Education is the key to a stronger economy and a bright future for our children, but we are dead last in K-12 per-pupil funding and it’s difficult for Utahns to receive a post-high school education. As governor, I will work to increase school funding for K-12 and higher education, better prepare our students for college and careers, and close the achievement gap
Funding our Future
The governor and legislature will pat themselves on the back for a 3% bump in K-12 education funding this past session, but this is not nearly enough to give our students and educators the resources they need to succeed and still doesn’t return funding to pre-recession levels. Our K-12 funds have been cut in two key ways. First, in 1996, the state constitution was amended to allow funds previously designated for K-12 education to also go to higher education. Second, the change from a progressive state income tax to a flat tax further cut funds for education. Now, Utah is dead last in the nation for per-pupil spending, putting our children at an unfair and harmful disadvantage.
To properly fund our children’s education, it is time to revisit both. Poll after poll has shown that Utahns are willing to pay more in taxes if they know the funds will be used to educate our children. By returning to our 1995 funding structure, we would add one billion dollars to our primary and secondary education system. We also need to find ways to restore our property tax structure to pre-recession levels and build public/ private partnerships to find new funding for specific programs, such as Salt Lake County’s recent Pay For Success preschool partnership with Goldman Sachs. More funding for our schools means more teachers and lower student-teacher ratios.
Though charter schools are an important part of our public education system, we need to make sure they don’t take away additional funds from traditional public K-12 schools. As your governor, I will hold the legislature accountable and demand that dollars designated for K-12 education go to our primary and secondary schools, and ensure that charter schools and higher education are funded through other sources.
College and Career Readiness
Three out of four high school graduates aren’t ready for college, and that needs to change. We also need to strengthen education in STEM fields so that students are ready for high-paying jobs.
After School Programs
In Utah, 17% (99,148) of Utah’s school-age youth were responsible for taking care of themselves during work hours before and after school. Studies show that students who attend after-school programs get better grades, are more likely to graduate, and have lower incidences of drug use, violence, and teen pregnancy. Unfortunately, these programs are lacking throughout the state. 47% of children not currently enrolled in afterschool would be likely to participate if one were available in their community. I will increase funding for after-school programs.
Closing the Achievement Gap
Our education system should be a road to success, but unfortunately, many children, especially children of color, fall behind. Currently, one out of every four Latinos do not graduate with a high school diploma and school resource officers are used to pull children from the classroom and into the courtroom. When children of color are treated as criminals instead of students, our education system has failed.
To make sure all Utah children succeed, we need to invest in optional pre-K and all-day kindergarten. Children who attend these programs are more likely to finish high school, attend college, get a higher-paying job, and are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Relatively small investments in our children provide huge benefits for a lifetime and reduce poverty.
It is becoming harder for many to receive a post-high school education. Three out of every four high school graduates were not ready for entry-level college courses. Public funding has dropped, which has raised tuition to the point where many can’t afford to go to college. Those that do are burdened with student debt and delay buying homes and starting families after graduation.
We must ensure our students are prepared for higher education and that tuition remains affordable for everyday Utahns. As governor, I will:
- Fund K-12 public education better so we can prepare our students for college;
- Increase taxes for the top 1.5% of wage earners in Utah (those earning $250,000 or more a year) to add more than $175 million to the education budget each year and help to reduce costs for 171,000 students; and
- Promote trade schools as a real way for people to learn the skills that suit them best.