At the beginning of the session we began to address a $315 million hole in the budget called the “structural imbalance.” Over the first four weeks we put together a base budget with cuts across the board to address that problem. The understanding has always been that the base budget is a starting point, like pouring the foundation of a building before you can build the walls.
Since we introduced our base budget, the rumor mill has been buzzing with stories that the Legislature will not fund new student growth and is making “draconian” cuts public education funding.
We thought it would be best to set the record straight: Many lawmakers have children, grandchildren, not to mention thousands of constituents in using Utah public schools. So it is an issue that is very personal to them. Balancing the budget and correcting the structural imbalance while funding quality education is a difficult process, but it’s a challenge we are happy to accept. It’s a challenge you elected us to handle. And we have: the entire Republican caucus, and the public education appropriations and executive appropriations committees have spent countless hours reviewing, discussing, debating and preparing the public education budget.
The final budget will be different from the base budget and part of that is anticipated to be funding millions of dollars for new growth. Two weeks ago in our Republican caucus meeting, we released our top three priorities, which include a focus on accountability and excellence in education: Utah has unique challenges with an exploding student population; this requires serious solutions on the part of the Legislature. Excellence is about improving student performance and exploring the best possible ways to deliver quality education. Accountability means that the state, school districts and teachers must be responsible for ensuring the ongoing success of the students