The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee gave added consideration to handicapped children Wednesday, siphoning money from the basic state education program to enrich special-education budgets.
The subcommittee shifted weighted pupil units (the per-student state contribution) from the basic program to add approximately $7.6 million to special education. The manipulations will have to survive several more weeks of consideration of education programs and the final deliberations of the Executive Appropriations Committee to upgrade the special education budgets.Rep. Grant Protzman, D-Ogden, who led the push for more special-education funding, said it was time the Legislature made a realistic contribution. Special education has been chronically underfunded and the funding percentage has slipped in recent years from 85 percent of the identified need to 81 percent. District school administrators have complained that the regular program is subsidizing the federally mandated special-education program.
As the subcommittee gets into the nitty-gritty of education budgets, Rep. Kelly Atkinson, D-Salt Lake, also has complained that the committee continues to get "mushy" school enrollment figures from state planners. For the past few years, the money appropriated has fallen short of actual enrollment numbers and catch-up funding has been requested.