Voters reject confusing, convoluted Question 1
In the 2018 General Election, Utahns defeated a plan devised by Utah legislators to increase Utah’s motor fuels tax and shuffle a portion of the money to education. While the public continues to support increased investments in the education of students, voters ultimately rejected the confusing, convoluted funding mechanism presented by Question 1, according to UEA President Heidi Matthews.
“While students certainly would have benefited from the revenue proposed in Question 1, it was never the complete solution to the chronic under funding of our schools,” said Matthews. “Our classrooms remain overcrowded, we still struggle to find and keep quality teachers, student needs continue to go unmet – all because we lack adequate resources. It’s the responsibility of the legislature to adequately fund public education for all Utah students. As teachers, we will continue the fight to ensure our elected representatives fulfill that responsibility.”
Teachers and other community members gathered more than 150,000 signatures to put the Our Schools Now initiative on the ballot. The overwhelming response to this signature-gathering effort spurred legislators into the compromise that removed the initiative from the ballot.
Question 1 was a part of the overall Our Schools Nowcompromise forged in the waning days of the 2018 Utah Legislature. The 2018 legislature already allocated about $200 million in new education funding. The fuel tax increase was to be the final piece of the compromise to create an overall package totaling $300 million in new revenue for education that would grow each year to a projected $600 million in five years.The gas tax increase was recommended by legislators during the 2018 General Legislative Session as preferable to increasing the income and sales taxes as proposed in the Our Schools Now initiative. Ultimately, voters rejected this non-binding proposal. Legislators now face the challenge of finding alternate ways to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to adequately fund public education.
The Our Schools Now initiative brought together a broad coalition of support for public education funding. The campaign has been described as the strongest political organization for the promotion of public education in the history of the state.“We express our appreciation to Governor Herbert, legislative leadership, the business leaders representing Our Schools Now and the many others who support this ongoing effort to increase education funding,” said Matthews. “These education allies were critical in securing previous funding increases. We look forward to working with them to find alternatives to continue with those successes.”
Matthews also notes that the Utah Education Association’s work on Our Schools Now and Question 1 is part of a larger national conversation about increasing investments in public education. “As an association of educators, we are stronger because of our work on Our Schools Now,” she said. “The education funding effort here in Utah is part of a much larger #RedForEd movement to secure more education resources for students across the country. That movement will continue, both in Utah and across the nation. “The hard work of teachers and others who support increased funding for our students has already resulted in more investment in schools. Our fight to increase funding will continue as long as student needs remain.”