This means some districts are paying significantly less than 25% of their district per pupil revenue.

Rep. Last’s bill would require all districts to pay 25% of their district per pupil revenue, regardless of whether formula B is a lesser amount.  He asserted this would equalize the contribution among districts.  The consequence: many districts will have to pay more for their charter students than they have been.  Rep. Last argued that the amount is minimal (a total of $2.7M across the state) and that all districts will eventually benefit.  He explains, if the charter school fund is increased by $2.7M, that is $2.7M the State does not have to subsidize for charters, as it has been, which means the State will have $2.7M more to allocate to the general WPU.

Support for the bill was fairly evenly divided down district/charter lines, the UEA opposing and UAPCS supporting.  After an hour of discussion, the bill passed with 2 opposing votes:  Poulson and Moss.

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