Record editorial: Take it from Park City’s teachers. Dead last in education funding is not good enough.
Year after year, it’s the same story.
Educators throughout Utah call on the state Legislature to dramatically boost the amount of money flowing into public schools — enough, please and thank you, to drag us from the very bottom of the national barrel in per-pupil funding. Lawmakers, in turn, give lip service to the importance of education but, when it comes time to pass the budget, approve increases that don’t move the needle nearly enough.
With lawmakers preparing to finalize the 2020-2021 budget before the end of the legislative session March 12, Summit County residents should call on their representatives to abandon the baby-steps approach to improving school funding and commit to the kind of increases that will have a significant effect in classrooms.
The Utah Education Association, for instance, is pushing for a $900 million investment that would include both a 6% increase to the weighted pupil unit, the primary method used to fund public schools, and more than $600 million for teacher compensation and other perks to address staffing challenges districts around the state are facing.
That strikes a contrast to what lawmakers did last year, when they ponied up for a 4% bump to the weighted pupil unit as part of about $280 million in new public education spending. While not an insignificant sum, it was far from the kind of investment needed to bring Utah in line with other states and, unfortunately, is likely similar to what the Legislature will ultimately approve this session.
The Park City School District is a prime example of the problem. Despite having the kinds of resources many other school systems in the state can only dream of, the district is by no means flush with cash. For example, it still relies on the nonprofit Park City Education Foundation to pay for vital offerings like arts and science programs because the state does not provide enough money to fund them.
And while Park City’s is the highest-paying district in the state, officials say teachers are still frequently left to shell out for school supplies and other necessities out of their own pocket and too often work extra hours without pay.
The inadequacies are why dozens of Park City teachers have participated in a handful of “walk-in” demonstrations this winter, most recently Wednesday at the four elementary schools. Notably, the teachers have the support of the Park City Board of Education and the district’s administration because they know as well as anyone the value our teachers provide and the importance of funding in improving educational outcomes.
Our educators also have the backing of the community — a fact we should make sure lawmakers understand. When it comes to public education and the futures of our children, we’ve spent too many years making do with not enough.
Settling for dead last should no longer be an option.
Summit County’s representatives can be contacted at these phone numbers: Rep. Tim Quinn, 435-412-2170; Rep. Logan Wilde, 435-412-4384; Rep. Brian King, 801-560-0769; Sen. Allen Christensen, 801-782-5600; Sen. Ronald Winterton, 435-299-8531.
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Our view: Now that negotiations have resumed, the community that both the Board of Education and teachers serve demands they work in good faith to forge a deal.