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Charter schools and school districts, often seen at odds in Utah's public education system, would both see perennial requests realized in a bill approved Utah lawmakers Thursday.
For charters, the bill would provide $20 million in state funding to level perceived inequities in the playing field of per-student budgeting.
And for school districts, the local property tax revenue that administrators are required to share with charters would be listed as its own levy on property tax notices.
"Charter schools will have no authority to impose property tax," said Draper Republican Sen. Howard Stephenson. "This will simply report that amount accurately on the tax notice so that there will be transparency."
School districts have long bristled at their obligation to fund charter schools, which operate independently and are typically overseen by unelected boards.
At the same time, charter schools have long argued that students are at a funding disadvantage when they choose to enroll at the alternative schools, which typically offer a more focused curriculum with fewer course offerings than their traditional district counterparts.
"This bill essentially ensures that charter schools are funded on the same basis, in most cases, that district school students are," Stephenson said.
The proposal is the result of six months of deliberations by a charter school funding task force, created last year by the legislature, as well as significant meetings and negotiations between lawmakers and school representatives in the final weeks of the session.
Those changes shifted the bill from a form that primarily benefited charter schools to one that has received the public support of most major education groups in the state.
"I know of no opposition to this bill," Stephenson said.
But Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, questioned whether including charter school funding on property tax notices, when the schools are not able to levy taxes, could do more harm than good.
"I worry about this making it so complicated that people will get mixed up over what the notice on their taxes mean," he said.
Royce Van Tassell, executive director of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools, said the funding formulas for public education are convoluted and it's possible that some inequities remain.
But the bill, he said, represents a commitment by lawmakers to ensure equitable funding for students, independent of the school at which they choose to enroll.
"I think Utah taxpayers, Utah charter parents and Utah district parents can be very relieved with the passage of SB38."
The bill was approved in a 22-2 vote of the Senate and a 71-1 vote in the House on Tuesday. It will now go to Gov. Gary Herbert.