This November, Utahns will vote on an amendment that could mean a lot more spending money for Utah’s schools in the coming years.
Constitutional Amendment B would change how Utah manages its school trust fund. And it’s one of those ballot measures that will get some head scratching on November 8th. The wording is confusing.
Natalie Gordon, a trust land specialist with the State Board of Education, described how she would explain the amendment to a friend.
“First thing I would explain is that this is not all education funding. It's just the trust land money," Gordon says.
This money comes from 3.4 million acres the state has set aside to help finance public schools. And that land was designated way back when Utah became a state in 1896.
For a long time that land was poorly managed. But since the trust reforms of the 90’s the land value has increased from 50 million dollars to 2.15 billion dollars. And amendment B would allow that trust to operate more like an endowment. Resulting in more spending for schools right now.
“So we would be able to distribute to the school community councils that are in every public and charter school in Utah an additional 30 or 40 million dollars for the next two or three years," Gordon says.
This does mean that the trust won’t increase as fast as it has since the 90’s. And that’s the main argument against the bill.
"And that’s true," says Gordon. "We will not be growing this fund as fast as we have been. But it hasn’t been fair to current students how fast we’ve been growing this fund.”
The measure was supported by all but one state senator and the entire house. Which is rare, especially for an amendment with “funding” and “schools” in the same sentence.