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Bill To Boost Funding For Rural School Districts Heads To House

The Utah Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would funnel extra dollars to less wealthy school districts.

Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, says the goal of his bill is to make sure schools in economically disadvantaged ZIP codes are able to spend as much money on teacher raises and education programs as their more affluent counterparts.


S.B. 80 would allocate one-third of all new education spending to flow to those districts that collect fewer property tax dollars, which typically supplement state education funds.


Fillmore says even though there isn’t an abundance of new money in this year’s state budget, it will still help.


“The concept that we need to make sure that every child in the state has access to funding for their education is the goal here,” he says. “There are reasons why, in a lean year, we would want to do it this way because, as a state, we need to make sure that we are using all of our education dollars for their best use possible.”


In a 19-9 vote, several Democrats and Republicans opposed the bill, worried about the effect it may have on the Weighted Pupil Unit, or W.P., that’s the equalized funding source allotted to each public school student in the state.

Democratic Sen. Jani Iwamoto says just because a school district collects more property tax, doesn’t mean its schools are necessarily better off, citing the large number of Title I schools in Salt Lake City.


“It’s not that the goal of this is not a virtuous goal, but the sad thing is the W.P. is the one thing that equalizes all the schools,” she says. “It [S.B. 80] has the effect of pitting the school districts against each other.”


The Senate approved a Democratic amendment to the bill that would allow a legislative audit committee to measure the effectiveness of the program after two years. The bill next heads to the House for consideration.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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