SALT LAKE CITY — A record $82.6 million in school trust funds will be distributed to Utah schools this academic year and state education officials are urging parents to join their school community councils to determine how to best spend the funds allotted to their neighborhood schools.
Every K-12 public school has a school community council or charter trust land council made up of parents, teachers and principals. Each council allocates its portion of school trust funds to this effort.
“School community councils give Utah parents a unique opportunity to engage with teachers and a principal to help direct meaningful spending in their child’s school,” said Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson in a statement.
“The School LAND Trust Funds put dollars to work to improve student academic achievement.”
Trust lands are parcels held in trust to benefit 12 state institutions, primarily public schools. When Utah became a state, Congress granted millions of parcels of land to the state and created permanent endowments to support these institutions. Revenue from school trust lands flow into the Permanent State School Fund.
Since 1994, the Permanent State School Fund has grown from $76 million to $2.5 billion.
This year’s distribution of $82.66 million in school trust funds totals nearly 3% of the $2.5 billion Permanent State School Fund. A formula in Utah law determines annual distributions, which are allocated largely on a per-pupil basis.
The program has distributed $617 million to Utah schools since 1994. Last year, Utah schools spent $74 million on teachers and aides to reduce class sizes, professional development, classroom technology and textbooks.
Four agencies build, invest, administer and protect the Utah School LAND Trust Program. They include:
- School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration or SITLA, which manages Utah’s 3.3 million acres of school trust lands and deposits revenue into the Permanent State School Fund.
- School and Institutional Trust Funds Office or SITFO, which invests the $2.5 billion Permanent State School Fund.
- School Children’s Trust Section at the Utah State Board of Education, which administers the School LAND Trust Program. The office trains and supports school community councils as they prepare academic plans that require approval of local school boards.
- Lands Trust Protection and Advocacy Office, which was created by the Utah Legislature in 2018 to represent the beneficiary interests of Utah schools.