Utah’s K-12 Education Funding Effort Still Dropping

Utah Foundation LogoChanges to Utah’s tax rates and structure as well as the allocation of revenue dedicated to public schools has meant a decline in funding effort for K-12 education in Utah. 

A new report released today by Utah Foundation, an independent, non-partisan public policy research group, shows the funding effort – defined as dollars spend for K-12 education per $1,000 of personal income – has dropped from 7th place in the nation in 1995 to 37th place among the states today.

While the actual dollars appropriated for K-12 education in Utah have risen, this new funding has often been barely enough to cover the growing student population and inflation. There has been relatively little left over for improvements in educational programs – about $22 million per year over the past five years.

Among the key findings of the report:

  • The decline in K-12 education funding effort has resulted in a nearly 29% decrease in tax revenue, which equates to a $1.2 billion reduction of funds available annually for public K-12 education. Reversing this would equate to an increase in funding of nearly $2,000 per pupil, or an average of over $1.2 million for each of Utah’s public schools.
  • Without the mid-1990s changes and downward pressures on tax rates from Truth in Taxation, property taxes could have been bringing in an additional $600 million annually.
  • From 1995 until today, income tax changes have resulted in an annual reduction of more than $350 million to public education.
  • To reach the national average in per-pupil spending, Utah would need to increase total K-12 education spending by 70%, or $2.9 billion, doubling spending from state sources.

“Utah’s K-12 funding effort has stagnated compared to the rest of the nation,” said Utah Foundation Research Director Shawn Teigen.“That’s resulted in numerous evidence-based K-12 investments that are constrained from the current level of spending.  Our previous research shows that most Utah voters want to see higher K-12 spending, but time will tell if this will result in higher taxes for Utahns.”

The report is available on the Utah Foundation website at http://www.utahfoundation.org/reports/getting-less-two-decades-k-12-education-revenue-spending/

The report Getting By With Less: Two Decades of Education Revenue and Spending was written with financial assistance from the Utah-based education policy group Education First.