Some lawmakers think the teacher career ladder program, once the star of the state's education reform programs, needs a financial shot in the arm.

The Legislature has not added new money to the 7-year-old career ladder program since 1986, but the Legislature's Education Interim Committee decided Wednesday to try to boost the program to the top rungs of the public-education funding list.On a motion by Rep. Craig Moody, R-Sandy, the committee agreed to ask the legislative fiscal analyst to make the career ladder program a top funding priority and to consider the possibility of "indexing" the program.

Rep. John B. Arrington, D-Ogden, disagreed with the action, saying that there are too many other urgent priorities to decide so early to put the career ladder program near the top.

The career ladder program is now funded under a special category, and it is not included in the Weighted Pupil Unit, the state's basic public education funding mechanism. Indexing would put career ladder funding on an annual growth basis like the WPU.

The committee's action came after a series of education leaders and representatives of the State Office of Education urged a change in how the state appropriates funds to the career ladder program.

Larry Horyna, state school services coordinator, said Utah's teacher-incentive program is a "major, unprecedented reform effort if you look around the country and see the other dribbles and dabbles."

But because the program has received stable funding, not increases, in the last four years, teachers view the programs as having been cut, Horyna said.

He said the average teacher salary increase from the career ladder program is $1,900.

The career ladder program provides teachers from several hundred dollars up to $5,000 in additional pay for extra work, added preparation days and educational expansion opportunities.

Salt Lake Superintendent John W. Bennion, who represented the Utah Society of School Superintendents, told legislators if the career ladder program doesn't get a funding boost, "it will die on the vine. It would be very, very sad to have to dismantle what we've been building up for years."