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Legislative

Priorities

FUNDING

  • CSD requests an increase in the WPU, which the District believes is the primary and most equitable formula for funding public schools.
  • We request that a shorter 36-month rolling average be used to calculate average annual inflation and that the Wage Data Formula (food and energy costs) also be considered.
  • In addition to the statutorily required inflation adjustment in the WPU, we are asking for an additional 3 percent to cover special education funding shortages; 4.25 percent to provide a 1 percent cost-of-living increase and steps and lanes for all employees; and a 1 percent increase to cover general and curricular fees.
  • We request extra funding to support students who are experiencing homelessness.
  • We request that one-time appropriations from the Public Education Stabilization Fund be available to LEA’s in the year the revenue is generated. Timely access to this funding would reduce the amount school districts need to borrow, sparing taxpayers from paying interest, and enabling school districts to lock in lower bids for facility and safety upgrades.
  • Just as the state, cities, and counties need to issue lease revenue bonds, local school boards need this funding option for efficiently addressing capital needs in a way that doesn’t incur unnecessary debt and burden taxpayers.

ACCOUNTABILITY

We oppose any expansion of programs that funnel public funds to private education providers, particularly when there is no accountability for student outcomes.

SHARED GOVERNANCE

We request adequate time for implementation of new laws and the opportunity to give input on proposed legislative changes. Unforeseen consequences of new policies can be minimized by consulting with local school boards.

SENSITIVE MATERIALS

We strongly object to other LEAs making determinations about Canyons District’s books and curriculum. Any statewide mandate for the removal of books or curriculum should be initiated and authorized by one of the two bodies constitutionally empowered to make statewide education policy.

TRUANCY, ABSENTEEISM

Understanding that regular school attendance is a joint responsibility shared by the student, parent or guardian, teacher, and administrators, CSD supports legislative efforts to address growing student absenteeism. 

CONSTITUTONAL AMENDMENT

We oppose the proposed Constitutional Amendment as represented in SJR10 (2023), which would remove the 93-year-old guarantee of a stable funding source for public schools.

STUDENT, SCHOOL SUPPORTS

Financial Accountability: School Fees, 2021-2022

Canyons District endeavors to keep general, curricular and co-curricular fees as low as possible. General and co-curricular fees are spent to sponsor and provide security for schoolwide events held before or after school, such as assemblies or sports competitions and arts performances. Curricular fees are used to purchase classroom supplies that are needed for instruction, such as arts, welding, and barbering supplies, science lab materials, or math calculators. In line with state law, no curricular fees in Canyons are spent on the curriculum, instructional software, textbooks, or computing devices.

State and Local Financing of Schools

Public education funding in the Utah relies primarily on state and local resources with a small share of funding coming from the U.S. government. Historically, neighborhood schools have relied primarily on state income tax revenue, which is distributed equitably on a per-student basis or through the Weighted Pupil Unit. In five years, however, the ratio of state-to-local revenue has shifted. Over that time — even though the state’s overall investment has grown — its share of the basic rate has fallen nearly 11 percent while the local share has grown by that same amount. In 2022, Utah lawmakers approved a 6 percent increase in the WPU, for which Canyons is grateful. In Canyons, virtually all of that money was spent on instructional and support staff salaries.

Fiscal Accountability: Economic Stabilization Fund

In 2022, Canyons District received $7.1 million from the Economic Stabilization Fund, which is allocated and earmarked by the state for specific purposes. In Canyons:

  • $3.9 million was used for federally-required upgrades or safety improvements to school buildings, and to repurpose facilities.
  • Another $3.25 million is being used for paid professional hours for teachers wanting to take advantage of training opportunities. Each qualified teacher can receive up to $36.74 per hour for 32 hours of professional development ($1,175 annually). By the end of November, 2022, Canyons District teachers had taken advantage of $1.17 million in training time.

Capital Facilities Expenditures

  • $1.4 million was spent to upgrade the baseball and softball fields at Alta High to alleviate safety hazards and meet Title IX requirements. These were the first upgrades to the fields in 40 years.
  • About $2.5 million was spent to repurpose a vacant elementary school, Bell View Elementary, which had been consolidated with another school. With a few upgrades, the Bell View facility was remade into a new home for Diamond Ridge and Entrada High Schools. Demand to enroll in CSD’s alternative high school, Diamond Ridge and its sister school for adult education, Entrada High, has become so great that they had outgrown their location on the Canyons Technical Education campus. The two schools relocated this fall, which is providing the schools room to grow. Diamond Ridge grew by 42 percent this year and has a five-year goal of eventually serving up to 300 students.

