Lawmakers want to tie online course funding to classroom funding formula

Utah State CapitolThere’s an interesting little clause tucked away inside the public education budget that has the state’s largest teachers union wary.

HB2 contains some intent language that ties the amount of money appropriated to pay for online courses used by private and homeschooled children to the weighted pupil unit, the basic integer of school funding.

The reason for the change is to better deal with paying for the anticipated increase in the number of students who might take advantage of those programs beginning in the 2018-2019 fiscal year. In 2015, more students than anticipated used the online education programs, which resulted in a funding deficit.

Jay Blain, with the Utah Education Association, says they’re hopeful the change does not lead to unintended consequences.

“If it’s a fact that more students are taking advantage of these public school programs, that’s a good thing,” says Blain. “We hope this money does not go to fund other private programs at the expense of public schools.”

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, is the Senate Chair of the Public Education Appropriations Committee. He says that the change is vital to better stabilize funding for the program.

“It is a growth area for us,” he says. “We don’t know how many students are going to take the online programs, but we have to address those needs.”

Blain says the online program plays a major role in Utah’s education system.

“There are a number of public school districts that provide good online programs,” he says. “We’re hoping that continues.”