A misunderstanding over who pays the relatively minor $150,000 yearly operating cost of the Utah Partnership for Educational and Economic Development is threatening the work of that crucial group. This dispute must not be allowed to ruin an undertaking with so much potential.

The Utah Partnership - a coalition of education, government and business - was organized last year in an effort to help education meet the needs of local companies and thus promote economic development in the state.Already, the idea is paying dividends. The Partnership has more than 150 specific goals and enjoys the enthusiastic support of school leaders, the governor and other state officials and business executives.

The Utah Technology Initiative, the first major activity sponsored by the partnership, seeks to make Utah schools the best computer-equipped classrooms in the nation. Private firms have pledged millions of dollars in cash, computers and software. The state has added $15 million in first-year funding.

Alongside all that money, the quibbling over a few thousand dollars for Utah Partnership operating expenses seems irrational. Private business put up the entire $150,000 to run the partnership for its first year. The money pays the salary of a director, a secretary and provides office space and supplies.

Private business also has raised $50,000 of the next year's $150,000 operating budget. But several state and school officials have acted surprised that they are being asked to provide the balance - $50,000 from the state and $50,000 from education.

Donald B. Holbrook, volunteer chairman of the Utah Partnership, insists that a three-way sharing of the operating expenses was agreed upon earlier as the group was being formed. Holbrook says he is disappointed that the partnership is being diverted by such small matters.

It would be inexcusable if lack of support by the other partners were to cause business leaders to become discouraged with the program. The money at stake, while not large, is an important symbol of the commitment and enthusiasm of the various organizations.

Indeed, if the term "partnership" means anything, then the public entities involved - state government and the schools - ought to pay their share of what is a minuscule amount in terms of their total budgets.

Support of the partnership could pay off with incalculable future benefits for the whole state. The tremendous possibilities in the Utah Partnership should not be endangered by short-sighted haggling.