Fiscal Accountability: Decline in Federal Funding

Even as student needs have grown for post-pandemic academic, mental and physical wellness supports, federal funding for many of these supports is expiring or shrinking.

Title I Funds

Canyons District lost $2.1 million last year in Title I funds (the state of Utah lost $13 million) after poverty estimates were updated following the 2020 U.S. Census. At issue is a mismatch in how the U.S. government designates and funds Title I schools. While the Title I designation is based on the number of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, Title I funding is based on a lower poverty threshold (an annual income of $27,750 for a family of four). As a result, while the proportion of Title I students that Canyons serves has grown, our federal funding to serve those students has decreased. Here’s how that money is invested:

  • Partial funding for five Assistant Principals
  • Five additional social workers/counselors
  • McKinney-Vento Assistant and resources to support about 1,600 students experiencing homelessness
  • Three additional teachers at each Title I school, reducing overall class sizes by 3 students, or 6  paraeducators at each school, reducing small group instruction to 3-4 students 
  • Family Learning Center Coordinator to support families in their engagement with schools

 

 

ESSER Funds

School districts face the pending loss of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding (ESSER), money that was set aside to support schools through the pandemic. This money expires on Sept. 30, 2024 even as student needs grow for supports to help them catch up with unfinished learning and cope with trauma associated with the health crisis. About $4.6 million of the ESSER funds received by Canyons was spent on salaries and benefits for the following positions and supports:

  • 5 school nurses
  • 5 counselors/social workers/psychologists
  • 13 “check and connect” mentors to help improve student attendance in CSD’s middle schools and high schools
  • 13 teaching positions, many at Title I schools

Fiscal Accountability — All-Day Kindergarten

Thirteen CSD schools operate all-day kindergarten programs, including eight new programs funded by the state through a legislatively-approved grant program. Canyons is grateful for the funding and what it means for families. Demand for all-day kindergarten is high in Canyons, and the District is prepared to bring it to each of its 28 elementary schools, pending the availability of state funding. CSD schools continue to offer half-day kindergarten as an option.

Curriculum Adoption in Canyons

Canyons District has a clearly-defined, public process for considering any new curriculum for adoption. Each November, the Canyons District Board of Education reviews and discusses in public meetings curricula being proposed for implementation in the subsequent school year. Prior to this, any department wishing to propose new curricula follows a 24-step review process that includes, but is not limited, to the following stages:

Statewide Public School Transportation Funding and Inflation

Additional money is needed to bring state funding to 85 percent of the to-and-from school transportation costs as provided in state statute. Statewide, there’s an $11.7 million deficit in funding, a deficit that will likely be made worse by the rising price of diesel fuel, repair and maintenance costs and the cost to hire bus drivers. In Canyons District alone, from 2019 to 2022, diesel fuel rose 39 percent and repair and maintenance costs rose 14 percent. The coming year, we expect inflation will drive up costs even more.

Annual Inflation And The Certified Tax Rate

In 2019, Canyons sought to recoup inflation through an adjustment in the certified tax rate, which enabled the District to invest in teacher salaries and bring them in line with those of other professionals in Utah. Inflation has since outpaced the revenue generated by that tax increase. Today, Canyons is collecting 5.5 percent more in revenue than in 2019-2020. But in just one year alone, from November 2021 to November 2022, inflation rose 7 percent. Labor shortages are placing more pressure on the costs of hiring and retaining teachers and support staff. Despite CSD’s efforts to offer competitive salaries, the District has 6 open teaching positions, and still needs 12-15 bus drivers and 13 assistant custodians. Costs to build new schools have risen at an even steeper pace. 

Combating Truancy and Improving Student Attendance

Persistent, Post-Pandemic Student Absenteeism

Good school attendance habits were one of the casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is understandable given the imperative to quarantine, isolate, and stay home when feeling sick. But, even now that health guidelines have relaxed and schools are operating much as they did before the pandemic, higher-than-average rates of absenteeism persist. Most concerning is the rise in chronic absenteeism, which is defined as missing more than 10 percent of school. While rates of chronic absenteeism are trending down from the height of the pandemic, they remain 90 percent higher than in the pre-pandemic year of 2018-2019.

Why Attendance Matters

Hitting the 10 percent mark is easier to do than it sounds. Ten percent is the equivalent of skipping just one day every other week. A few days with the flu or extended family vacation can easily put a student over the threshold for the semester. We know there are legitimate reasons for missing school. But too many absences at any age, and for any reason, can slow learning.