SALT LAKE CITY – 10,000 new students will be enrolling in Utah schools next year, according to the State Board of Education.
That’s like adding a whole other district, and, the question is: How will it be funded?
Utah ranks dead last in per-pupil spending nationwide. In order to keep the state from falling further behind, lawmakers will have to shell out $115 million to accommodate 10,000 new students.
“Though we are adding every single year, we are not adding at as great a rate as we use to,” said Mark Peterson with the Utah State Board of Education.
Most funding will come from the state income tax.
“Income tax accounts for two-thirds of our spending,” Peterson said.
But lawmakers must figure out how to cover the rest.
“We don't have a tax structure in place that helps produce things we know benefit children,” said Representative Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City.
Briscoe says just staying even isn’t going to cut it. More money is needed to fund programs such as early childhood education and teacher professional development.
“I'm completely in support of the Chamber of Commerce and the governor saying we want a top 10 education state, you cannot seriously talk about being a top 10 education state with 51 out of 51 education funded,” Briscoe said.
Representative Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, says education is a top priority for Governor Gary Herbert. He’s confident the governor will be able to fund growth, and then some.
“We'll wait to see what the budget numbers are, and then hopefully on top of that $100-plus million to fund the new students we'll be able to put something else to increase our funding levels," Eliason said.
Governor Herbert will release his budget next month.