Voices for Utah Children releases Utah Children’s Budget Report 2015

Public investment in Utah children is 6% lower per child than it was before the 2008 recession, according to the third edition of the Utah Children’s Budget Report by Voices for Utah Children. The report objectively quantifies trends in public expenditures for children in Utah’s state budget.  

In terms of real per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Utah economy has recovered from the 2008 recession.  However, real state public spending per child dropped during the recession and has remained below pre-recession levels.

Matthew Weinstein, State Priorities Partnership Director at Voices for Utah Children, released the 2015 edition of the Utah Children’s Budget Report today with Curtis Miller, a Master’s Degree student in Statistics at the University of Utah who conducted most of the research for the report. Weinstein commented, “The policymakers who write Utah’s state budget care about kids first and foremost.  They are preparing budget proposals for the 2016 Legislature right now. We hope this report can be a resource for them in assessing whether we are achieving our state’s goals. The next generation needs to be prepared to make Utah’s economy among the world’s most prosperous and successful in the 21st century.”

The most significant findings of the 2015 Utah Children’s Budget Report are the following:

  • 90% of the Utah Children’s Budget goes towards K-12 education. The remaining 10% is divided among six other program areas detailed in the report.
  • Taken as a whole and adjusted for inflation, state expenditures per child are still 6% below pre-recession levels at $5,424 in FY2014, compared to $5,746 in FY2008 (in inflation-adjusted 2014 dollars). Restoring that pre-recession level of investment in children would have cost an additional $293 million in FY2014.
  • One bright spot in the report is that in the 10% of the Utah Children’s Budget that goes for things other than K-12 education, including health care and early childhood education, real per-child expenditures have risen and are now 6.5% above pre-recession levels at $556 per child in FY2014, compared to $522 in FY2008 (in inflation-adjusted 2014 dollars).
  • Another cause for hope is what the report finds about K-12 per-pupil funding.  It is well known that Utah has resided in the national basement in state per-pupil funding since 1988.  “But,” said Curtis Miller, “the 2015Utah Children’s Budget Report documents that over the last three years, Utah has been steadily closing the gap with 49th place Idaho, putting us on track to get out of last place in 2016 if this trend continues.”
  • The area of the Utah Children’s Budget that has received the largest amount of new state dollars since FY2008 is children’s health care services, where real expenditures grew by $55 million. This investment has paid off for Utah in a big way. Utah has climbed back into the national top ten list in the new Kids Count state rankings released last month by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, thanks in part to our #7 ranking in children’s health care. If the Legislature passes a proposal to expand health insurance coverage that they will consider during a special session this fall, that will further enhance children’s health care while reducing costs to Utah’s taxpayers by bringing back to Utah the approximately half a billion dollars each year we are currently paying in new federal Affordable Care Act taxes.
  • After children’s healthcare services, early childhood education received the second largest real Children’s Budget increase since the recession—$10.7 million in FY2014 over and above the FY2008 expenditure. This increase does not include the $3 million of new ongoing funding that began in FY2015 for Utah’s innovative School Readiness Initiative, including our first-in-the-nation Results-Based Financing system for high-quality pre-K for low-income children. A growing body of research, including evidence from peer states like Colorado, demonstrates that high-quality early childhood education is one of the keys to state economic success in the 21st century. 

The report emphasizes that investing in children leads to economic growth by helping children succeed in school and be more productive when they graduate.  Voices for Utah Children’s President and CEO Lincoln Nehring added, “If we invest in kids while they are young, we can save taxpayer dollars in the long run by preventing expensive social problems like substance abuse and crime.”

For more information, see the complete report: