Schools in Weber, Davis, Morgan and Box Elder counties will be receiving a combined $15.6 million in funding through the Utah State Board of Education’s (USBE) School LAND Trust program (Learning and Nurturing Development) this year.
This funding is a portion of the record $82.66 million in school land trust funds distributed throughout schools in Utah this year.
Each district’s funding is divided among the schools in the district.
A school community council made up of parents, staff and the principal determine how to best use a school’s funding to support academic needs, with the approval of the district school board, according to Paula Plant, director of the School Children’s Trust Section at USBE.
USBE is encouraging parents to join school community councils where their children attend school, according to a recent press release.
“School community councils give Utah parents a unique opportunity to engage with teachers and a principal to help direct meaningful spending in their child’s school,” said Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson, in the press release. “The School LAND Trust funds put dollars to work to improve student academic achievement.”
Parents serve a two-year term, and every year, half the parents on each school’s council are replaced. Schools cannot receive funds without a functioning council, Plant said.
Parents and staff are elected to school community councils at the beginning of each school year. If more parents indicate interest in serving than there are open positions on the council, an election is held, Plant said.
Of the the $15.6 million going to local districts, Weber will receive $3.8 million, Ogden will receive $1.48 million, Davis will receive $8.32 million, Box Elder will receive $1.5 million and Morgan will receive $536,000. Funding is determined through a per-pupil formula, the release said.
Based on estimates of funding for the following school year, councils determine plans for school land trust funds in the spring, Plant said. Those plans can be amended in the fall.
In addition to determining the use of a school’s land trust funds, councils are responsible for providing feedback to schools and districts on their plans for keeping children safe on the internet, Plant said.
Based on legislation passed in 2019, councils will also share feedback on school safety plans. These plans can address issues ranging from school shootings to bullying, safe walking routes and playground safety, Plant said.
Depending on the level of parental involvement, community councils can take on additional projects, Plant said.
When Utah became a state, the federal government transferred land to Utah and created endowments to support public education and 11 other institutions, according to the website of Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA).
SITLA manages Utah’s 3.4 million acres of trust lands, generating revenue that is deposited into each institution’s endowment.
A separate agency, Utah School and Institutional Trust Funds (SITFO), manages the endowment’s investments. Interest and dividends on these investments are distributed to the 12 benefiting institutions annually, according to SITLA’s website.
The Permanent State School Fund managed by SITFO is currently valued at $2.5 billion.