"The people of Utah have the opportunity to decide if we should make this investment in their children and in our future," Scott Anderson, Zions Bank CEO and co-chairman of Our Schools Now, said in a written statement. "These hearings will continue the conversation on how to best support teachers, improve achievement, and ensure students are better prepared with skills to succeed in today's word."
Initiative organizers formally launched their campaign last month by filing the Teacher and Student Success Act with the Utah Lieutenant Governor's office. The act, if approved by voters, would phase in tax increases over three years and distribute funding to grade schools and public higher education institutions on a per-student basis.
Utah consistently ranks last in the nation for the amount it spends per-student on public education.
Our Schools Now — which is supported by notable Utah business, education and community leaders — originally sought to raise $750 million in annual school spending through the income tax alone. But those plans were altered to include the sales tax in response to feedback that a proposed seven-eighths of 1 percent income tax increase was too severe, according to initiative leaders.
Following next week's regional meetings, Our Schools Now is expected to begin gathering signatures in August to qualify for the November 2018 ballot. In order to go before voters, the Teacher and Student Success Act must secure more than 113,000 signatures from registered voters in at least 26 of Utah's 29 Senate districts.
Utahns who wish to provide comment but who are unable to attend the regional meetings can submit comments on the initiative's website at www.ourschoolsnow.com.