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Utah's Education: A Big Topic Of Discussion During The 2018 Legislative Session

Dani Hayes
Utah Senate

Education is often a topic of discussion during a legislative session and 2018 is no different.

Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams says his top priority is always education.

“I think the biggest budget item is probably one of the most important things we do as a legislature is deal with the education,” he said.

And Representative Brian King, House Minority Leader agrees.

“This is the most significant investment that we can make and the most important infrastructure of the state,” he said. “We talk about highways, we talk about business enterprise and economic vitality but it’s our children, when you get right down to it that are the most important investment that we can make. That’s going to determine the quality of life for Utah in the future.”

Lawmaker’s goals during this legislative session will be setting a budget that sends significant money to education, with a hope to boost Utah's low per-pupil spending. One idea is an initiative called “Our Schools Now,” which would increase income and state sales tax by less than half a percent, totaling $700 million. King is aware of the impact this may have on the average Utah citizen but believes it’s for the better of the state.

”And so what I would like to see is Our Schools Now pass so that we can get better revenue into our schools and move from 51st in the country, when you include the District of Columbia, to 49th or something like that. Money isn’t everything but the lack of money is not nothing. The lack of money can keep us from getting where we need to be on that.”

King is worried that if “Our Schools Now” gets on the ballot this year, it might fail in the November election. He believes this may make it difficult to get the Utah Legislature to increase revenue to public education in the future, since the possible failure of the initiative may represent an uninterested Utah population in increasing funds in public schools.  

Adams has a different approach to the problem.

“What I actually believe to be a better solution is to do it legislatively, is to find a way to fund schools and fund education through the legislative process,” he said.