Bill to amend school district division restrictions opposed by South Jordan, again

By Caleb Larkin
Capital West News

Salt Lake City – South Jordan city council members asked legislators to delay a vote that would reform state policy on creating new school districts.

Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, first proposed HB93, School District Amendments, in 2014. The bill passed the House, but not the Senate. Hall had hoped that opponents to the bill would not be as outspoken this year.

“I am more than a little bewildered at why South Jordan School District remains opposed to the bill. It will not affect their district at all,” Hall told the House Education Standing Committee on Wednesday afternoon.IMG_2541

The bill would prohibit any vote to create a new school district if the 5-year projected budget increase for the new district averages 5 percent or more.

According to Hall, South Jordan reported they would not meet the financial stipulations proposed in the bill for the restrictions to apply. Despite Hall’s hopes, several city council members representing South Jordan City spoke out against the bill.

“The bill is a Band-Aid fix to the larger issue of equal economic distribution for school districts,” a South Jordan city council member said. Several other South Jordan citizens also opposed the bill, insisting that the reasons for a school district splitting are not solely financial. The citizens referred to the bill as a “sledge hammer” approach that is ineffective and restrictive.

However, Hall argued that the bill would protect school districts with lower economic standings from being excluded when changing school district boundaries. “The school districts that would meet [the] 5 percent increase in revenue versus cost [threshold], and would be affected by the bill, are only a very small percentage,” Hall said.

West Valley Mayor Ron Bigelow, who supported the bill, said, “I don’t know all the ramifications, but I believe the protection for equal economic distributions in the school system to be beneficial.”

Members of the committee were divided on the issue. Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, said the focus should be on the students and ensuring they are not adversely affected due to financial “cherry picking.” Still, Snow was concerned about completely restricting school districts that would meet the bill threshold.

Rep. Carol Moss, D-Salt Lake City, originally motioned for a vote on the bill, but concerns from citizens and legislators alike resulted in its being tabled pending future consideration.

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