The Children of Utah Need Your Support. They’re Worth It.

Early in the session Education First presented a bold, innovative plan to allow Utahns to vote on raising the income tax by 7/8ths of one percent to fund crucial, targeted investments found in our plan. We are gratified to be at a point where Legislators support our plan and agree that Utah needs increased education funding. Education First Leaders have agreed to assist the Legislature in developing a revenue plan, rather than a ballot initiative as was originally proposed.

Legislative leaders, including Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and House Speaker Greg Hughes have committed to working with Education First to find a Legislative solution during the 2017 session, ultimately avoiding a public vote for a tax increase.

“We have worked closely with Legislative leadership, especially President Niederhauser throughout the 2016 session, to find a way to greatly increase funding for public education,” said Nolan Karras, president of The Karras Company and co-chair Education First. “We recognize the lack of time during the 2016 session to come to a suitable funding solution for such a monumental request that will impact generations to come.”


 An Open Letter to Utah's Legislators:

Dear Legislator:

Throughout the world, the most vibrant economies put education first. Utah’s current economic prosperity is due in large part to strategic investments made by previous policy leaders. As a business community, we know that a person’s ability to contribute to rather than burden society is tied to their educational achievement. Utah’s continued economic prosperity is driven by those with the knowledge and skills to compete globally. That is why we developed a 5-year plan to improve education through targeted strategies with proven outcomes. To fund those strategies and better prepare Utah’s workforce, we proposed that Utahns be given the opportunity to vote for a 7/8 of one percent increase in personal income tax that will be invested locally. Legislative leaders, including Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and House Speaker Greg Hughes have committed to working with Education First to find a Legislative solution during the 2017 session, ultimately avoiding a public vote for a tax increase.

The Problem: Past tax changes have left an estimated $1 billion in education funding lost

In 2006 and 2007, Utah enacted a series of significant income and sales tax reductions that have had a profound impact on Utah’s public and higher education performance. These tax reductions are estimated to be $1 billion in lost annual revenue and have moved Utah’s funding effort to 33rd among states for education funding.

This reduction in funding is having a substantial impact on our student performance. Utah, once ranked among the top states for student performance, is now average in critical measurements such as ACT College readiness scores, high school graduation rates, and post-secondary certification and college completion.

Utah’s globally recognized, pro-business climate and diverse economy have powered a remarkable recovery. Yet, we cannot afford to be complacent. Utah’s average education performance is a clear warning sign that deserves our full attention. With a more competitive tomorrow, our state’s future prosperity will pass by if we are not decisive and act now.

The Solution: Let voters decide to invest in education and restore part of past tax cuts

To meet the growing demand for improved educational performance, on Early in the session we presented a bold, innovative plan to allow Utahns to vote on raising the income tax by 7/8ths of one percent to fund crucial, targeted investments found in our plan. We are gratified to be at a point where Legislators support our plan and agree that Utah needs increased education funding. We have agreed to assist in developing a revenue plan, rather than a ballot initiative as was originally proposed.

The Support: Seventy percent of Utahns say they support paying for targeted education investments

Recent Dan Jones polling shows that 70% of Utah residents would support a 1% increase in the state’s income tax, if the money is targeted for specific programs that improve public education. Additionally, Envision Utah surveyed 53,000 Utahns and found 71% are somewhat willing, willing or very willing to increase taxes to improve education and 78% supported significant, strategic investment increases in education to put Utah in the top ten states.

The Schools: New money goes directly to public and charter school classrooms

The additional funding will be distributed to local schools as follows:

  • Elementary schools (Grades: PK to 6) receive 60 percent of the funding or $307 million. These funds will focus on early learning and critical skills in elementary school.
  • Junior high or middle schools (Grades: 7 to 9) receive 20 percent of the funding or $102.3 million for math and reading skills, STEM exploration and preparation for high school success.
  • High Schools (Grades: 10 through 12) receive 20 percent of the funding estimated to be $102.3. Funds would be directed at college and career preparation, additional counselors (career coaches), and dropout prevention.

The full list of strategies for improving school outcomes is outlined in Prosperity through Education, a plan prepared jointly by Education First and Prosperity 2020.

The Accountability: Funding must go to targeted strategies with proven outcomes in the classroom

Investing in education must be done strategically and with a clear plan for improving student performance. This money would be given to local schools (with district oversight and coordination) and can be used for non-capital, academic strategies such as the following:

  1. Increasing access to early childhood education
  2. Proven strategies to better increase student achievement in reading and math
  3. Additional licensed counselors for college and career coaching
  4. Maintaining or reducing classroom size
  5. Improving technology and training for teachers
  6. Ensuring a qualified teacher is in every classroom

The Benefit: How will this money help my school?

Each school’s funding will be based on enrollment at the end of the previous year and on a local plan for improving school outcomes. Exact funding amounts will change based on when the vote is approved, but as an example:

  • Eastlake Elementary, Jordan School District serves 1,350 students from kindergarten to sixth grade and would receive an estimated $1,524,771.
  • Snow Canyon Middle School, Washington County School District serves 889 students from eighth and ninth grade and would receive an estimated $942,233.
  • Altamont High School, Duchesne County School District serves 386 students from seventh to twelfth grade and would receive an estimated $422,542.

We urge you to support giving Utahns the opportunity to restore a significant portion of the previously lost funding to our public school students. By funding the equivalent to a 7/8 of one percent Initiative for Public Schools during the 2017 session, you will in turn empower local parents and educators to make changes in their own school districts, to prepare their children for a brighter future.

Sincerely,

Nolan Karras
Co-Chair, Education First
The Karras Company & Education First, co-chair

Jesselie Anderson
Co-Chair, Education First
Regent, Utah Board of Regents


Richard Kendell
Co-Chair, Education First
Commissioner, Higher Education (Ret.)

Bob Marquardt
Co-Chair, Education First
President & CEO, Management & Training Corp.