I recently finished reading the legislative audit report that I wrote about here. To summarize, the audit was requested because for over a decade or so the Legislature has allocated "extra" money to Utah's schools with the express purpose of reducing class size. Utah has consistently ranked near the bottom of the US in classroom size, and this was seen as a way to attack that directly. Tens of millions of dollars have been allocated to schools through this Class Size Reduction (CSR) program, and the Legislature wanted to verify how it had been spent.
The report concludes that, despite some accounting difficulties, 100% of the money was used correctly. 99% of it went towards hiring new teachers. 1% went to pay for things like portable classrooms.
Yet the auditors found that even with those tens of millions of dollars all being spent to reduce class size, mostly by hiring teachers, since 2000 there was a net gain of only two teachers. And Utah still ranks near the bottom in classroom size.
How could this be? There's a couple of reasons. First, while an initial influx of money can be used to hire another teacher, that means that next year's CSR allotment has to be enough to continue paying those new teachers plus even more so that another round of teachers can be hired. In order to continuously reduce class sizes by hiring teachers, the CSR funding would have to increase exponentially each year, and simply put, it hasn't. In some years it wasn't enough to even maintain the new teachers hired in previous years.
Secondly, school enrollment has risen sharply each year; in fact, has beaten the projections in every year covered by the audit report. And while the Legislature is required by Utah code to increase CSR funding in proportion to enrollment growth, it never has.
In short, the auditors found that school districts all spent their CSR money appropriately, and even though the Legislature has increased CSR funding dramatically, it simply hasn't been enough to keep up with rising teacher costs and enrollment growth.