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Charter school budgets will see a boost of roughly $20 million under a bill that passed the House in a 60-11 vote on Friday.
The bill, one of two identical proposals making its way through the Legislature, would broaden the state funding given to charters as a substitute for the local property taxes school districts collect.
But charters would also lose roughly $6 million in per-student funding by switching to the same enrollment calculation as their district counterparts this year.
And the bill would require that the property taxes collected for charter schools be listed separately on tax notices, rather than diverted from district coffers, something advocates of traditional schools have requested for several years.
"This has been a product of much compromise, negotiation and really in the end is a great solution," said Heber City Republican Rep. Kraig Powell, sponsor of HB193.
But in a year when preliminary budget numbers call for a per-student spending increase of 3 percent, or roughly $73 million, some lawmakers say it's the wrong time to boost charter schools, which enroll one out of every 10 Utah public education students.
The latest budget awards $15 million to a classroom technology program, down from $100 million requested by the state school board, while directing an additional $5 million to private companies that contract with the state for early learning software.
And several bills supported by the education community were left off the latest budget, such as a $10 million expansion of full-day kindergarten and $30 million for teacher training grants.
"We can not afford this price tag," Rep. Derrin Owens, R-Fountain Green, said of the charter school bill.
Powell reiterated to his colleagues that his bill has received the public support of most of the state's education groups, representing both charters and traditional schools.
He added that the bill could potentially ease the tension between the two groups, which has increased along with enrollment in charter schools and the funding they divert from traditional districts.
"I think, unbelievably, maybe in the future charter schools and district schools will be working together on these local property tax issues," he said.
The bill will now be transferred to the Senate for consideration. Another bill, SB38, passed in the Senate last month but has since had its wording replaced with language identical to Powell's HB193.
Both chambers must adopt the same version of the bill before it is sent to the governor to be signed into law or vetoed.