School Funding Amendment On The Ballot For This November
This November, Utahns will be voting on several amendments to the state constitution, including one about public education funding.
Utah is ranked 51st in the nation when it comes to per-pupil spending, but the state also has a large number of school-age children, according to Andrea Brandley, a research associate, with the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. She presented the information at a virtual panel held by the Hinckley Institute on Wednesday.
Currently, all of the state’s income tax is set aside for K-12 public schools, as well as higher education. Amendment G would expand the use of those tax dollars to, “include supporting children and supporting people with a disability.”
State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson said the wording of the ballot question is broad, which gives the Legislature more power to decide where money is spent. She said she believes the money will still be used appropriately.
“The broadness does leave some flexibility on the part of the legislature, which is good and bad,” Dickson said. “Right now we have a great relationship with our legislature and I do believe they are focused on improving education outcomes, but that could change over time.”
She added that coupling the amendment with a state law helps guarantee continued education funding. The bill promises money for inflation and student growth, and would go into effect if the amendment passes.
Richard Kendell, a former commissioner of the Utah System of Higher Education, said he’s skeptical of the amendment. He said he started teaching in 1967 and he’s been involved with numerous reform efforts.
“I think the amendment is very poorly worded, it opens the door for virtually anything that deals with children or [people with disabilities],” he said.
But Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, argued the change would improve education overall.
“Funding children and people with disabilities are not mutually exclusive with improving educational outcomes, it’s actually synergistic,” Eliason said.