by Howard Stephenson

It’s election year for the legislature and school boards and if voters
listen to claims of some, they would believe that the Utah legislature
has been stingy with funding for education, that spending per student
falls further and further behind inflation, leaving Utah school
districts with little choice but to trim spending and restrict teacher
salary increases.

However, the facts show that just the opposite has occurred.

Total K-12 per student expenditures in Utah increased from $6,529 in
FY2006 to $7,009 in FY2007, a 7.3% increase. Operations expenditures per
student, which exclude facility construction, interest, and food
service, increased from $5,126 to $5,348, a 4.3% increase.

Steady increases over past ten years

K-12 expenditures continue to outpace inflation and enrollment growth.
From 1997 to 2007, K-12 expenditures per student increased at an
inflation-adjusted rate of 1.7% annually. The accompanying chart shows
nominal and inflation-adjusted per student spending, including facility
construction and interest, from 1997 to 2007.

Per student spending increased substantially during the 1990s when
student enrollment growth was virtually flat and the economy was rapidly
growing. During the early 2000s, a stalled economy coincided with
increased enrollment which actually led to a slight decrease in
inflation-adjusted per student spending. However, inflation-adjusted per
student spending reached an all-time high in FY2007 due to huge
education spending increases by the 2006 Legislature.

District and Charter School Expenditures by Category

The accompanying table shows the growth in Utah per student spending
from FY2006 to FY2007. The Association projects that per student
spending will reach $7,500 in FY2008. All figures cited by the
Association exclude non K-12 programs.

Percent of operations for instruction holding steady at 68%

Utah districts and charter schools continue to spend about 68% of
operations expenditures on instruction. The percentage has changed very
little over the past several years.

The percentages for districts (68.0%) and charters (67.6%) are virtually
the same. To facilitate comparisons with districts and charter schools,
the Association transferred 90% of district and charter facility lease
expenditures (fund 10, function2600, object 400), which are officially
reported as operations costs, to facility construction since most
charter schools lease their facilities and districts schools bond for
their facilities.

The accompanying chart lists the districts with the ten highest and the
ten lowest percentages of operations funds dedicated to instruction With
the exception of Ogden, districts with low percentages of instruction
dedicated to operations are very small districts.