Governor’s budget puts spotlight on education
Governor Gary Herbert released his budget proposal last week for the 2016 fiscal year, and increases in education spending could end up benefitting Park City students.
Nearly two-thirds of Herbert’s $14.3 billion proposal was tabbed for education, including $502 million in new money for public and higher education. The plan calls for a 6.25-percent increase in the weighted pupil unit (WPU) — the main source of public education funding — totaling $161 million.
According to a press release from the governor’s office, school districts can use that increase in WPU — which is the largest in Utah in 25 years and doubles last year’s increase — to invest in things such as professional development for staff, increasing teacher salary and investing in technology.
Park City School District superintendent Ember Conley said she first heard rumblings that Herbert’s budget could include large increases in education spending during a recent statewide superintendent’s meeting. She said the plan is a sign that education is becoming a priority throughout the state.
"I think the business sector is coming on board and realizing that if we want our state to become very prosperous, you have to educate the children," she said, adding that she was particularly pleased that the WPU increase would allow schools to invest more in innovative learning. "I think the momentum is there."
In addition to providing support to public education throughout the state, the budget will have a direct effect on Park City students if it’s approved. Conley said the state in the past has overlooked Park City when doling out funding, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this time.
"There would be some support to what we’re already doing," she said. "I think it would actually help us a great deal. That’s one of the reasons I like his plan. Sometimes Park City gets nailed with all the other districts getting funds and we don’t, because we’re a more affluent district. But I see a lot of equality in this plan."
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A Parkite who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 13 is giving scholarships and internships to three first-generation graduates from PCHS.