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UEA Supports Governors Proposed Budget - December 13, 2017

Association remains concerned about teacher shortage and class sizes

Photo: Francisco Kjolseth, Salt Lake Tribune

The Utah Education Association supports Governor Gary Herbert’s public education budget recommendations directing increased funding for the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU), student enrollment growth, at-risk student populations and providing educators with additional classroom supply money. The statewide teachers’ association remains concerned, however, that the state’s current tax structure generates insufficient revenue to make significant improvements in a public education system plagued by severe teacher shortages and large class sizes.

“The governor’s proposed increase for public education is a significant and worthwhile investment in Utah’s schoolchildren and the state’s economy,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “His recommendation to increase the WPU combined with an additional investments in at-risk student programs and property tax equalization gets us very close to the 5.5 percent WPU increase the UEA and other education stakeholders are seeking.”

During a press conference Dec. 13, Governor Herbert released his proposed FY2019 Utah state budget. In it he directs $208 million in new tax revenue to public education, calling for $36 million to cover anticipated enrollment increases and another $121 million to add 4 percent to the WPU. The budget also proposes $34 million in new money for children at risk of academic failure and $25 million for property tax equalization. The Legislative Fiscal Analyst has announced the state can expect an overall $382 million increase in state tax revenue for the next fiscal year. In his remarks, Governor Herbert attributed the revenue increase to a booming state economy.

“We must seriously look at updating Utah’s tax structure if we want any hope for addressing critical issues such as our ongoing teacher shortage, overburdened public school workforce and the nation’s largest class sizes,” said Matthews. “While we applaud the governor for proposing a budget that directs 72 percent of all new revenue to education, I am unconvinced that growing the economy alone is sufficient to deliver the resources our students need.”

Matthews points to the ‘Our Schools Now’ initiative as one way to address the tax structure issue. If approved by voters, the business-led 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 for other needs determined locally by the school.

“The business community started the ‘Our Schools Now’ initiative because they recognize the positive impact a world-class public education system has on the economy,” Matthews said. “As Utah’s economy grows, educator compensation, teacher training and classroom resources must keep pace if we want to attract and retain quality public school classroom teachers.“Utah teachers have stepped up and done more with less for many years. Now it’s time for our legislators to step up and recognize the importance of investing in our students,” Matthews said.


Members of the Utah Public Education Coalition signed a letter thanking legislators for a successful session. The letter was read on the floor of the House and Senate.
It was a successful year for teachers at the legislature, due in large part to the hundreds of teachers who sent emails, made phone calls, attended Educator Day on the Hill and built personal relationships with their legislators.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the session was that, despite a great deal of talk generated by the Our Schools Now funding initiative, no significant new sources of education revenue were enacted. However, public education fared well given the resources available.

UEA Vice President Roger Donohoe and UEA President Heidi Matthews outside the Utah House of Representatives.
The final budget provided $64 million to fund new student growth and added 4 percent to the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU). Bills on their way to Governor Herbert include a requirement for school districts to address abusive conduct toward school employees by students and parents, improvements to the turnaround school law and repeal of the law banning teachers from talking to students about homosexuality.

“It is very clear to me that we couldn't be nearly as effective as we are without the support and activism of our teachers,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “Our influence comes from the strength of our members. Thanks to you, the voice of teachers was heard loud and clear this year.”

Educators played a significant role in influencing legislation in 2017:

  • Almost 400 educators participated in our Educator Day on the Hill events. The stories members shared with legislators built great support for our issues.
  • Thousands of UEA members made direct contact with their legislators.
  • More than 2,700 teachers responded to the UEA legislative survey, providing data and teacher comments that were shared with legislators.

More than 400 children participated in an event celebrating NEA’s Read Across America Day at the Capitol Building March 3.

Once again, some of the biggest wins for educators happened behind the scenes, with legislation that would have been detrimental to students and educators either dropped, voted down or significantly improved prior to passing. For example, a bill that could lead to voucher-like schemes failed in a House committee. A bill that would restrict the rights of certain employee groups to organize and collectively bargain was held in a Senate committee. In addition, a bill to weaken oversight of charter schools was not heard in the Senate.

“Your UEA Legislative Team worked diligently behind the scenes, gaining access to legislators and helping them understand the perspective of teachers,” said Matthews. “We also deepened our strong partnerships within the labor community and the education coalition, including the Utah PTA, the Utah School Boards Association, the Utah School Superintendents Association and many others.”

2017 Legislative Archives

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