Utah schools in need of funds despite legislative efforts

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Educators across Utah are still in need of money even after S.B. 149, a Utah Senate bill created to provide additional funding for schools, was signed into law.

Provo School District public relations coordinator Caleb Price said the district is allowed to use up to 25% of the new state funds generated by S.B. 149 for teacher salaries. Any of the money that they put toward salaries now would have to be paid from somewhere else in the future.

“We have chosen to not use that whole amount for (teacher salaries) since the money is not ongoing,” Price said when he was asked why many teachers haven’t noticed a pay raise.

Provo High School principal Boyd McAffee said the new funds allow the school to offer more money for positions that have experienced high turnover in the past.

“In the last seven years, we’ve had five different physics teachers. Retention is really difficult, especially in those areas of study. To be able to say we have an additional $1,500 for teachers to stay another year is very helpful,” McAffee said, adding that this is the first time they have been able to offer more money to teachers of those subjects.

McAfee did admit that he is unsure of how successful these pay raises will be. “I don’t have any indication on whether or not it’s going to work. We’ll have to see how this school year goes,” he said.

He also said the additional funds are not sufficient.

“Although I’m grateful for the advances that have been made, we’re still dramatically underfunded. It’s not just here in Provo District — it’s across the state,” he said.

McAffee spoke of the particular issue of school security with marked concern. “Schools that were built anytime prior to 2000 are not equipped to handle the security concerns that we now have,” he said referencing the increased magnitude of mass-shootings in America.

Other schools are focussed on retaining teachers through classroom improvements like better technology and additional supplies.

“We now have a shelf in the bathroom where there wasn’t one, picture frames to make our classrooms look nice,” said Jessie Alger, a third-grade teacher at Shelley Elementary in Lindon. “This week we got plastic recycling bins so we don’t have to use old paper boxes. We have a lot of new technology, security features, new carpet, new paint, new doors and walls where there were just temporary ones before.”

But Alger said these improvements to her work environment have not carried over to her salary. She said teacher retention at Shelley Elementary isn’t as dire of a case as it is at some of the other schools across the state.

“We’re a good school, so people like being here. We haven’t had a lot of teacher change over, but we’re aware of other schools in American Fork School district and other districts. We have a good principal and welcoming environment here, but when they start spending a lot of money on us, that’s really good too,” Alger said.

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