Utah governor approves $3B school budget

WEST JORDAN, Utah (AP) — Gov. Gary Herbert has approved a new budget for Utah’s public schools and accountability measures for teachers and administrators. The Republican governor on Tuesday signed the last of a series of budget measures that total just over $3 billion for the next school year – a 1.3 percent increase in funding over the current school year. One bill Herbert signed Tuesday provides more money for pre-kindergarten and optional all-day kindergarten programs. Another makes performance pay part of salaries for school principals and administrators. They will receive annual evaluations from local school boards based on student academic progress and other factors. That measure, the Public Education Employment Reform or Senate Bill 64, also makes public the aggregate ratings of school teachers at each school. However, ratings for individual teachers will be kept confidential, said Mark Peterson, a spokesman for the Utah Office of Education. Senate Bill 64 introduces a four-point rating system and merit pay for teachers and was widely supported among educators and legislators as a comprehensive reform measure. It was sponsored by Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan. “It will have great impact on the future of education,” Peterson said. “It starts small and gets bigger going on in time.” Herbert signed the Legislature’s last four education bills Tuesday at an elementary school in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan. The budget for Utah’s public schools is a mix of state and federal funding. The state’s portion is $2.6 billion, an increase of $117 million, said Ron Bigelow, executive director for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. Federal funding brings the total to $3.017 billion, said Todd Hauber, associate superintendent for business and operations of the Utah Office of Education.

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