Question 1 Advocates Say Initiative Has Elevated Conversation Around Utah Education Funding
Nonbinding Opinion Question 1 which was the 10 cents per gallon gas tax increase for education, failed. It was an advisory bill that would have supported funding for roads allowing other transportation dollars to be diverted for education funding.
Question 1 was voted down 66 to 44 percent. The nonbinding opinion question was an advisory bill written to gauge voter interest. The initiative would have required Utah legislatures to pass another bill to support the tax increase.
Heidi Mathews is the President of the Utah Education Association. She said the UEA is deeply disappointed but said Question 1 failing doesn’t take away from the need to fund public education. She said the conversation started by the Our Schools Now initiative has elevated the need to fund education in Utah.
“The voters rejected what was essentially a very confusing and convoluted pathway to education funding. Needs still exist, and our state still has responsibility to adequately fund public education.”
The advocates for Our Schools Now collected enough signatures to enable a ballot initiative asking voters to support a 750 million-dollar tax increase for education. It was initiated by Utah business leaders, education professionals and citizens.
“When the compromise was made, there were kind of three buckets of the compromise. Investments and inflation and growth and the equalization with the new revenue source and then the teachers and student success account which was essentially the initiative. That was then funded in part what would have been freed up in the general fund through the gas tax.”
In March, legislators and the Our Schools Now advocates compromised by agreeing on the question 1 advisory bill.
“It included some significant investments in inflation and growth but also in equalization throughout the state. Those investments have already made some significant differences in our schools throughout the state”
Mathews thinks voters distrusted the mechanism to raise gas taxes to fund education. When asked about a future education voter initiative, she said anything’s possible.
“People support education. That came in through loud and clear across the boards in all the polling and in all of the discussions about question one. They didn’t like the mechanism. They voted against the mechanism of a gas tax. They felt that it wasn’t transparent. They felt that it was just a really convoluted way. They didn’t trust in it. Doesn’t mean that the needs aren’t still there and that people don’t believe in our responsibility.”
Mathews said education advocates across the country will continue to fight for education funding and together wear red for public ed every Tuesday to show their solidarity for better pay for teachers and better funding for students.