(KCPW News) One of two school equalization bills introduced this session died in committee yesterday. The other is waiting to be discussed on the House floor. Bill sponsor Rep. Wayne Harper said he's glad at least one of the bills is moving forward, though his was the more aggressive of the two.
"We haven't assumed our responsibility of adequately funding education. And we need to go through and take a look and treat every child and every district the same, both supplies, monetarily, good teachers," Harper said. "And this is what this bill would have done, is to adequately fund education better."
Harper's bill would have required school districts to contribute revenue from property taxes for redistribution across the state. It's essentially a statewide version of a bill passed last year to equalize school funding within Salt Lake County. That bill has frustrated the county's property-rich school districts, which believe it unfairly takes away local control of property tax dollars. Salt Lake City, Murray, Granite and the new Canyons school districts stand to lose nearly $14 million combined. Tim Leffel said because of this loss and the steep budget cuts districts must make this year, the School Boards Association, School Superintendents Association and Business Administrators Association are against both of the new equalization proposals.
"Equalization is an important issue. And everybody will agree to that," Leffel said. "But when you start taking dollars and redistributing amongst districts — dollars that we already have in our budgets — in this economic time, it's very difficult. You know, if three years ago, we had $300 million in state revenues, maybe we could work something out."
The other equalization bill, sponsored by Rep. Merlyn Newbold, tries to accomplish the same thing as Harper's bill, but uses a different formula. It prohibits school districts from raising property taxes, and consolidates most of the already existing levies for redistribution. Her proposal has been substituted three times and is waiting for an analysis of its fiscal impact to be completed.