Most Wasatch Front school districts plan to use class-size reduction money solely to hire teachers, although the new law allows part of the money to be used for classroom construction.
On Friday, the Utah State Office of Education released estimates of class-size reduction funds. The 1996 Legislature added $30 million in new money to class-size reduction efforts, the first year in a decadelong commitment to provide $500 million to cut class size.Combined with existing class-size reduction efforts, a total of nearly $50 million will be distributed among 40 school districts.
Officials from the state's largest school districts, Granite and Jordan, say the additional funds may mean two teachers in a classroom; it may mean hiring a reading specialist or physical education specialist or a teacher with any other area of expertise officials at the school level think they need.
About 18 percent of the new money is going to Granite School District, the state's largest with about 76,000 students, where officials say the money will more than double the budget dedicated to lowering class sizes.
Neighboring Jordan School District will get an additional $4.6 million to add to more than $3 million already committed, according to the State Office of Education. Salaries for 128 new teachers will be paid from the new money, said Jordan's Devon Sanderson.
Davis County School District will receive an estimated $3.9 million in new money, which it will target in grades K-3. The district will place a heavy emphasis on improving reading scores, then math.
Although Davis District is growing, officials plan to use all of the money for teachers - none for new buildings.
According to the district's plan, about 80 new teachers will be hired to be distributed among the district's 48 elementary schools. About 24 additional teachers will be distributed to the 19 schools with the lowest reading scores in standardized tests.
Like Davis, the Salt Lake School District plans to hire teachers. Initially, the district believed its appropriation would be $1.1 million and planned to hire 23 teachers. The actual number is $1.5 million, which will mean more new hires. "Right now, we're putting it all into teachers," said business manager Gary Harmer.
Even the growing Park City School District will put the money directly into the classroom, hiring one teacher at each of its three elementary schools. The district also plans to hire one half-time reading specialist for each elementary but the state appropriation of about $195,000 will not cover the cost of all of the hires, said Superintendent Don Fielder.
Meanwhile, the 6,841-student Murray School District plans to build classrooms at three elementary schools, Superintendent Ron Stephens announced Wednesday.
Tooele Superintendent Paul Skyles said administrators and school board members are still debating how to use the new funding.
"We are growing. We have schools we're buying extra portable units for. It does allow us to use a small portion for modular classrooms or construction," Skyles said.
"We have to spend more time on reading, that's obvious because that's one of the things the bill calls for. Whether we do it (by hiring) a specialist or by calling in at-risk students or students having problems in reading on a daily basis to give further instruction to, we may do it that way."
The law requires that half of all class-size reduction funds be spent on kindergarten and grades 1-2. The remaining funds may be used on grades K-6. State law also enables school districts to use up to 20 percent of the funds for construction to physically help reduce class size.
If a district's growth is 5 percent greater than the previous year or experiences an influx of more than 699 students, 50 percent of the monies may be expended on capital projects to further the goal.
Combined with existing class-size reduction efforts, a total of nearly $50 million will be distributed among the state's 40 school districts.
Class size reduction funds
Estimated distribution of funds for Utah school districts (1996-97).
LOCAL EXISTING NEW OCT. 1995
DISTRICTS FUNDS FUNDS TOTAL ENROLLMENT
Alpine $1,848,666 $2,837,610 $4,686,276 42,763
Davis 2,546,718 3,909,083 6,455,801 58,782
Granite 3,111,996 4,776,750 7,888,746 76,559
Jordan 3,037,493 4,662,398 7,699,891 71,701
Nebo 773,723 1,187,625 1,961,348 18,759
Park City 127,037 194,995 322,032 3,163
Tooele 300,352 461,026 761,378 7,495
Salt Lake 1,021,945 1,568,635 2,590,580 25,294
Provo 528,853 811,763 1,340,616 13,487
Murray 250,160 383,982 634,142 6,841
TOTALS $19,544,621 $30,000,000 $49,544,621 473,685