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School districts will give more money to charter schools and receive less funding for busing students, adult education and school nurses, if the state school board's latest budget recommendations are adopted by lawmakers.
The full board including six new members voted Thursday to approve $53.5 million in cuts after legislative leaders asked the state's public agencies to prepare a budget with 98 percent of last year's funding.
Education funding is expected to increase this year, and lawmakers and school board members say the 2 percent cut is intended as a hypothetical exercise to highlight priorities and areas of inefficiency.
"We reserve the right to claw back any money into programs that we thought were good programs," said school board vice chairman David Thomas.
The board's three-member leadership team first suggested the funding change last week.
Recommendations include cutting $6 million from student transportation, $3 million from concurrent enrollment and $2 million from the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program.
Larger cuts include more than $23 million in unrestricted funds and $11.4 million in state funding for charter schools.
Because charter schools do not have taxing authority, school districts are required to divert a portion of their property tax revenue to charters within their boundaries.
If enacted, the $11.4 cut to state charter funding would result in a corresponding increase in the amount of property tax revenue that local school districts would have to give to charters.
"The districts would have to contribute more money and they would have less local money available," said Associate State Superintendent Bruce Williams.
Board members discussed taking the 2 percent cut out of state per-pupil funding.
But Thomas said small school districts would be the most adversely affected by a dip in per-pupil revenues compared to the larger Wasatch Front districts where most charter schools are located.
"Most of those cuts would be borne by the big districts, not by the small districts," Thomas said of the board's recommendations.
Proposed cuts to at-risk student programs, library resources, early intervention and dual immersion were abandoned after board member discussion.