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HOUSE GOP DELAYS ACTION ON TEACHER RAISE INEQUALITY

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The Legislature's promise to provide enough money for $1,000 raises for each teacher next year has a problem - lawmakers didn't give some school districts enough money to keep the promise. But nothing will be done about the funding inequity this year, House Republicans decided Wednesday.

The problem is caused by a funding formula quirk. There's not enough state money to give the raises in some school districts, while other districts find they have more than $1,000 raises available."When you're out of session for a while, you find out what you really did and didn't do," said Rep. Glen Brown, House appropriations chairman, during a Wednesday House GOP caucus. "We found out not all the districts are getting enough money, some too much."

Lawmakers passed two bills requiring the $1,000 raise. The raise was a major part of a package that persuaded teachers not to go on strike following the end of the general session in February.

House Republicans - who hold a healthy majority in the body - voted overwhelmingly Wednesday not to attempt this year to reallocate the money or make up the shortfall in districts that don't have enough cash. If money isn't taken away from the districts that got too much, it will take $500,000 more to make up the shortfall in the other districts.

Instead, Republicans promised to revisit the whole issue come January 1991, the next general session, with an eye toward taking the extra money away from the over-compensated districts and giving it to the shorted districts. Republicans voted to warn the districts that got extra money that the unintended cash windfall will be coming back to the state in fiscal 1992.

UEA not wanted on Capitol Hill

There was one strong consensus from the caucus meeting - Republicans don't want the Utah Education Association and other teacher unions back on Capitol Hill next year trying to negotiate specific pay raises for teachers.

The UEA always lobbies during the Legislature for more money for education. But this past session, using the threat of a strike, for the first time the UEA and other teacher unions actually negotiated an education package with Gov. Norm Bangerter and GOP legislative leaders, a package that included the guaranteed $1,000 raises for each teacher.

"If we were to open the budget (in a special legislative session) and put the $1,000 in as a line-item expenditure (a way to correct the funding inequity), the teachers would then have a mechanism, that line-item expenditure, to use each year to ask for more money," said Brown, R-Coalville.

Numerous Republicans then denounced that solution, saying teacher salary negotiations belong on the district level, not in the Legislature.

"Our intergrity is at stake on this issue," said House Majority Leader Craig Moody, R-Sandy. "We did promise $1,000 to each teacher. But if it comes down to that statement and the possibility that the Legislature becomes the bargaining arena for teachers, most of what our work should be up here (in session) will go by the wayside, consumed with teacher salaries."

`Funding mechanism' is culprit

At the end of the 1990 session, lawmakers said teachers and other public employees would get 6 percent raises next fiscal year, starting July 1, and specifically said each teacher would get at least a $1,000 raise. But in the funding mechanism, lawmakers used the Weighted Pupil Unit to spread that money to districts. And that's the problem. The WPU allocates money according to how many students attend school in a district, not by how many teachers a district has. Thus, districts with high student/teacher ratios have enough money for the $1,000 raises, in some cases hundreds of dollars more. (See accompanying chart.)

But districts that use other means to employ more teachers, and have a lower student/teacher ratio, fall short of the $1,000 for each teacher.

"Every district can use other funds to come up with the $1,000 raises," said Colleen Colton, Bangerter's education aide. "They just have to pull that money away from other programs, and the districts don't want to do that when the $1,000 was promised (by the Legislature)."

For example, the Logan School District has already settled its 1990-91 school year contract with teachers, Colton said, and even though that district falls $106.18 short of the $1,000 per teacher in state funding, the district made up the difference, about $28,000.

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(Additional information)

Per teacher shortfalls*

Salt Lake City -$ 28.62

Ogden - 140.67

Provo - 49.34

Logan - 106.18

Murray - 66.27

Box Elder - 15.16

Cache - 50.15

Carbon - 18.16

Duchesne - 25.11

Grand - 57.57

Granite - 27.78

Iron - 14.97

Jordan - 27.06

Millard - 39.57

Morgan - 64.36

Nebo - 2.18

Rich - 10.06

San Juan - 199.17

Tooele - 74.14

Uintah - 29.48

Surpluses*

Alpine +$ 67.27

Beaver + 110.07

Daggett + 163.93

Davis + 111.30

Emery + 14.84

Garfield + 240.14

Juab + 176.66

Kane + 70.76

North Sanpete + 30.16

North Summit + 26.30

Park City + 10.88

Piute + 344.55

Sevier + 87.01

South Sanpete + 90.75

South Summit + 3.61

Tintic + 257.33

Wasatch + 43.36

Washington + 139.53

Wayne + 329.71

Weber + 5.17

*Figures are the amount in district funds available that are above or below the $1,000 pay increase per teacher the Legislature promised.