The Alliance for a Better Utah announced the launch of #NoExcuses, a campaign aimed at increasing funding for K-12 public school education.
While other groups are seeking legislative remedies, the Alliance for a Better Utah has initiated the work necessary to file a lawsuit against the State of Utah in order to force the Utah legislature to increase funding for our K-12 public schools.
“Utah’s elected officials have deliberately and consciously adopted policy decisions that have eroded funding of our public schools over the past 20 years,” stated Josh Kanter, founder of the Alliance for a Better Utah. “Enough is enough. No more excuses. It’s time to adequately fund our public schools.”
Better Utah is encouraged by judicial outcomes in South Carolina, Washington, Kansas and other states where the courts have demanded substantial increases in education funding. The Utah Constitution requires the State to establish and maintain a public education system. State law also requires the Legislature to fund the education system to meet a “minimum school program in accordance with the constitutional mandate.” States like South Carolina, Washington, and Kansas have similar constitutional and legislative mandates.
The argument that Utah is inadequately funding our public schools is widely supported. A 2010 financial analysis by Utahns for Public Schools demonstrates that nearly $1 billion per year has been diverted away from Utah’s K-12 public school system as a result of 20 years of deliberate policy decisions by the Utah legislature. Although Speaker Hughes has claimed credit for increases to education funding, reports released by Voices for Utah’s Children demonstrate that the gross dollars spent on our K-12 education system remain at roughly 2008, pre-recession levels.
“The Legislature’s and Governor’s commitment to education is grossly inadequate by nearly any measure,” continued Kanter. “Our students are not ready for college or post-graduation employment, let alone to compete on the national or international stage. Our teachers are buying their own school supplies while trying to manage classes of 30 or 40 students. Utah is failing its teachers and its citizens, and it’s time our elected officials did something about it.”
The State of Utah has earned the dubious rank of being last in the nation in per-pupil spending for nearly 30 years. Over that time period, education outcomes have dropped precipitously so that, today, less than 40 percent of 8th graders are listed as achieving “grade-level proficiency” in math and reading, and only 25 percent of students are able to reach the ACT’s “college-ready” benchmarks. In addition, Utah has one of the largest achievement gaps in the country, with some estimates placing student achievement in the bottom 10% when adjusted for demographics.
“We have some of the most committed parents, teachers, and students. They need to be supported by our state’s leaders. With the proper commitment, we believe Utah can rank number one, and if the Legislature won’t make the commitment, we are willing to ask the courts to force their hand,” concluded Kanter.
The Alliance for a Better Utah is a multi-issue advocacy organization. Among other things, the organization successfully filed the election law complaint that resulted in the resignation of former Attorney General John Swallow, and has played a key role in calling for the expansion of Medicaid. More information is available atwww.betterutah.org.