Utah educators were encouraged by Gov. Gary Herbert's budget recommendation for the 2011 Legislature to fund new enrollment growth for the upcoming school year. But lawmakers in a mood to cut spending may take a different approach.
Herbert recommended the education budget be upped by $50 million to go toward funding an anticipated 14,700 new students entering the system.
Also, the State Board of Education hopes no new programs will be implemented this year.
But several legislators have drafted bills to add to or change the way education in the state is run. Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, is looking at grading schools, Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, hopes to redefine the State Board of Education's authority, and Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, is looking at continuing to fund optional full-day kindergarten.
Higher education leaders had planned to push for pay increases for the first time in several years, arguing their staff have effectively seen their pay shrink as they've taken on more health care costs.
Instead, it looks like state colleges will be fending off additional budget cuts from a tight-fisted Legislature that has already slashed 12 percent from higher-ed the past two years. Legislators are looking to slice another 7 percent even as enrollment continues to boom.
Meanwhile, higher-ed officials are pushing a long-term plan for two-thirds of Utahns to have a college degree or certificate. The first piece is the adoption of a "mission-based" funding scheme that would focus on research at the University of Utah and Utah State, and growth at the state's regional universities and community colleges.
There's also a chance the always-contentious issue of guns on campus could surface again after public safety officers at the U. raised questions about the school's policy against the open display of firearms.