The Minimum School Program (MSP) is the largest budget program annually appropriated by the Legislature and supports the operation of all public schools in Utah. The MSP provides the primary revenue source for Utah's school districts and charter schools, collectively known as Local Education Agencies (LEA). Utah's LEAs currently enroll more than 612,000 students. Program revenues support educational activities in all grades including pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade. In most instances, state revenue distributed through the MSP to the public schools is conducted on a formula basis.
Three major programs collectively comprise the MSP: the Basic School Program, the Related to Basic School Program, and the Voted & Board Local Levy programs. In addition to these programs, the MSP accounts for other one-time appropriations made by the Legislature for distribution to school districts and charter schools.
During the 2015 General Session, the Legislature appropriated for Fiscal Year 2016, $3,597,924,400 from all sources for Minimum School Program. This is a 7.1 percent increase from Fiscal Year 2015 revised estimated amounts from all sources. The total includes $2,753,960,000 from the General/Education Funds, an increase of 3.4 percent from revised Fiscal Year 2015 estimates.
In addition to statewide compensation and internal service fund cost increases, the following appropriation adjustments were made during the 2015 General Session:
The Minimum School Program is governed by Title 53A, Chapter 17a of the Utah Code.
- UCA 53A-17a-101 et. seq.-- Sections 101 through 163 provide detail on the Minimum School Program and its various subprograms. Section 102 states that "the purpose of this chapter is to provide a minimum school program for the state in accordance with the constitutional mandate" (UCA 53A-17a-102).
Funding appropriated by the Legislature for education programs included in the MSP is directly distributed to school districts or charter schools. The Utah State Board of Education receives the appropriation and transfers funding to the appropriate education entity using distribution formulas established in statute. Statewide education programs that are not directly distributed to school districts or charter schools (i.e. Request for Proposal Programs, Grants, etc.) are appropriated to the State Board of Education through one of the nine line items for the Utah State Office of Education.
Funding received through the MSP, combined with local property tax revenues and federal funds, assists districts and charters in meeting the expenses of operating the public schools. These expenditures include employee salaries and benefits, class size, school construction and renovation, curriculum, textbooks and supplies, along with a myriad of other educationally-related expenses. Each year, the local boards will determine the level of funding available for each program offered in the district or charter school, as well as the level of employee compensation increases. Compensation issues are determined through local contract negotiations regardless of Legislative funding decisions or increases provided to the overall value of the MSP. 40
Revenue Distribution -- the MSP is designed to distribute state revenue to school districts and charter schools. "To a degree, the Minimum School Program acts as a series of large block grants provided by the state to support local level educational services" (LFA, Minimum School Program Compensation, July 2005). Local boards of education, as well as charter school governing boards, have the discretion and responsibility for allocating funding based on the unique circumstances of the district or charter school. Revenue distributed through the program "is not a plan of expenditure or 'budget' for the LEA [i.e. school district or charter school] to follow" (LFA, Minimum School Program Compensation, July 2005).
Public Education Budget Amendments -- are unique pieces of legislation in comparison with other budgetary acts (bills) passed by the Legislature each year. Passage of the Public Education Appropriations bill often amends or revises codified statute. This allows the Legislature to change statutes governing public education in conjunction with appropriation decisions. It also brings relevant laws into review each legislative session. Included in this bill are other provisions that outline the intent of the Legislature and appropriation of one time funding for certain programs.
MSP Data Consensus - two major data sets significantly impact the overall cost of the MSP. The first is the projected number of students that will enroll in schools across the state. The second is the value of assessed property used to estimate local property tax revenues generated through the Basic Rate to support the MSP.
Each year the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst meets with representatives from the Governor's Office of Management and Budget and the State Board of Education to establish consensus estimates for student enrollments and assessed valuations. This 'Common Data Committee' also includes representatives from the Utah State Tax Commission (when reviewing assessed valuations), the Utah Education Association, and other interested individuals and organizations. Consensus estimates generated through the committee process ensures that each entity uses the same base data throughout the budgeting process.
Enrollment Projections -- the method utilized to project student enrollment has historically provided a relatively accurate basis for determining MSP appropriations. Representatives from the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's Office, the Governor's Office of Management and Budget, and the State Office of Education develop independent enrollment projections each year. The offices use methodologies which include historical trends, district reporting, birth statistics, mortality rates, and any number of other factors to try to estimate student enrollment numbers. Upon the completion of these independent estimates, the offices meet together as the Common Data Committee to reach agreement on a common projection of student enrollment for the coming school year.
Student Enrollments -- a total of 622,153 students enrolled in Utah's public schools for the 2014-15 school year. This was an increase of 1.7 percent over the prior school year. Projections indicate that public schools will enroll approximately 7,951 more students in fall 2015, an increase of 1.3 percent over fall 2014.
The Legislature intends that the State Board of Education develop minimum program standards, including maximum class size limits in grades K-3, that local education agencies must meet in order to continue to receive Class Size Reduction funding. Including an estimate of the cost necessary to limit class sizes in grades K-3, without impacting class sizes in grades 4-12. The Legislature also intends that the State Board of Education report these standards and estimated costs to the Education Interim Committee and the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee by October 31, 2015.
HB0002: Item 2
The Legislature intends that the State Board of Education review the Pupil Transportation Allocation Formula and recommend ways to improve the formula to increase efficiency, simplify allocation methodology to school districts, and provide incentives for alternative transportation methods. The Legislature further intends that the State Board of Education report its recommendations to the Education Interim Committee and the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee by October 31, 2015.
HB0002: Item 2
The Legislature intends that the State Board of Education and State Board of Regents provide joint recommendations on how to ensure that each concurrent enrollment course is taught by a qualified instructor, that credits earned by students count towards major and minor degree requirements at state colleges and universities, and that students are advised on the transferability of credits to private and out of state institutions. The Legislature also intends that these recommendations be reported to the Education Interim Committee and the Public Education Appropriations Committee by October 31, 2015.
The budget for the Minimum School Program is divided into three sections, namely, MSP-Basic School Program, MSP-Related to Basic School Program, and MSP-Voted & Board Leeways. Please refer to these sections for more detail on the budget.
During the 2013 General Session, the Legislature passed House Bill 49 which directs the State Board of Education to "use a voted and board local levy funding balance in the prior fiscal year to increase the value of the state guarantee per weighted pupil unit in the current fiscal year." At the close of FY 2013, the Voted and Board Local Levy programs had a combined balance of $22,627,700. This amount was distributed to participating school districts in FY 2014 and is reflected in the budget detail table below. A lower amount, approximately $5.5 million in balances remaining at the end of FY 2014 will be distributed to participating districts in FY 2015.
COBI contains unaudited data as presented to the Legislature by state agencies at the time of publication. For audited financial data see the State of Utah's Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports.