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Utah Democratic leaders may end up with most of what they want for education next year, but they'll get it because the majority of Republicans have already decided to give it.

Whatever happens in next month's general session, Democrats won't get the No. 1 item on their list - a repeal of the $35 million income-tax cut just awarded by a September special legislative session, Republican leaders say.Democrats detailed their 1990 legislative education package Thursday, saying they want a clear, consistent policy. (See chart). "Republicans have only muddled through from one budget crisis to another with no goal in sight," said state Democratic Party Chairman Peter Billings Jr.

Democrats won't see a repeal of the income tax cuts because Republican lawmakers and Gov. Norm Bangerter won't change their minds.Moreover, Republicans aren't about to dump the tax cut in the face of record state revenue surpluses, believing taxpayers need some kind of a break.

"The governor has been talking these same things as the Democrats have on their funding list for the last year," said Bud Scruggs, Bangerter's chief of staff. "They've gone a little overboard on spending money, as usual. But that's not a bad (political) position for them, because they aren't responsible for the budget."

State surpluses for three fiscal years in a row are estimated to reach $300 million. It's the 1990-91 fiscal year's budget that will be decided by Republican Bangerter and the GOP-controlled House and Senate during next month's general session. Bangerter will release his recommended 1990-91 budget next Tuesday.

Bangerter says he's going to keep $48 million in the so-called "rainy day fund," a surplus account available for use in an emergency. Bangerter wants to spend all the rest of the money. And he promises education will get an influx of cash the likes of which has never been seen before.

Former Democratic Gov. Scott M. Matheson, co-chairman of the Democratic Policy Commission that issued the education funding agenda, says his party's goal is to make Utah the No. 1 education state in the nation.

The Democrats recommend spending $163 million more for education next year, leaving, according to Matheson, $58 million in ongoing revenue for non-education programs such as social services and corrections and $85 million in one-time cash.

Teachers threaten a strike if they don't get upwards of $200 million in new money. Billings said Thursday while Democrats may not formally support a strike if $163 million or $200 million more isn't spent on education: "If the Legislature doesn't meet the real needs of education, I think there's a high likelihood of such a strike."

Republicans say much of the Democrats' education funding plan - except repeal of the $35 million tax increase - has already informally been agreed upon.

For example, teachers will get a raise, probably 5-7 percent. Democrats' demand for a $1,000-a-year raise equals about a 5 percent increase. At least $12 million will go for textbooks, Republicans say. Democrats want $13 million and want it immediately so books can be purchased this year.

The $20 million for computers has basically been agreed upon and Bangerter has already promised $5 million a year for three years to remove asbestos from school buildings.

New money for enrollment growth will be provided, Bangerter and Republicans say. More money to offset inflation - Democrats want $50 million - will also be forthcoming, the exact amount to be announced later, Scruggs said.

Teacher-to-student ratios will also be addressed, Republicans promise, perhaps through the addition of teaching aides.

Finally, the reforms Democrats have suggested in education are also under consideration, both by Republicans and the State Board of Education. One - public ranking of individual schools - is controversial within the education community. Another - more local control of schools - is the current trend and will likely continue.


(Additional information)

Democratic Party education agenda

Financial investment

-Reduce class size in grades K-3 from an average 26 students to 20 students. Pay for this by repealing the $35 million income-tax cut.

-Raise teacher pay to above the Mountain West average over several years. Start with a $1,000-a-year raise next year. Cost: $20 million.

-Spend $13 million on textbooks, $20 million on computers.

-Spend $15 million to earthquake-proof schools and remove asbestos.

-Spend $10 million for increased enrollments and $50 million for inflation to keep schools even.

Educational reform

-Encourage family homework/studies with a $400,000 information campaign.

-Increase student responsibility through annual "promotion tests" that require minimum competency to move to a higher grade. Also, deny or revoke driver's licenses of 16-to-18-year-olds if they drop out of high school.

-Publish report cards on individual schools so patrons know how their school measures up.

-Restructure education so teachers and parents have more control over curriculum and textbooks.