I’m pleased. The proposed uses of the bond and leeway are reasonable. Also, I spoke with members of the Provo Board of Education and the district superintendent prior to the election, and am assured the bond is necessary. It was a politically difficult decision, but I applaud them for it.
Representative Alexander also commended local districts for looking within their own boundaries for additional revenue.His post bothered me though, especially this part:
… I find it very interesting that when the education community has concerns about funding they always come to the State level. I’m sure it is because the legislature is the biggest target, and if they can gang up on the legislature there is a better chance of getting the funding, and all at once.
But, the legislature shouldn’t be seen as the only source for new funding, or even the primary one. [emphasis added]
jeff-alexander.com, “Public Education Funding”
Referenced Wed, 28 Jun 2005 11:14 (MDT)
I spent the following weekend thinking about how to respond without giving offense. The following Monday, I posted my comments, but because I included multiple hyperlinks, it was held for moderation. It has not yet been posted. I’ve done some trivial edits (replaced pronouns and fixed minor grammar errors), but the content is essentially unchanged.
Rep. Alexander is right, to a point: districts need to act on the realization the Legislature isn’t the only source of funding. Provo is proposing a property tax increase. Recent newspaper articles suggest Park City may do so in the near future. Alpine school district is considering a bond and voted leeway election. Under the circumstances, they should be commended.
However, he suggests that districts aren’t being forced into such a course by the annual lowering of the basic levy (property tax) and a reduced percentage of income tax revenue. It’s as if the he is saying, “I applaud local districts for their integrity in raising taxes to fund public education, but I will continue to choose the easy course and enjoy the political capital and media attention earned from lowering taxes. I’m willing to let it be someone else’s problem.”
Rep. Alexander complains the legislature is the biggest political target and suggests they shouldn’t be seen as the primary source for new funding. This is either complete naiveté (which I doubt), or political misrepresentation. It is right and proper that the institution tasked by the Utah Constitution (Art X, Sec 1) to provide for the “maintenance [i.e. funding] of the state’s education system” be the biggest target. After all, 69.5% education funding comes from the state, compared with 18.9% from local property taxes [see references, below]. A 1% increase at the state level provides more than 3.6 times more money than a similar percentage increase at the local level.
He suggests districts aren’t being held accountable for the use of state funds, or are at least, less accountable. I disagree. Any time the parent of a high school student has to pay a textbook usage fee, the district is held accountable for every budgeted dollar, no matter its origin. John Q. Public won’t long tolerate the waste of dollars from any source while local textbook fees and property taxes are a reality. There may be some waste that could be trimmed, but successive years of underfunding over the past decade have had a slimming effect. Broad accusations to the contrary insult locally elected officials and public conscience.
Districts should be praised for their courage, but they’re certainly not getting as much help as they could.
Percentages come from Public Education Fingertip Facts 2005, and USOE’s department of finance and statistics.
Local funding makes up 21.8% of schools’ General Fund revenue; 18.9% from local property taxes, the remainder (2.8% of the whole) comes from local tuition, fees, and investments.
I should mention the legislature gave more consideration to education during the most recent session than previously, and should be praised for doing so, but students are still feeling the effects of years of underfunding.