The Utah State Board of Education passed the following resolution on December 4, 2015:
UTAH STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION RESOLUTION NO. 2015-3
A RESOLUTION ESTABLISHING THE OFFICIAL POSITION OF THE UTAH STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION REGARDING FEDERAL LAND POLICY, INCLUDING NATIONAL MONUMENTS AND SCHOOL TRUST LANDS
WHEREAS, the Utah State Board of Education (State Board) exercises “general control and supervision” of the public education system pursuant to Article X, Section 3 of the Utah Constitution; and
WHEREAS, the State Board is the primary beneficiary representative of the trust established for the common schools (School Children’s Trust) under Utah Code Ann. §53C-1-103; and
WHEREAS, the Utah Enabling Act granted Utah millions of acres in trust to be managed for the purposes of generating income for the public school system; and
WHEREAS, these school trust lands are spread throughout the state, some of which are positioned in environmentally or culturally sensitive areas, particularly scenic areas, or areas with excellent recreation opportunities that are more suitable for preservation than development; and
WHEREAS, school trust lands are a central part of Utah’s education funding, now and in the future, with the permanent State School Fund topping $2 billion, income from trust lands averaging approximately $100 million per year, and the annual distribution of tax-free money to schools growing ten-fold since the 2000-01 school year from $4.9 million to nearly $47 million for the 2015-16 school year; and
WHEREAS, based on the footprint of the national monuments currently being discussed, hundreds of thousands of acres of school trust lands run the risk of being captured within the monuments, which would preclude the trust from earning full income from those lands, harm school funding in Utah; and
WHEREAS, landscape-scale monument designations, wilderness designations, or other federal conservation set aside programs have the potential to impact school funding due to tax implications;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the State Board takes no position in advance as to specific conservation proposals, for or against, but sets as its official policy position that the School Children’s Trust should be held harmless in the event the President or Congress designates national monuments under the Antiquities Act or take similar action to preserve federal lands as wilderness or other conservation status; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the State Board encourages policymakers from all levels of local, state, and federal government, as well as other interested groups, to speak out on behalf of the school trust lands and education funding implications associated with federal land policy items.
PASSED AND APPROVED THIS 4th DAY OF DECEMBER, 2015.
David L. Crandall