Speaker Lockhart has officially hijacked Utah’s public education in what is being played out like a daytime hit soap opera. There’s been audience, drama, betrayal and suspense.
All of Utah has watched this masquerade unfold.
With Utah ranked last in the nation in per-pupil spending and second highest in the nation in teacher-student ratio, HB131, the Public Education Modernization Act, was heralded as our saving grace.
Last week the Senate pulled a bait and switch with SB111, a bill aimed at generating tax revenue for education funding. The Senate amended the bill to become an exclusive source of funding for HB131. In response, Lockhart stated: “In my opinion it is a property tax increase, and I find it interesting that the Senate would support a property tax increase when there are other places in the budget to find money to fund education. If public education is our highest priority, then we will be able to find the money in other places.”
Don’t worry about the anonymous price tag we were quoted; whether it costs $200 million or $750 million is not important. The additional $300 million a year after that, pennies on the dollar. We’ll raid transportation funding–they have more than they know what to do with anyway.
“We’ve been very good to transportation through the years,” said Lockhart. ” We believe that there is revenue in transportation that we can redirect into public education that will not materially affect the transportation program in any kind of significant way that would cause problems.”
All of the attention given to Lockhart’s legacy bill has drawn away from lawmakers’ efforts to pass more realistic bills that would have a positive impact on Utah’s public education. SB111 is no longer meaningful. SB118, another bill aimed at generating more tax revenue to fund education, has been circled on the Senate Reading Calendar since February 24. SB42, a bill aimed at providing funding for preschool education programs is on hold in the House. There are a number of other bills waiting to move on.
Speaker Lockhart has betrayed Utah’s citizens by offering up a false reality that has interrupted the Legislative process for personal ambition.
With only 4 days left in this year’s Legislative session, we are left to wait and see what happens. Will HB131 pass? If not, will the Legislature be able to salvage what little time they have left to pass anything meaningful?
We can only hope for the latter.