UEA President Heidi Matthews and Executive Director Lisa Nentl-Bloom are among a group of prominent business and community leaders spearheading a ballot initiative campaign designed to increase revenue for public education and improve student performance.
Our Schools Now is an initiative to give Utah voters the opportunity to participate in the critical questions of how we are to invest in the continued improvement of our schools. This initiative would allow Utahns to vote on a ballot measure to increase the state income tax and invest the increase in educational performance improvement.
Our Schools Now:
- 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
- 85% to K-12 education
- 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
- Prepares students for tomorrow’s world by providing a high-quality education
The Steering Committee of Our Schools Now reads like a “who’s who” of Utah business and community leaders. In addition to Matthews and Nentl-Bloom, 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.
“It’s remarkable to see such a diverse group of business, community, political and education leaders come together to support public education,” said Matthews. “I’m hopeful now we have the support to see transformational change in the way we fund education in this state.”
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 Boardsome 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."
“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 campaign is obtaining signatures this summer to put the initiative on the ballot during the 2018 general election. 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: