Monday, on the opening day of the 2019 general session, I joined Republican Senator Lyle Hillyard of Cache Valley in his state capitol office. The senator chairs the public education appropriations subcommittee which is reviewing requests to increase school funding as the state’s population and subsequent school enrollment increases.
“You know it’s going to be an interesting discussion because we have quite a bit more money this year, but we’re deeply concerned that a lot of it is kind of a bubble going through, which means if we spend it for more than a one-time thing then we may have trouble replacing it next year,” Hillyard said.
Public education expenses are split into ongoing and one-time expenses and this year, there is an additional focus in the budget on public school funding for safety and health, including mental health counseling and changes to the physical layout of buildings.
“One of the things we really need to address is the safety of our public education, we had a report last year in public ed, saying it would cost about $250 million to make all of our buildings safe,” he said.
Tami Pyfer is Governor Herbert’s Education advisor. She says this year the governor included a request for lawmakers to provide funding to hire school nurses and cover the cost of counseling services
“Everyone is looking at more ways that they can improve student safety and so, in the governors’ budget and also the state board of education, they’re asking for 65 million one-time and 30 million on-going for these type of safety improvements and we absolutely agree with that,” Pyfer said.
Physical changes to school buildings could improve school safety, said Pyfer. Entryway modifications that would require all students to check in and out of the building and improved lock systems, she said, could help keep students safe.
That’s on everyone’s mind recently because of school shootings that have occurred and some of those issues with mental health as well.
The public education appropriations subcommittee is scheduled to meet Thursday morning beginning at eight.
Governor Gary Herbert’s 2020 Fiscal Year budget proposal can be found here.
Details on bills and resolutions being considered at the 2019 legislative session can be found here.