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Utah News

Poll: Education Highest Legislative Priority For Utahns

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Utahns say education is their number one issue in the upcoming legislative session. According to a newly-released Dan Jones and Associates poll, education was identified as the highest priority by 50 percent of survey respondents, more than twice the number of those who identified lowering taxes as the most pressing policy need.

However, the convergence of tax policy and legislation designed to improve Utah’s schools could cause friction at the capitol come January 23. State legislative and executive leaders have been reluctant to consider raising the income tax, which funds primary, secondary, and higher education.

A tax increase proposed by Our Schools Now would see a .008 percent hike in the state personal income tax. In 1996, the income tax was designated as a source for higher education funding, instead of the sales tax. Utah’s education funding effort ranking has dropped from a high of seventh in the country in 1995 to 37th in 2014, according to a report from the Utah Foundation. The report also cited changes in the state tax law as contributing to a revenue shortfall for schools.

Addressing the state’s teacher shortage could become even more important with the expected rise in student populations in the fall of 2017. Utah’s teachers face the second-largest student-to-teacher ratio in the United States.