|UEA President Heidi Matthews explains
why teachers support ‘Our Schools Now’
| See what you can do to help
support ‘Our Schools Now’
“The Our Schools Now initiative is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really make a major change for the future of our students and for Utah public schools.” UEA President Heidi Matthews
Our Schools Now is an initiative to allow Utahns to vote on a ballot measure to make major state investments in educational performance and improvement. Once approved, the initiative would generate about $700 million per year for Utah schools, money that would go directly to Utah classrooms. According to initiative organizers, the money could be used to reduce class sizes, increase teacher pay, provide updated technology in schools, add counselors and specialists…or other needs determined locally by the school.
“If we are serious about every child’s future, we must focus on what works,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “This means resourcing all schools so kids can succeed. Resourced and cared for public schools are our best bet for setting every student in Utah off toward a great future.”
A poll conducted in October 2017 indicates 54 percent of Utahns support the initiative. As of October, Our Schools Now organizers also say they have collected one-fourth the required number of signatures for spot on 2018 ballot.
Business-led for Economic Development
The initiative was started by the business community with the goal to improve the state’s economic performance.
“When we invest in education we are assuring that Utah can compete in a global marketplace,” said Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank. “That means future generations can obtain well-paying, high-skill jobs and raise their families in a growing Utah economy.”
Announcement of the Our Schools Now initiative follows a report issued by the Utah Foundation showing that Utah budget decisions over the past twenty years have left public education with $1.6 billion less every year. This investment crisis has created teacher shortages and the lowest per-pupil spending in the country, hurting student learning and academic performance, according to an Our Schools Now press release.
“Our Schools Now is a win-win for all Utahns,” said Gail Miller, owner of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. “Education is the number one economic development issue our state faces. Companies today, and in the future, need and want an educated work force. An investment in our schools now is truly an investment in Utah’s economic stability and individual opportunity.”
The Steering Committee of Our Schools Now reads like a “who’s who” of Utah business and community leaders. The committee includes Zion’s Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson, Larry H. Miller Group of Companies owner Gail Miller, retired Questar Chairman Ron Jibson, Salt Lake Chamber President and CEO Lane Beattie, former Utah Speaker of the House Nolan Karras, Utah PTA President Dawn Davies, former LDS Church General Young Women’s President Elaine Dalton and retired Hill Air Force Base Commander Major General Kevin Sullivan, among others.
Matthews and Executive Director Lisa Nentl-Bloom are also members of the Our Schools Now Steering Committee.
Recognizing the important role teachers play in educating students, Our Schools Now organizers reached out to the UEA for input. “It’s refreshing to see business and community leaders reach out to us, as teachers, for input into this initiative and invite us to be integral partners,” said Matthews. “Teachers have understood the needs of our students for a long time.”
The UEA Board of Directors voted unanimously on Nov. 18 to support the Our Schools Now initiative, although their support wasn’t a slam-dunk. It was only after months of back and forth with organizers of the initiative – making changes to give the Board some level of confidence that it met the needs of our students and teachers and there weren’t too many strings attached to the new funding – that the UEA gave its support, according to Matthews.
"I believe this initiative remains our single best hope for generating significant new resources and working toward equity in all of our schools throughout the state," said Matthews. "I hope everyone understands how critical it is to our students and our profession that we provide our full support."
Organizers have until Spring 2018 to collect the more than 100,000 signatures necessary to get the “Teacher and Student Success Act” on the November 2018 ballot.
“Gathering these signatures is a monumental task, and our network of dedicated teachers will play a critical role in assisting with this effort,” said Matthews. “I encourage teachers to sign up as a volunteer at OurSchoolsNow.com to help gather signatures.” Volunteers will be asked to:
- Participate in a training to learn all there is to know about the signature gathering process;
- Collect signatures from your neighbors, friends, colleagues, and family; and
- Recruit others to help, making it easier to reach the goal.
Once signatures are gathered they will be submitted to the Utah elections office for verification. Once it’s on the ballot, all Utahns will have the opportunity to vote on the initiative in November 2018.
According to their website, the ‘Our Schools Now’ initiative:
- Calls for a 1/2 of 1 percent (.005) increase to the state sales tax and a 1/2 of 1 percent increase to the state personal income tax, which would total $700 million;
- Provides each Utah school nearly $1,000 per enrolled student;
- Requires all funding to be spent in ways that increase student learning;
- Distributes 85% to K-12 education and 15% to higher education;
- Improves student learning by awarding money once school goals are reached
- Empowers local communities to make funding decisions that are best for students of that area; and
- Prepares students for tomorrow’s world by providing a high-quality education
For more information about Our Schools Now, and a funding estimate for each school in the state, visit OurSchoolsNow.com.
Additional 'Our Schools Now' information and resources: