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Gov. Herbert Signs School Funding Compromise. Will Voters Approve It?

Erik Neumann / KUER
Gov. Herbert sat next to elementary students and Our Schools Now stakeholders before signing legislation to put an education gas tax on the 2018 ballot.

Stakeholders from the Our Schools Now initiative met with Gov. Gary Herbert today at Meadowbrook Elementary School in Bountiful. They were there for a ceremonial signing of the legislative compromise to bring more money to public schools in Utah. But the deal isn’t finalized.

Gov. Herbert, Jazz owner Gail Miller and state Rep. Rebecca Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, spoke in front of a packed school gym filled with elementary students and faculty.

The bill that Herbert signed will go before voters in November. It’s aimed at increasing salaries for teachers and support staff through a gas tax. The original Our Schools Now ballot initiative focused on sales and income taxes.

Syd Dickson, the state superintendent of public instruction, said it shows a strong collaboration between the legislature and teachers.

"I think our teachers feel heard. They want to feel heard by the public and that will be the key," Dickson said.

In November voters will have the choice to increase funding through a 10 cent per gallon gas tax. According to Austin Cox with Our Schools Now, it’s expected to raise $386 million over five years.

State Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, helped write the legislation. He said it was not universally supported during the 2018 legislative session. Those same divides may come up before the next election.

"My guess is that you’ll see a lot of individual legislators lobbying for it. And you’ll probably see some lobbying against it," Fillmore said. 

According to the National Education Association, Utah’s public schoolsranked 45th for teacher pay in 2016.

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