Utah Schools Asking Legislature for More Money

Utah Schools Asking Legislature for More Money

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah's public schools will be asking the Legislature for 13 percent increase in funding next year, but they aren't likely to get anywhere near that.

"This fairly states the need that exists in public education today," Patrick Ogden, associate state superintendent over budgeting, said Friday, when the school board approved its preliminary budget request. "It's incumbent on us to communicate our needs to the Legislature. It's incumbent on the Legislature to (prioritize) those needs ... with other needs in state government and Utah taxpayers."

The request, which could be altered next month when enrollment figures are finalized, includes:

$71 million a 4.3 percent increase for the weighted pupil unit. That would bring the WPU's value from $2,150 to $2,243.

$21.5 million to cover about 7,300 new students, a 1.5 percent estimated enrollment increase, and $2.25 million to cover some 1,300 new students enrolled in six new charter schools.

$10.4 million to restore past budget cuts, including $6.75 million in the block grant directed at improving teacher quality.

$5 million in one-time money for teachers' classroom supplies, a commonly funded proposal.

$203 million for PerformancePlus, the school board's proposal to create a competency-based education system for kindergartners through 12th-graders, boost graduation standards, and ensure all children who struggle receive the extra help they need. Of that amount, $150 million would be ongoing money; $53 million would be for one-time costs.

The budget request totals $263.5 million in ongoing money, and $58 million in one-time funds.

The Governor's Office of Planning and Budget has received more than $900 million in new money requests from state agencies.

"However, revenue growth will not begin to address even one-eighth of the budget requests," office director Lynne Ward said in an e-mail to agency heads this week. "Our initial and final recommendations will be much smaller than what you've requested."

Board members recognize that money is tight.

"It's going to take a tax increase," board member Denis Morrill said. "You're not going to be able to invent this money somewhere."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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