Gov. Gary Herbert and legislative leaders were effusive over funding granted by the Legislature for public education in the legislative session just ended. It's the biggest infusion of new money for schools in years, they said, and they are right. But don't be fooled by the enthusiasm.
The Legislature did little more than maintain the status quo for public education. Or, it might be more accurate to say it rebounded backward to pre-recession funding. There were no new budget cuts like those experienced for several years, but most of the additional money allocated for public education will merely fund the 13,500 new students expected to arrive next school year and a meager 2 percent boost in the basic per-pupil rate.
Even with the additional 2 percent, Utah's $2,899 expenditure per student will remain at the bottom among all states, far below the next lowest on the ladder. Most of the increase will go to employees' Social Security and retirement, and a meager 1 percent pay boost for teachers. There was no money to make up for the years when tens of thousands of additional students were absorbed without new money in the public-education system.