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Our Schools Now!

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UEA President Heidi Matthews and Executive Director Lisa Nentl-Bloom are among a group of prominent business and community leaders spearheading a ballot initiative campaign designed to increase revenue for public education and improve student performance.

Our Schools Now is an initiative to give Utah voters the opportunity to participate in the critical questions of how we are to invest in the continued improvement of our schools. This initiative would allow Utahns to vote on a ballot measure to increase the state income tax and invest the increase in educational performance improvement.

Our Schools Now:

  • Calls for a 1/2 of 1 percent (.005) increase to the state sales tax and a 1/2 of 1 percent increase to the state personal income tax, which would total $700 million
  • Provides each Utah school nearly $1,000 per enrolled student
  • Requires all funding to be spent in ways that increase student learning
  • Distributes:
    - 85% to K-12 education
    - 15% to higher education
  • Improves student learning by awarding money once school goals are reached
  • Empowers local communities to make funding decisions that are best for students of that area
  • Prepares students for tomorrow’s world by providing a high-quality education

The Steering Committee of Our Schools Now reads like a “who’s who” of Utah business and community leaders. In addition to Matthews and Nentl-Bloom, the committee includes Zion’s Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson, Larry H. Miller Group of Companies owner Gail Miller, retired Questar Chairman Ron Jibson, Salt Lake Chamber President and CEO Lane Beattie, former Utah Speaker of the House Nolan Karras, Utah PTA President Dawn Davies, former LDS Church General Young Women’s President Elaine Dalton and retired Hill Air Force Base Commander Major General Kevin Sullivan, among others.

“It’s remarkable to see such a diverse group of business, community, political and education leaders come together to support public education,” said Matthews. “I’m hopeful now we have the support to see transformational change in the way we fund education in this state.”

The UEA Board of Directors voted unanimously on Nov. 18 to support the Our Schools Now initiative, although their support wasn’t a slam-dunk. It was only after months of back and forth with organizers of the initiative – making changes to give the Boardsome level of confidence that it met the needs of our students and teachers and there weren’t too many strings attached to the new funding – that the UEA gave its support, according to Matthews.

"I believe this initiative remains our single best hope for generating significant new resources and working toward equity in all of our schools throughout the state," said Matthews. "I hope everyone understands how critical it is to our students and our profession that we provide our full support."

“When we invest in education we are assuring that Utah can compete in a global marketplace,” said Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank. “That means future generations can obtain well-paying, high-skill jobs and raise their families in a growing Utah economy.”

Announcement of the Our Schools Now initiative follows a report issued by the Utah Foundation showing that Utah budget decisions over the past twenty years have left public education with $1.6 billion less every year. This investment crisis has created teacher shortages and the lowest per-pupil spending in the country, hurting student learning and academic performance, according to an Our Schools Now press release.

“Our Schools Now is a win-win for all Utahns,” said Gail Miller, owner of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. “Education is the number one economic development issue our state faces. Companies today, and in the future, need and want an educated work force. An investment in our schools now is truly an investment in Utah’s economic stability and individual opportunity.”

The campaign is obtaining signatures this summer to put the initiative on the ballot during the 2018 general election. For more information about Our Schools Now, and a funding estimate for each school in the state, visit OurSchoolsNow.com.

Additional 'Our Schools Now' information and resources:

Issues & Action

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'Our Schools Now' Messaging—

It’s important for you, as a teacher, to share how you could use additional funding to impact students in your own classroom. Here are some ideas of messages to share:

"We must invest in our schools now to provide Utah students the quality education they need to succeed in school and in life."


Supporting Messages:

  • RESOURCES AND EQUITY: All Utah students, regardless of their ZIP code, deserve the tools and time to learn.
  • TEACHER QUALITY: We must ensure every student has a caring, qualified, committed teacher.
  • SMART INVESTMENT: Local education investments improve student outcomes as well as grow the local economy.

Supporting Message Details:

  • All Utah students, regardless of their ZIP code, deserve the tools and time to learn.
    • If we are serious about every child’s future, we must focus on what works…this means resourcing all schools so kids can succeed.
    • Resourced and cared for public schools are our best bet for setting every student in Utah off toward a great future.
    • Despite the best efforts of teachers and administrators, Utah students are performing below their potential. Underfunded schools negatively impact students through increased class sizes, reduced program offerings, eliminated opportunities for staff training, lack of access to technology, out-of-date materials and funding inequities based on family income.
    • This initiative recognizes the collective responsibility to educate ALL Utah students and that some students require more supports and resources to have the same access and opportunities.
  • We must ensure every student has a caring, qualified, committed teacher.
    • Utah is facing a critical teacher shortage, which puts student learning at risk.
    • Nearly 50% of teachers now leave the profession within five years and fewer choose teaching as a career each year.
    • Not all communities have the capacity to increase compensation for their teachers and we are left with enormous disparities.
    • We must ensure that every educator has the resources, mentoring and support every professional needs.
    • We need to create learning environments with class sizes that enable teachers to connect one-on-one with each student.
  • Smart education investments not only improve student outcomes, they grow the local economy.
    • Direct funding to local elementary, middle/junior high, and high schools allows flexibility to invest in proven drivers of student success such as class sizes that allow for one-on-one instruction, technology, teacher recruitment and retention, early learning and specialized instruction.
    • Targeted local education investments improve measurable outcomes like student test scores and graduation rates. These investments also impact difficult to measure factors like love of learning, creativity and critical thinking skills.
    • Utah’s per-student education funding ranks dead last in the nation. Decades of tax cutting have left Utah’s overall taxes at a multi-decade low, but it has also cut $1.2 billion per year from our students, putting them at risk.
    • A top reason businesses give for choosing one city over another is education. Class size and per-pupil spending are the two most important factors businesses use in rating a public school system.
    • Utahns overwhelmingly support a greater investment in neighborhood public schools, investments which return directly to local communities.