Opinion: Utah is jeopardizing public education funding. As educators, we need your help.

We invite all citizens of Utah to become informed and — better yet — become a champion of public education.

Utah’s Constitution provides for a public education supported by state and local tax revenues. Since obtaining statehood, Utah has developed, supported and championed one of the most successful public education systems in the country. The success of the system of public schools has come from unrivaled commitment and collaboration of educators, parents, taxpayers, policy makers and the business community, despite sparse state funding. All Utahns and taxpayers, not just those with school-age children, benefit from a robust and thriving public education system.

The Utah Legislature has enacted policies that privatize education in Utah and provide public funding to support alternative educational systems. Using public funds in this way increases state education costs and undermines public schools. All Utahns should be wary of this shift which has resulted in rapidly escalating costs that threaten state budgets, with little to no accountability for student learning in states where similar policies have been pursued.

Utah has 41 school districts, each shaped by the communities they serve and governed by locally elected boards of education. Every square foot of this great state is served by a public school district. Every child who resides in any place in Utah has the guarantee and the right to be educated in a public school. Our shared commitment is to every child, regardless of where those children call home or whatever their circumstances may be. None are turned away.

Unlike private education options, local governance of neighborhood public schools ensures a collaborative effort where accountability and local input go hand in hand to provide opportunities for every student to thrive. Dedicated educators, staff, student support professionals and local policy makers use best practices every day in classrooms in every public school throughout the state so today’s students will become productive and contributing citizens to our communities and state.

We write as two of the elected officials answerable to the families in Canyons District, which serves 33,000 students. Canyons students have opportunities for college preparation courses, athletic and performing arts experiences, advanced language courses, career certifications in the medical or technology fields and many more options that align with their interests and skills. We are proud of all that is offered to students and know that similar opportunities are available in school districts throughout the state.

By nurturing individual potential, the system of public schools significantly contributes to Utah’s economic landscape by creating a well-educated workforce that is prepared to meet the challenges of Utah’s dynamic economy. We view this as a sacred trust — one that requires a significant investment.

John Adams, in the early days of this country, offered this advice: “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must be willing to bear the expense of it. There should not be a district of one mile square without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

In November, voters will be asked to consider removing from Utah’s Constitution a long-standing designation of income tax as a protected revenue source of funding for public schools. We believe that removal of this constitutional protection jeopardizes future funding of public education as only minimal appropriations would be required. Protecting and increasing the investment in public education is as essential to the well-being of individuals, families and communities as the electricity we rely on, the roads we travel, the water we use, the trails we enjoy, and the air we breathe.

We invite all citizens of Utah to become informed of how your local public school district is preparing the youth in your community for a successful future — and better yet — become a champion of public education.

(Photo courtesy of Karen Pedersen) Karen Pedersen

Karen Pedersen, MEd, is a native Utahn who is a former educator in the public school system for 41 years. Karen continues her commitment to serving students and educators as an elected member of the Canyons District Board of Education. The views stated here are my own opinions and are not representing the Board of Education.

(Photo courtesy of Nancy Tingey) Nancy Tingey

Nancy Tingey has been a volunteer and passionate advocate for public education in Utah for 36 years. Nancy is in her twelfth year of serving on the Canyons District Board of Education. The views stated here are my own opinions and are not representing the Board of Education.

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