clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Public, higher education vie for pieces of funding pie

In the waning days of the 1998 Legislature, public and higher education officials, like other state agencies, will make their cases to the folks holding the state's purse strings: the Executive Appropriations Committee.

The legislative fiscal analyst dealt a blow last week in offering a meager $1.5 million in additional state funding for all programs, from corrections to human services, in fiscal year 1999.However, the appropriations committee has set aside $10 million for unspecified education initiatives.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Scott Bean expects the money to help fund several bills: one seeking $13.6 million for class-size reduction in seventh and eight grades; $2 million for charter schools and 21st Century Schools, which are similar to Centennial schools; and $3 million for teacher supplies and materials.

Meanwhile, higher education officials are eyeing the same $10 million.

"We're hopeful there will be a recognition of a need for additional funding for higher education," said Cecelia Foxley, commissioner of higher education. "Hot spots identified by the (appropriations) committe and the Board of Regents are definite needs."

The regents voted last week to support a $1 million statewide engineering initiative that provides funds to all state colleges. Likewise, the regents are backing a bill that would provide apprenticeship training money.

The regents have urged college presidents to back bills that benefit the entire system over those specific to one institution. But they made one exception in supporting a bill that would enable Utah Valley State College to lease 100 acres from Utah State Developmental Center.

The regents also are concerned whether they'll have to ask students for more tuition if state employees are granted a proposed 4 percent pay raise. Now, they recommend a 2.7 percent tuition hike. A 3.5 percent increase would be needed to cover a 4 percent pay raise.

College presidents told the regents they need to pay faculty and classified employees more or risk losing them to the private sector.

But student regent Andrew Croshaw, a Utah State University student, said the funding dynamic is unfair.

"We don't want to be pitted against our teachers," he said.

Customarily, students are expected fund at least 25 percent of faculty pay. But it's an unwritten rule, and regents question why higher education has to pay more than any other state agency to fund salaries.

In public education, teacher pay comes out of the weighted pupil unit, the basic funding formula.

Education officials and the governor had sought a 4 percent WPU increase, but the Public Education Appropriations Committee approved a 3 percent hike. The committee will recommend additional WPU funding from money set aside for "critical needs."

Public education's $2.1 billion budget proposal was pared back to about $1.5 million. Nonetheless, Bean said he was satisfied with lawmakers' recommendations.

"When it comes to election years, this committe changes," Bean told the committee. "We just hope you understand you really are representing 480,000 schoolchildren across the state. That's a great responsibility, and I think you've done an excellent job this year."

Unfunded items include a proposed $100,000 for mandated kindergarten testing, which districts likely will have to fund, and $1.6 million to maintain and update EdNet satellite network services.

The committee approved $12.45 million in one-time funding, including $6.3 million for textbooks and $2.25 million for school libraries.

The committee also hashed out a $2.1 million wish list, topped by $150,000 to put more nurses in schools. The list also includes funding for educational technology initiatives, recidivism prevention programs and services for the blind and visually impaired.

The Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee has proposed a $657.3 million budget for the state's colleges, a $9.5 million increase to the base budget and $2.7 million more in one-time funds.

The committee also voted to send to Executive Appropriations three lists of priorities totaling more than $10 million. Priorities include new operation and maintenance money for campus buildings, library books and journals, and instructors for the state's smaller colleges.

The committee voted to yank $174,500 for Dixie College's newly approved dental hygiene program to fund an occupational therapy program at the University of Utah. The committee recommended money for the Dixie program as a building block, reducing its funding chances.

The committee apparently abandoned a proposal to increase graduate school tuition, but it wants a report to the Legislature on the issue this summer.

In other legislative news:

- The middle school emphasis was restored in a $13.6 million class-size reduction bill. The House had amended the measure to allow funding for class-size reduction at any grade level.

- The House Education Standing Committee forwarded a bill repealing laws that require city school districts affected by annexations to absorb students in another district's boundaries. Affected school boards would have to agree whether to change district boundaries. Some city school districts oppose the measure.

- A bill that would expand and open Brigham Young University students a state financial aid program passed the House Education Standing Committee. The bill, sponsored by Sen. LeRay McAllister, R-Orem, a retired BYU professor, would provide $200,000 to expand the program.

- The Senate Education Standing Committee has forwarded a bill that would enable the regents to accept buildings donated to colleges without approval of the Division of Facilities Construction and Management.