The Utah Legislature has completed their work for the 2016 General Legislative Session. I am disturbed by the burden that the legislature places on community councils. I am in favor of the increases in trustlands distributions.
Both bills - SJR 12 and SB109 - related to more prudent management and distribution of the permanent fund passed. This is the fund that generates revenue for the School LAND Trust Program. Together, the two bills will stabilize and increase the annual distribution to schools if the constitutional amendment created by SJR 12 passes in the November election. Historically, the distribution has been between 2 and 2.5% annually. The investment board believes 4% more accurately reflects their legal responsibility to balance the benefit to current and future school children.
SJR 12 Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution – Changes to School Funds (Sponsor: Senator Millner) is a constitutional change. It clarifies that today’s investments return earnings other than just interest and dividends. It caps any distribution at 4% of the market value of the fund to protect the fund from over distribution. This bill will be on the ballot next November. It is important that councils help educate parents, educators, and community members about what the change will accomplish for schools. It passed the legislature with a unanimous vote.
SB 109 School and Institutional Trust Lands Amendments (Sponsor: Senator Millner) puts in code the distribution policy. The policy is based on the market value of the fund over three years and adds a component for both student growth and inflation. If that number is higher than the 4% cap, the distribution for the year would be limited to 4%.
HB 343 School Administration Amendments (Sponsor: Representative Stratton) passed with a unanimous vote. It doesn’t change anything in current practice. It clarifies that when school community councils hold elections in the spring, the parent of an incoming student may both run for the council and vote. It clarifies that professional development plans and reading achievement plans are part of the School Improvement Plans councils review and approve annually.
2SHB 277 Personalized Learning and Teaching Amendments (Sponsor: Representative Knotwell) appropriates $9,652,400 ongoing funds and $3,000,000 in one time funds to districts/LEAs through Digital Teaching and Learning Grants. Councils may want to understand what districts/LEAs intend to do with this grant money if councils have been spending School LAND Trust funds on digital related goals.