Trust Lands Generate $29 Million for Utah Schools

(KCPW News) Utah’s public schools are about to split $29 million dollars as the school year gets underway. Margaret Bird, Director of the School Children’s Trust says the money is being distributed through the School LAND Trust Program this year, and it’s the largest amount ever since the program was created in 2001.

“This is a trust that belongs to the children. Utah received four square miles for every 36 square miles or one ninth of the state and we make money from those lands,” she explains. “The money it invested by the state treasurer and it’s just the interest and dividends that we’re spending, so over time, the amount of money going out to schools should be going up and this year it certainly proves that it is.”

Last school year, high schools received an average of $41,000 dollars, while middle schools got nearly $36,000 and elementary schools $25,000.

Bird says parents, teachers and principals who sit on the schools’ community councils will get to decide how the money is spent.

“It’s the only discretionary money every school gets, and it’s money that the parents have a say in; it’s not just decided by someone in an office. So, in one school you’ll see the money used for a wonderful science lab, in another school you’ll see wonderful math programs,” she says.

Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA, manages 3.4 million acres of land. Its revenue comes from energy production, leasing surface rights for activities like farming or grazing, and trust land sales.

  1. Don’t forget that SILTA has leased 32,000 acres of land in Eastern Utah (the Unita Basin) to U.S. Oil Sands, a Canadian company, for Tar Sands mining and production. Tar Sands is the dirtiest energy on the planet. It is strip-mined, which rips open the land, leaving death behind. Old mining sites from the 1980s, near the proposed U.S. Oil Sands mining site, are complete destroyed, with tar still seeping up, killing wildlife, plant life, and polluting water sources. Tar sands mining is also incredibly energy intensive–it is estimated that it will take 116 gallons of water per minute on a 24-hour basis in order to keep the mine running, and that 4,000 pounds of earth will be dug up for every 20 gallons of gasoline made from tar sands. Tar sands production in Alberta is causing not only immense pollution, but the chemicals used during mining are also causing illness and death in the populations near or downstream from the mining sites. And these are only some of the issues with the mining, to say nothing of the dangers in transporting the tar sands, and refining it.

    Given the choice, do you think that the children of Utah would rather lease off their future for a quick buck–auction off their health, their water, and their land–or find sustainable ways of living so that they and future generations can continue to live?