Salt Lake City – In a letter sent to the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Alliance for a Better Utah renewed its call for the Utah Legislature to adequately fund our failing public education system. The letter was sent to the chairs and members of the subcommittee as they met during the Interim Session held this week.
During this election season, the Governor and many of our legislators have attempted to paint themselves as champions of our public education system by pointing to year-over-year increases in overall education funding. Better Utah noted that these claims fail to acknowledge that education funding increases have done little other than meet student growth and has done nothing to replace the $1 billion per year of K-12 education funding that has been removed from the system over the past two decades. In 2015, K-12 public education was still 8.3% below pre-2007 recession levels.
Chase Thomas, Better Utah’s policy and advocacy counsel, issued the following statement:
“Year after year, we continue to hear the Governor and legislature pay lip service to the need to better fund Utah’s K-12 public education system while failing to giving the system the resources needed to allow our teachers and students to succeed. Our state continues to rest at 51st in the nation for per-pupil spending, and our funding effort – the proportion of personal income dedicated to public schools – continues to decline.
“Poll after poll shows Utahns overwhelmingly support increased public education funding. As the legislature works through the rest of the Interim Session and as we near the 2017 Legislative Session, Better Utah calls on our representatives to heed the wishes of their constituents and dramatically increase funding to better hire and retain teachers, create better education outcomes, and ensure the successful futures of our children. We remind the Governor and legislature that actions speak louder than words.”
A copy of the letter sent to members of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee can be found below and has been attached in its original form.
Dear Chairs and Members of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee:
As your committee meets during this September Interim Session, and as we draw closer to the 2017 General Session of the Utah Legislature, the Alliance for a Better Utah would like to take this opportunity to stress the importance of adequately funding our public education system, which is the cornerstone to a thriving state economy and a future ripe with opportunity for our children.
Each of you are undoubtedly aware of the funding woes that have plagued the public education system in Utah over the past twenty years. Policy decisions have been made that have taken approximately one billion dollars from the annual budget of our public school system. Most notable among these policy changes have been the change from a tiered income tax system to a single income tax rate of five percent, as well as the constitutional diversion of income tax revenue from public schools to that of the higher education system.
We once again call on your committee and the rest of the Utah Legislature to exercise their responsibility to their constituents in adequately providing for Utah’s public education system. Our leaders continue attempting to solve this problem with a series of bandages, but triage is now necessary. We need a serious solution, such as that proposed by Education First Utah, which has called for the Legislature to pass a 7/8 percent income tax increase that would pour hundreds of millions of sorely needed dollars back into our state’s public schools.
We understand there are various interests that must be balanced in crafting the policies and budgets for this state. We also understand that we have a moral obligation to provide for our children’s education if for no other reason than Utah needs well educated children in order to support our growing industry and create a sound economic future.
Alliance for a Better Utah