Utahns agree that high quality education is critical for Utah's economic future.
While I was pleased to see the legislature meet the Governor’s call to increase education funding and pass his program of improving our education system, Utah is not even close to where we want to be.
Utah is perpetually last in the nation in per pupil funding for education. We’re not just at the bottom of the pack, we’re in a different time zone, with per-pupil spending at $6,095. The national average was $10,506. That's a difference of $4,411. Multiplied by the number of students in Utah's public schools, 600,000, we get a total funding gap of just over $2.6 billion. That’s billion, with a B. Per year. Just to be average.
Some critics say that dramatically increasing our education funding would be easy, if only Utah’s leaders really cared. Look at the alternatives: In order to generate the $2.6 billion annually for average per-pupil, funding would require doubling our state income taxes, increasing the amount each tax filer pays by more than $2,000, or doubling state sales tax. Alternatively, we could increase the state corporate tax a whopping 900% to make up the difference. Obviously, state income or corporate tax rates at those levels would devastate the economy, destroy family budgets, drive businesses away, and make Utah the least competitive state in the nation.
The Herbert/Bell Administration is focused “laser-like” on building our economy and helping business create jobs, high-paying jobs. This will bring more revenue for our schools. But there is another solution that, while difficult, is of a scope that would make a major difference.
Utah and other western “public land” states are very different than eastern states who control almost all of the land in their states. Utah controls merely one-third of the state of Utah. Bob Abbey, the Director of the BLM, controls a greater portion of Utah than Governor Herbert.
Federal land ownership greatly hinders the ability of western states to fund public education. Indeed, 10 of 12 western public land states are below the national average in per-pupil spending. Utah has trillions of dollars in abundant but untapped mineral resources, because we can do only what the feds allow us to do. By giving Utahns’ the ability to responsibly access and utilize our resources will we grow the economy and the tax base to provide the revenues needed to close the education funding gap.
To be clear: Utah is not seeking ownership of national parks and other treasures. Claims stating otherwise are simply inaccurate.
Utah wants educational parity for our children. We want over-reaching, failed federal policies that encroach on state sovereignty replaced with responsible access and appropriate development of the natural resources. These are currently held hostage by federal arrogance and a disregard for our own ability to safeguard Utah’s precious lands and state treasures. It is time for the federal government to honor its forgotten promises to the people of Utah…for our childrens’ sake.Federal Lands