Utah’s unique #RedForEd path…Join us! Blog by UEA President Heidi Matthews

Sometimes you climb the mountain, and you fall and fail. Maybe there is a different path that will take you up. Sometimes a different mountain.

– Caterina Fake

In the spring of 2018, educators across the country were joining hands, standing up, walking out and wearing bold red to demand increased investment in public education. The national #RedForEd movement was born.

The movement resonates with our nation’s educators and parents, especially in states where the toll of chronic underfunding is manifest in severe teacher shortages; where class sizes are so large that, despite educators’ best efforts, students do not receive the individual attention they need and deserve; where zip codes dictate disparities in access and opportunities for children; where stagnant salaries have not kept pace with inflation and driven excellent teachers from the profession.

States like Utah.

Back in May, when national protests and walkouts were raging in several states, I wrote an editorial for the Salt Lake Tribune with the subtitle, “Why isn’t Utah a sea of red on the steps of the Capitol?” My answer was, and remains, Our Schools Now. I called it “Utah’s unique and enviable collaborative path to increased education funding.” Unique, because it’s a different path up the mountain. Enviable, because we have forged this path collaboratively, without the need for exhausting protests or walking out of the classrooms we love.

Please don’t get me wrong – I fully recognize our chosen path may not get us to the top of the mountain. The time for additional action may come. I also said in the Tribune editorial “We will not shy away from action to assure our students have what they need to succeed.” We will not!

Our Schools Now’ is the campaign for Utah’s #RedForEd cause

At its core, the #RedForEd movement is about professional educators collectively advocating for their students. Here in Utah we’re directing our efforts towards the campaign supporting Our Schools Now and Question 1.

The #RedForEd movement in Utah provided the energy and motivation to inspire educators to gather tens of thousands of signatures to support the Our Schools Now ballot initiative. As Utah’s largest professional association of educators, the Utah Education Association joined with the business community to develop the initiative. In the deep red state of Utah, teachers were not protesting, we were gathering signatures and sharing stories about what a difference this investment would make in our classrooms and for our students.

The overwhelming response to this signature-gathering effort spurred legislators into the compromise that removed the initiative from the ballot. The Our Schools Now compromise, forged in the waning days of the 2018 Utah Legislature, has already resulted in significant increases to school funding, with additional funding promised if Question 1 passes this November.

Was the original Our Schools Now proposal perfect? No. Is the compromise perfect? Absolutely not. Many well-intentioned Utahns point to alternative ways money might be raised or used to support students. But the reality remains…Our Schools Now represents our best shot in decades at realizing substantial new funding for Utah public education. And, we recognize it’s just a beginning.

‘Question 1’ is Utah’s Most Urgent Campaign to support the #RedForEd movement in Utah

he final piece of the Our Schools Now compromise is Question 1, an opinion question asking if voters are willing to pay 10 cents more per gallon of fuel to improve education.

The choice voters make at the polls on November 6 has far more consequences than simply paying a bit more at the pump. Many legislators, who up until now have been hesitant to make significant new investments in education, are looking at the vote as a signal from Utahns – Do we value public education? Do we believe our students deserve more opportunities? Are we willing to increase our investments in public education? The result will impact decisions for years to come.

The choice is ours.

What’s Next?

The #RedForEd movement is alive and well in Utah! The collaborative effort of the Our Schools Now initiative, and now Question 1, has brought people together for more than two years. Let’s not lose this chance to act. There is no perfect path up the mountain. As educators, we have a responsibility to our students and we can’t shirk that responsibility just because the path isn’t perfect.

So what can you do? Join me and thousands of others who want what’s best for Utah students as we trek up the mountain. Get involved in the campaign and Support Question 1. Vote!  Talk to family, friends and neighbors. Get them out to Vote! Keep the education movement alive and thriving in Utah Wear #RedForEd every Tuesday.

This is truly the best opportunity to invest in our schools with our eyes on the prize of student success.