The legislative session is a long way from over but, so far, schools have been largely spared from talk of budget cuts.
The House passed Tuesday a $3.5 billion base education budget bill, HB1, by a vote of 69-2. The bill is a first step in crafting the state's budget. It's the foundation upon which lawmakers will build a final education budget in coming weeks for the next school year.
"This is a start to our funding of education," said bill sponsor Rep. Merlynn Newbold, R-South Jordan.
The budget the House passed Tuesday includes funding for the same number of students as this school year and keeps base per pupil funding at $2,816 in most cases. Lawmakers will spend the coming weeks deciding how to add to that budget to fund an additional nearly 12,500 students expected in Utah schools this fall. They'll also decide whether and/or how to continue certain programs that received funding last year for one year only, such as money for teacher supplies and an elementary arts program.
It's a big change from last year when the base budget included significant cuts.
Gov. Gary Herbert has recommended spending more than one-fourth of the projected $400 million in additional revenue the state is expecting on public schools to fund enrollment growth, give teachers raises by boosting base per pupil spending and pay for new tests, among other things.
HB1 now moves to the Senate.