2020 Education Committee Report

Introduction and Summary of Major Positions

After more than two decades, the Utah Legislature is still content to let Utah remain at the bottom of the states in per pupil funding for public education. We make less effort per individual income-tax payer than we did in the 1990s or in previous decades. Our student performance rankings are fair-to-middling, and the wide achievement gap for poor and ethnic minority children is under-addressed. Does the Utah Legislature fail to understand what an excellent public education would provide and why it is essential to our long-term growth and welfare?

The current school year is a critical one, as Utah works to reopen its economy and respond to the multiple needs of its disadvantaged citizens. Schools and their staffs play a key role in the state’s economy, and education spending and funding issues are critical to our longer-term social and economic recovery. The Utah Legislature showed a deep misunderstanding of the pressing need for all income tax revenues to be devoted to public and higher education when it placed Constitutional Amendment G on the November ballot. The misleading ballot language asked voters if they would allow use of income tax revenue to support children and people with a disability. The language made no mention of the existing constitutional protection of income tax funds for education. How were voters to know that the expansion of income tax revenues for children and people with a disability was simply a shift of the funding source away from sales tax revenue and would support ongoing programs such as CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance) and social services for individuals with a disability. This seriously flawed proposal, which voters passed, is now in the Utah Constitution, where its reversal will be prohibitively difficult. The task now is to work aggressively to ensure that the state’s half-hearted commitment to education does not slip further. In subsequent pages we document public education needs that support the following urgent priorities:

  • Increased spending beyond that for enrollment growth and inflation is more essential than ever to meet public education needs for competitive teacher salaries, school support services (e.g., mental health counselors, nurses, social workers, paraprofessionals), interventions to reduce the achievement gap experienced by poor and minority students, reduced class sizes in targeted grades, and improved health/safety practices.
  • Increased pressure on current and future legislatures to honor promises made to the educational community to increase statutory funding for 1) annual enrollment growth and inflation, 2) basic school programs to increase school quality, and 3) creation of an easily tapped rainy day (economic stabilization) fund if/when another recession occurs.
  • Staged investment is required over the coming decade to achieve high-quality preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-olds by 2030. Utah needs a fully developed state-funded preschool program, not the current sprinkling of underfunded pilot programs that vastly underserve the state’s population of at-risk children and place Utah near the bottom of the states in providing preschool opportunities.
To access a pdf version of the  full report click here: Education

Article 3 (Education) Committee Members

               Dixie Huefner

               Julie Miller

               Bob Bullough