However we do it, we must invest more in education
Feb. 22, 2017
Now is the time for our state to make a major investment in education. As Co-Chairs of “Our Schools Now,” we endorse raising the state income tax by 7/8 of 1 percent, from 5 percent to 5.875 percent. The rate will still be a full percent less than it was ten years ago before it was cut. It will raise $750 million to go directly to classrooms in every public school across the state. The increase in funding is to be accompanied by a plan to improve student outcomes in our schools.
As legislators begin this session, they are asking if we could or would support raising revenues in a different way or if we would settle for something less. We encourage the debate.
We aren’t locked into a specific revenue target. What is important is that Utah establish a revenue source for education that will cover the necessities; teacher salary equity and funding for projected enrollment growth — while also investing in the things that will drive improvements in outcomes for the next decade and beyond.
The drivers we are focused on are improvements in reading and math competencies, and the graduation of high school students who are college and career ready. Money is required for things like professional development, support staff, technology and early learning. The source of the funding or dollar amount isn’t as important as a commitment to fund a comprehensive plan to move the needle.
Just funding inflation and enrollment growth will not begin to address the need Utah schools and students have.
A number of other suggestions have been made about how to raise more money for education. We are looking for a real solution and the debate needs to move from laundry lists to specific proposals. These alternative revenue sources, as well as the proven strategies for school improvement, have been studied for years. Now is the time for action.
Our real objective is to reach the widely accepted Utah goal of 66 percent of the working age population with a degree or meaningful certificate. Currently, less than 50 percent of Utahns have the education necessary for the demands of the modern workforce. Our plan would direct 85 percent of the money to K-12 schools (15 percent to higher education), which is where we have the greatest investment needs in order to reach the 66 percent goal.
Some say raising the income tax will hurt business in Utah and stall growth. Improving educational outcomes is the best thing we can do to stimulate business and growth. That is why the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce board of governors and the board of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah have both unanimously endorsed Our Schools Now and why business leaders throughout the state have joined our call to action.
Gail Miller, Scott Anderson and Ron Jibson are longtime Chief Executive Officers at Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, Zion’s Bank and Questar, respectively. They currently serve as Co-Chairs of Our Schools Now, a 2018 ballot initiative for improved student performance in Utah. For more information, visit: www.ourschoolsnow.com.