Students Educational Needs Should Be First – Legislative post by UEA Policy Ambassador Annette Croucher
Legislative report submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Annette Croucher, special education teacher at Fossil Ridge Intermediate School in Washington County School District
The Utah Legislature was called into a special session by Gov. Gary Herbert in December 2019, which set in motion an opportunity for the citizens of Utah to stand up and be heard. The tax reform that was being proposed by Utah legislators would have negatively impacted my students across all aspects and settings. Utah has a referendum process which allows voters to put a hold on this damaging legislation.
Annette Croucher (second row center) is one of
nineteen 2020 UEA Policy Ambassadors
As a special education teacher in Washington County, I see first-hand how many of my students’ families are not able to fully support themselves. These families often require added support from our local schools and the school district to maintain their basic needs. If SB2001 (the tax reform law passed in December) had gone into effect as passed, the impact would have been detrimental to all of the students in my classroom and in my school.
The first blow to my students’ funds was to cut the income tax rate, which would have reduced the state education budget by approximately $684 million. Our schools are already struggling to maintain classrooms that are full of impactful teaching and high levels of learning. We are required to meet state standards with little or no resources for our students to learn. A $684 million reduction in funding is huge, and it seems that the local school districts were expected to pick up the slack. The Utah Legislature needs to find another way to balance the budget, without impacting the children in a negative way. It is critical to remember that they are the future of Utah, they need the opportunity to become contributing citizens.
The next harmful impact on my students and their families came in the form of increased taxes on fuel, food and selected services. 92% of the students in my school qualify for free or reduced lunch, so raising taxes on basic necessities and services are keenly felt. Increases in the fuel tax would push a family’s budget to get to and from work to a breaking point. If my students’ families cannot get to work each day to pay their bills it will force them to discontinue work and obtain state assistance, which would have a negative effect on the overall state budget. Adding a sales tax to unprepared foods that are purchased in the grocery store means that my students whose families are already struggling to meet their basic needs are now going to have to pay more to eat the unprocessed foods that are good for their growing bodies.
This tax reform that was passed by our Legislature did more harm than good for most Utah families. As Utahns we need to stand up for our children and the free education they are guaranteed. Without an education, our students will be unable to maintain the state that we all love and cherish in the years to come.