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Our Schools Now - Questions and Answers for Leaders

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The following is designed to help UEA leaders answer questions they receive from teachers, administrators, board members and others about Our Schools Now and Question #1 on the November 2018 ballot. These questions and answers will be updated as new issues are reported. If your question is not answered here, please contact Mike Kelley, mike.kelley@myuea.org.

Click the question below or scroll down to see answers:

Q.   What is Question 1 (Our Schools Now)?
A.   Question 1 was approved by the Utah legislature to be included on the November 2018 statewide ballot. The ballot question is the result of months of work on the Our Schools Now education funding initiative. Question 1 asks: “Shall the state increase the state motor and special fuel tax rates by an equivalent of 10 cents per gallon for the purposes of increasing funding for the state's public education and local roads.

A 10-cent hike in the state's gas tax is expected to bring in about $180 million per year, according to the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's office. About $55 million of the increased revenue would go to local transportation needs, while the rest would be used to offset the general fund revenues now being used for transportation, freeing up more money for education. Once approved by voters, the Legislature will meet in a special session to enact provisions for investing the $125 million in new, ongoing funding that will be generated for Utah schools. (see “How will funding from Question 1 be distributed/managed?”).  Of the $125 million for education, 80 percent is targeted to K-12 public schools and 20 percent to higher education. See more details at OurKids1st.com and Q1facts.com.

Q.   Why does the UEA support Our Schools Now and Question 1?
A.   The UEA Board of Directors voted to support Our Schools Now and Question 1. UEA President Heidi Matthews called Question 1 “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really make a major change for the future of our students and for Utah public schools.” She added, “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."

Q.   How will funding from Question 1 be distributed/managed?
A.   It is anticipated the majority of new public school funding generated by Question 1 will go to what’s called the ‘Teacher and Student Success Account.’ School districts will be authorized to use up to 25 percent of this account (in some cases up to 40%) on teacher salaries and 5 percent on other school personnel retention plans. The remaining funding would primarily be distributed directly to schools (see “How will funding decisions be made a school sites?”). Final details will be determined by the legislature.

Q.   How will funding decisions be made at school sites?
A.   It is anticipated that funds directed to individual schools will be used to support a “Teacher and Student Success Plan” with a goal “to improve school performance and student academic achievement.“ Prior to receiving their funding, a local school would create a plan detailing how the funding would be used to increase student achievement. This plan must be consistent within the framework of the school district's funding priorities. In creating the plan, a principal solicits input from “the school's educators; administrators; students; support professionals; members of the school's school community council or charter trust land council; parents; or other community stakeholders.”

      Funding could be used on a broad number of items within the schools “Teacher and Student Success Plan,” including, but not limited to:

  • personnel stipends for taking on additional responsibility outside of a typical work assignment;
  • professional learning;
  • additional school employees, including counselors, social workers,
  • mental health workers, tutors, media specialists, information technology specialists, or other specialists;
  • technology;
  • before- or after-school programs;
  • summer school programs;
  • community support programs or partnerships;
  • early childhood education;
  • class size reduction strategies; or
  • augmentation of existing programs.

Funding may not be used to supplant funding for existing public education programs; for district administration costs; or for capital expenditures. Final details will be determined by the legislature.

Q.   How much will Question 1 cost my family?
A.   When fully implemented, it is estimated the new fuel tax will cost the average Utah driver about $4 per month. It’s easy to calculate the cost to your family – just estimate the number of gallons of fuel you use each month and multiply it by .10 cents.

Q.   Why a gas tax for education?
A.   Utah’s gas tax has not kept up with transportation needs. While the purchasing power of the gas tax declined. The need for roads, however, has increased, prompting the legislature to move more and more money toward transportation and away from education. Additional funds provided by Question 1 will restore transportation funds and free up money for education. This video provides additional explanation.

Q.   Does funding from Question 1 go to charter schools?
A.   Yes. All public schools, including charter schools, receive funding from Question 1 on a per-student basis.

Q.   What can UEA members (and others) do to get involved in Question 1?
A.   The UEA and many local affiliates are organizing phone banks, neighborhood walking events and other activities. Please contact your local association to learn more.

You should also learn about the initiative (the informational video at Q1facts.com is a good start). Share stories with your neighbors about how additional funding could help your classroom and your students. Wear #RedForEd every Tuesday to show your support for public education. Most importantly – VOTE! Visit https://ourschoolsnow.com/volunteer for information about:

  • Getting a yard sign
  • Making phone calls
  • Knocking on doors in your community
  • Donating to the campaign

Q.   What happens if Question 1 does not pass?
A.   The Question 1 vote is a signal from the people to legislators that they want more money invested in education. By contrast, a ‘no’ vote on Question 1 may signal to our legislators that the people do not want additional taxes going to education, thereby dooming any chances for significant future increases.

Q.   Why is Utah not protesting/embracing the #RedForEd movement like other states?
A.   Short answer: Question 1 IS the campaign for Utah’s #RedForEd cause. See this article by Heidi Matthews for details.

Q.   Are some school districts losing money because of Our Schools Now or Question 1?
A.   No. Legislators talked about “equalizing” school funding for years. As part of the Our Schools Now compromise passed during the 2018 Legislative Session, new property tax revenue is now being captured and used to equalize funding. The property tax portion of the Our Schools Now compromise, which attempts to “equalize” school funding, is already enacted and effective this school year. It has nothing to do with Question 1 on the November ballot. Question 1 has only upside as far as school district revenue goes because the new school funding generated by the fuel tax is distributed primarily on a per-student basis.

Q.   Could local negotiations/bargaining rights be harmed because of Ours Schools Now?
A.   Unlikely. The majority of funding will still go directly to school districts with a much smaller portion budgeted directly to schools. We anticipate no significant change in traditional collective bargaining with school districts, but we will experience in a new level of engagement as principals create “Teacher and Student Success Plans” at the school level (see “How will funding decisions be made at school sites?”). The UEA has always had to work to maintain our rights to collectively bargain in this state. That will not change with the passage of Question 1. We’ll continue to fight for that right as new legislation is drafted.

Q.   What does it mean that Question 1 is “non-binding”?
A.   The Utah legislature voted to include Question 1 on the November 2018 statewide ballot as a “non-binding” question. In other words, it doesn’t automatically become a law once approved by voters. If Question 1 passes, legislators agreed as part of the Our Schools Now compromise, to enact laws generating and investing the estimated $180 million in new, ongoing funding.

Q.   How does a gas tax impact rural communities?
A.   While rural drivers may spend on average about 19 percent more on gasoline than their urban counterparts, they also receive more benefit from Question 1 funding. The cost to build roads per person tends to be higher in rural regions. Because Question 1 is primarily replacing road and transportation funding (see “Why a gas tax for education?”), rural regions receive more benefit per person (see “How much will Question 1 cost my family?”, andHow will roads and transportation benefit from Question 1?”).

Q.   How will roads and transportation benefit from Question 1?
A.   It’s important to note that while schools are the primary beneficiary of the new funding generated by Question 1, roads and transportation also benefit (see “Why a gas tax for education?”). Of the estimated $180 million generated by the 10-cent per gallon increase, about $55 million would go toward repairing city and county roads. This video provides additional explanation.

Q.   Can teachers campaign at school?
A.   No. While we encourage teachers to learn about issues and candidates and to become involved in campaign efforts, it’s important to remember these activities must take place off school campuses and off contract time. This political activities DO’s and DON’Ts flier (originally created collaboratively by administrators, attorneys representing districts and the UEA General Counsel) provides details.