Facebook Twitter



About a half-million Utah schoolchildren went to bed Wednesday night oblivious of the fact that their educational course was about to be set for another year by state legislators.

They'd have rested easier knowing that the state's per-child contribution to their education rose from $1,408 each to $1,490 - based on the minimum school program total of more than $1.3 billion dollars. Not enough, in the minds of some, but the best that could be mustered, the majority of legislators agreed."Overall, I feel the Legislature has done a pretty good job," said State Superintendent Jay W. Taggart, whose responsibility it is to take the money and the instructions handed out by the Legislature and apply it to the needs of all those thousands of students. "Considering what's going on in the state, we did very well.

"All of the priorities we identified in our finance study have now been passed, including equalization," said Taggart.

He referred to one of the session's most hotly debated items - a plan that builds a foundation program to supplement capital outlay budgets in the state's poor districts. The state will contribute $2 million - not the $5 million originally proposed - along with more than $6 million in critical school building funds.

To add to that foundation, however, the Legislature developed a formula that will require school districts to contribute a total of $1.1 million in the first year. That money will be divided among the state's poorest districts, based on need and local effort. Wealthier districts will pay what they complained is a disproportionate share for the program. Salt Lake City District will be particularly hard hit, and debate on the measure was intense and at times heated.

A disappointed Utah Education Association President Lily Eskelsen had a less rosy summary of the session. The teacher union had hoped for support of a bill that would have ensured increased funding for education over the next five years. The bill never got out of the House Rules Committee.

The 1992 Legislature's billing of the session as a "banner year for education" was overstated, she said. "We ought to be more honest. Funding this year was flat - even a little less."

Other education issues of interest included:

- A series of seven bills re-emphasizes the importance of state trust lands, which generate money for schools and other beneficiaries. Among other provisions, the bills made the trust principle paramount and created a nominating process to select State Land Board members. Reauthorization of a task force to continue a study of trust land issues likely will result in additional reforms next year.

- Two bills aimed at keeping educators who sexually abuse children out of schools were passed. They will allow teacher certification officials access to expunged criminal records and will require teachers to undergo criminal checks in some instances.

- Several proposals aimed at enhancing education died for lack of funding, including a measure that would have made kindergarten mandatory; one requiring three years of math and three of science as a requisite for graduation; and one adding 20 days to the school calendar.

- After three years of debate, a bill was finally passed banning corporal punishment of students in public schools. Private and parochial schools were exempted on condition that parents are notified of policies that allow physical discipline.


(Additional information)

Legislature makes some happy, some sad

Happy folks:

- Handicapped children. Special-education funding was increased by $5.4 million, and a new funding mechanism was passed that will reduce paperwork for teachers.

- Prisoners. They will benefit from a $1 million program aimed at educating them and providing other services to help them succeed "outside" after release.

- Teachers, who can earn $300 in career-ladder money for attending in-service training sessions.

Sad folks:

- Educators who sexually abuse children. Two bills tightened the net on them, allowing officials access to expunged criminal records and requiring criminal checks for some teachers.

- People who speed through school zones. They will face tougher penalties.

- The Utah Education Association. The Legislature did not even consider the union's proposal to assure education funding increases over the next five years.