Once again, it’s the “Year of the Tax Cut” which seems to have become an annual event in Utah. We have been cutting taxes for years, and by doing so we are neglecting the long-term needs of our children.
We have heard consistently that we are investing more in education. That may be accurate in terms of dollars allocated, but it does not account for continued growth and inflation. Once you calculate those two factors, our spending on education has been relatively flat for decades. We need to invest more in our K-12 system to meet the needs of our children. Otherwise we will continue to suffer from the largest class sizes in the nation and high school graduation rates at or below national averages for nearly every racial and ethnic category.
We are also ignoring the lack of early care and education supports that are needed to address the changing challenges facing families. Utah is one of 33 states where infant care is more expensive than college. A recent report shows the following:
- Childcare issues result in an estimated $1.36 billion loss annually for Utah’s economy
- Utah loses an estimated $258 million annually in tax revenue due to childcare issues
- 26% of parents have changed their childcare arrangement due to COVID-19
- In Utah, families pay an average of $561 per month for childcare
- 48% of parents needed to make a significant adjustment to their school or work training due to childcare issues in the past 12 months
This winter we had to turn children away from homeless shelters due to lack of space. We have seen food pantries expand at schools across the state. We have seen our student homeless population expand, creating a need for more onsite Teen Centers. It is amazing to see community members and donors’ step in to address these issues, but it is not addressing the causes, nor is it a sustainable solution.
We continue to see a mental health crisis in our teen population, which is sadly reaching into lower grades. We have a critical shortage of mental health providers and counsellors in our schools and communities.
We need to take a step back and assess what our children need and have the political will to fund it properly. We can no longer continue to cut taxes while ignoring the needs of 30 percent of our citizens.
Please join us in asking the Governor and your elected leaders to stop cutting taxes and start investing in our children’s future.
Moe Hickey is the Executive Director of Voices for Utah Children