Teacher and Student Success Initiative

Summary

Sponsor: Our Schools Now

This initiative would increase the state sales tax and personal income tax by 0.45% each to generate revenue for public education.

A restricted, interest-bearing account would be created for the additional revenue, with 85% allocated to K-12 education and 15% to higher education. The State Board of Education would distribute these funds to local school districts and education agencies, which would in turn be charged with creating frameworks to guide schools’ plans for improving student achievement, as well as approving schools’ plans and monitoring schools. Principals would be responsible for designing performance and achievement plans for their schools and accounting for use of the funds.

Funds could be used for expenditures including educator stipends, additional educators and school support professionals, technology, before- and after-school and summer programs, and early childhood education; they could not be used for capital expenditures.

The new tax rates would take effect in 2019.

Yes & No Votes

“YES” Vote Means

Utah’s income tax will increase from 5% to 5.45% and the sales tax will increase from 4.7% to 5.15% beginning in 2019; all revenue generated will be used to fund public education.

“NO” Vote Means

Utah’s income and sales taxes will remain the same; no additional revenue will be generated for public education from these sources.

Supporting & Opposing Arguments

Arguments for Teacher and Student Success Initiative

  • Education funding serves as an investment in Utah’s economic future, producing the skilled workforce necessary to attract new industries to the state and remain competitive in a knowledge-based economy.
  • Utah is the “youngest” state in the nation, with school-age children making up 31% of its population. It is also among the fastest-growing states, with the highest birth rate in the nation. These demographic trends signal a need for increased school funding to pay for increasing student enrollments.
  • For more than three decades, Utah has been ranked last in the nation in spending on public education per pupil. Our Schools Now will not only increase that funding, but will also hold schools accountable for how those funds are used. By requiring schools to develop concrete goals and strategies for increasing academic achievement, the initiative sets them up to succeed.

Arguments Against Teacher and Student Success Initiative

  • Increasing income and sales taxes would amount to regressive taxation, placing an unfair burden on low- and fixed-income citizens.
  • Increasing school funding does not guarantee better student outcomes, especially when there is a chance that the funds will be absorbed by the educational bureaucracy before they can reach the classroom.
  • Higher taxes could prevent new businesses from moving to Utah, harming the economy; this could adversely affect school funding in the future.

Background

The Our Schools Now initiative is co-chaired by Zion’s Bank President & CEO Scott Anderson, Questar retired Chairman & CEO Ron Jibson, and Larry H. Miller Group Owner Gail Miller, along with a steering committee of over 60 Utah business leaders, educators and former politicians. Their stated goal is to set up Utah’s economy for continued success by investing in a well-educated workforce.

Investment in Utah’s public education has been low for decades, compared to other states: Utah ranks last in the nation in per-pupil education funding, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual state education report, and has held that last-place ranking every year since 1988.

The final Our Schools Now initiative includes amendments generated by 14 public hearings across the state; only seven hearings were required by law.

Financial Impact

A previous version of the Our Schools Now initiative would have increased sales and income taxes 0.5% each; in assessing it, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget found a total fiscal impact of $865 million. Our Schools Now subsequently trimmed the proposed tax increases to 0.45%. The final version, according to Our Schools Now, has a total fiscal impact of $700 million annually – providing about $1,000 per student annually, and costing the median household about $35 per month.

Important Groups