By Joe Belnap
Gov. Spencer Cox released an updated list of priorities. One of the priorities is addressing funding disparities between school districts.
According to a recent study that was presented to the Utah legislature, schools like Provost Elementary are not receiving enough funding for their needs.
In an average Provost classroom, over half of the kids are economically disadvantaged.
“When you are in one that does have less money or less funding or you are less privileged that’s where we should be giving them more,” Provost Elementary principal Kami Alvarez said.
According to Alexander Jacobson, a major contributor to the study, this is in line with one of the findings of the study.
“It suggests the additional resource needs are for students who are in particular economically disadvantaged,” Jacobson said.
Gov. Cox said that there are two main reasons why inequity still exists.
“The reason it’s difficult is that when you start to mess with those valuations, then you have winners and losers,” Cox said.
Property taxes are one of the funding sources for school districts, but property values vary widely from district to district.
“The place that needs the most money they have higher taxes but they’re getting less for that and the places that don’t need the money, they have lower taxes and they’re getting all that they need for that,” Cox said.
The second reason why inequity has not been addressed is because few people know the complexities of school funding. “It’s just very complicated. School financing is incredibly complex,” Cox said.
Cox wants to avoid reducing funding from more privileged school districts, “but to use new funding streams as they become available to help those schools.”
While there are opportunities for improvement, the study found that “the system in Utah is foundationally strong,” Jacobson said.
What does more funding accomplish for a school like Provost?
“Retaining the best teachers and recruiting them to the education field could have the best outcome. More money for teachers could help,” Alvarez said.
The governor is hoping that solutions will be presented to the legislature by February.