Charter Schools Get Bump with Funding Allocation Bill Along Partisan Vote

Representative Brad Last (Republican - Hurricane)
Representative Brad Last (Republican – Hurricane)

A bill that would require Utah school districts to give a quarter of its revenues to help fund charter schools was passed out of the House Education Committee with a favorable recommendation Wednesday.

HB 119 – Charter School Finance Amendments, which is sponsored by Representative Brad Last (Republican – Hurricane), was advanced on an 11-2 party-line vote.

Under the bill, all school districts would be required to allocate 25 percent of per pupil revenues for each student of the school district who is enrolled in a charter school regardless of the charter school’s average local revenues.

Last says that poor districts end up paying more than wealthier districts, and this bill would help balance the scale. “This is a very simple fix. I think it’s a fair fix. I really think this is somewhat of an oversight or at least we may not have understood how this would have impacted the districts from the beginning when it was drafted. It’s just something that needed to be fixed.”

Dr. Sara Jones, director of education excellence at the Utah Education Association, worries that school districts will suffer. “The majority of the districts will lose money under this change and this is a concern for us. Several will lose more than half a million dollars. The loss of revenue would inevitably mean that districts could not maintain the same level of services.”

Kim Frank, executive director of the Utah Charter Network, feels that this a necessary tweak to the law. “Charter schools will not benefit from this. We won’t receive any more or less funding than we did yesterday. As Representative Last said, this is an issue of equity. We’re trying to get to a point in the state where we treat students equitably and give them the ability to get the same education whether they live in Park City or Tintic district.”

Peter Cannon, a former member of the Davis School Board also spoke in favor of the bill. “In the end, our education system will be better when school districts adjust their mindset to welcome and help finance all forms of education which benefit children in their district.”

Cannon believes that HB 119 would make the school funding situation a bit more fair. “25 percent is not too much to ask. One could argue that districts with many charter schools are currently being subsidized by districts with few charter schools. This bill just barely begins to require that local districts support all their students students a little bit more equally.”

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