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100,000 Signatures Needed To Get Utah Ed Funding Bill On 2018 Ballot

Lee Hale

The group Our Schools Now launched a campaign Tuesday to get more funding into Utah schools.

This comes at a time when Utah ranks as one of the lowest states in the country for school spending, 37thto be exact.


More funding obviously means a raise in taxes.


“Seven eighths of one percent raise in personal income tax will raise about 750 million dollars every year to be invested in education," says Bob Marquart, co-char of Education First.


That's a .008 percent increase for roughly $1000 more in spending per student.


The initiative is supported by some heavy hitters, like Zions Bank CEO Scott Anderson and Lane Beattie, CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber of commerce.


But in order for this ballot measure to get off the ground, Marquadt and the rest of his team need to get 100,000 Utahn signatures.


“It’s a lot of footwork," says Marquadt. "It’s a big task to get that many. But our whole initiative is driven to get the money to the classroom.”


“Money to the classroom,” as in schools, not districts, will have the ultimate say with spending. With priorities going to classroom resources and filling staff positions that have long been vacant.


This is an important emphasis, because according to recent surveys by the non-profit Envision Utah, state residents are very skeptical of school spending.


"When you ask them how much of the education dollars is going into administration, they think it’s more than a quarter. When in fact we’re one of the two states that it’s in the very lowest," says Robert Grow who oversaw the survey.


Hawaii is the only state that spends less on administration. And they have one school district for the entire state.


Grow isn’t sure where this skepticism comes from, but it doesn’t mean that Utahns don’t want to see an increase in funding.


“It’s clear that Utahns want more resources put into education," says Grow. "But they actually want it to make a difference.”


So in order for this measure to make it onto the 2018 ballot, state residents have to be confident the money is going to the right places.The promise is, it will. But as of right now there are still 100,000 people to convince.

Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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