As the school year comes to a close, what YOU can do about education in Utah

You’ve been making a difference, Utah!

Utahns from both sides of the aisle have stood together to face some of the challenges and embrace some of the joys thrown our way in the past few weeks.

On public lands – A majority of Utahns want to keep our national monuments the way they are. Action Utah members from across the state have been writing hundreds of messages to Secretary Zinke by mail, email, Facebook and Twitter to convey your support for Grand Staircase and Bears Ears. You rallied this weekend in a tremendous show of local love for national monuments because you understand that monuments make us great. The fight for our national monuments isn’t over, and we will continue keeping you informed about how YOU can help protect the lands we love for continued access and enjoyment for our families and those of future generations.

On immigration – You rallied with us to draw attention to the unethical and immoral immigration policies that are tearing Utah families apart, like that of Teresa from Draper and Silvia from West Valley City. We celebrated last week as Silvia was granted a temporary stay to sort out her legal matters. The road ahead is still difficult. But one silver lining of these heartbreaking stories is that they highlight the inhumanity of current policies and the need for making changes in Utah and nationally that protect our communities and families. Stay tuned for more actions to come on these issues!

 

Wed, May 17, 12:00p-1:00p – “Community Lobbying 102: Intro to the State Legislature, Legislative Session and Interim Session. Brought to you by Action Utah. Get key information on how to impact state policy, plus a tour of where it all happens at the State Capitol. Featuring Tara Rollins, Executive Director of the Utah Housing Coalition, and Holly Richardson, former state legislator and Action Utah Issue Captain. RSVP and more details here.

 

Action Utah has a full slate of projects and priorities during the Interim in the areas of Families and Communities, Environmental Stewardship, Public Health and Government. This week we would like to highlight the work we are doing in Education and what you can do to help.

What is “Our Schools Now”?

Our Schools Now is an upcoming ballot initiative designed to give Utah voters the opportunity to participate in the investment and improvement of Utah schools. This initiative would allow Utahns to vote on a ballot measure (likely in the summer of 2018) to increase the state income tax in order to invest in educational performance improvement.

Funding for the initiative would come by raising the personal income tax by 7/8ths of 1 percent, from 5.00% to 5.875%, which generate $750 million. Our Schools Now requires this money be placed in a restricted account for each Utah school to spend in proven methods to improve education. Of the 750 million dollar, 84% of the funds would go towards K-12 education, 15% to higher education and 1% to applied technology colleges.

Our Schools Now calls for each local school to create a “Teacher and Student Success” plan to decide where spending is most needed, allowing for each school to ensure the money is spent effectively. Every school would receive new funding during the first two years to implement their plan. Beginning in the third year, schools would be required to demonstrate increases in student achievement to qualify for full future funding.

Why Does This Matter?

Utah remains last in the nation in education spending per-pupil, and more than $1.2 billion each year has been shifted away from K-12 education as a result of tax cuts over the last 20 years.

Our Schools Now Executive Committee Member, Bob Marquardt, believes that “public support is resounding: 89 percent of registered voters believe Utah schools need more education funding.” He notes that “low teacher salaries and large classroom sizes are significant roadblocks to delivering high-quality education to every Utah child, and that requires greater education funding.” Nolan Karras, former Utah Speaker of the House and Our Schools Now Executive Committee Member notes: “All of us understand that in order to keep our children in Utah to work and raise a family, obtaining a quality education is imperative.” Action Utah agrees. We are supporting Our Schools Now in their efforts to move this initiative forward.

(from www.ourschoolsnow.com)

 

Weekly Actions

Education

1. Support Our Schools Now. Before Utah can vote on this initiative, it must receive enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot. Signature gathering will commence imminently, and the Our Schools Now team is seeking support and volunteers to help move this important initiative forward.

  • Sign up for updates and show your support by subscribing for updates here.
  • Sign up to come a signature gatherer this summer to ensure this important initiative makes it on the ballot. Simply click here to volunteer.

2. Support a Trust Land Exchange: Support Utah Leadership pushing for an exchange of School Trust lands currently captured within the Bears Ears Monument Designation. Comparable land exchanges at GSENM in the 90s have netted over 300 million for Utah’s public schools and are currently the single largest contributor to the statewide fund. Critics may make claims about land exchanges being political and inefficient, but SITLA and the USOE have an efficient process with good results, particular after Amendment B passed in the 2016 election.

  • Call or write to Governor Herbert, Senator Hatch, Senator Lee and your U.S. Representative.
  • Call or write to your State Senator and State Representative (to find out who your state legislators are and how to contact them, click here).

Gov. Gary Herbert (801) 538-1000 or leave an online comment here
Sen. Orrin Hatch (202) 224-5251 (DC) // (801) 524-4380 (SLC) // (801) 375-7881 (Provo) // (435) 634-1795 (St. George) // (801) 625-5672 (Ogden) // (435) 586-8435 (Cedar City)
Sen. Mike Lee 202-224-5444 (DC) // 801-524-5933 (SLC) // 435-628-5514 (St. George) // 801-392-9633 (Ogden)
Rep. Rob Bishop (Congressional District 1): 202-225-0453 (DC) // 801-625-0107 (Ogden)
Rep. Chris Stewart (Congressional District 2): 202-225-9730 (DC) // 801-364-5550 (SLC) // 435-627-1500 (St. George)
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Congressional District 3): (202) 225-7751 (DC) // (801) 851-2500 (UT)
Rep. Mia Love (Congressional District 4): (202) 225-3011 (DC) // 801-996-8729 (West Jordan)
Not sure who your U.S. Representative is? Check here.

3. Get to know about School Grading: There was a great bill by Marie Poulson which tried to change School Accountability Standards that didn’t pass in the 2017 session. If it comes up again we can all be more informed about how the current model leaves a lot of schools failing despite having great attributes.

  • Click here to see all of the data on school performance and assess whether this model is really useful for public schools, especially those with low median incomes.
  • Stay tuned for information during the Interim on legislative events discussing school accountability.

4. Address HB124 by signing up as a school volunteer: In 2015, HB124 mandated that all parent chaperones in Utah public schools complete a background check. This sounds great but has unintended consequences for children in schools whose population is unwilling or unable to pass a background check. The second step of the check includes fingerprinting with a charge of about $30. This additional layer also excludes families who may be unable to afford to volunteer. The students impacted often lack access to enriching experiences outside of school and now their teachers have a harder time creating enriching field trips.

  • Volunteer. Ask your neighborhood school if they need volunteers who can complete an HB124 form and be fingerprinted to go on field-trips or help at school events. Bonus if the school has high needs and is designated a Title 1 school. Find Utah’s title 1 schools here.

5. Get more involved in the State and Local School Board: School boards are filled with elected positions and hold meetings to determine school policies, curriculum, etc.

  • Attend school board meetings. Find out about state board meetings and agendas here.
  • Run for board positions. Look up your local district to see when public input is required or whether seats are up in future elections.

 

Public Lands

1. Show Secretary Zinke what local monument support looks like. Utah attended the Monumental Rally. Now let’s show our support for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase during Zinke’s planned visit to Utah in Kanab THIS WEEK. Click here for details.

2. Write a letter to the editor. Yes you! Letters to the editor can be written by any community member and submitted to local press. Try your hand at writing a brief letter using these TIPS.

3. Keep Calling and Writing to Secretary Zinke. Misinformation abounds on our national monuments. Local voices go unheard, or only select local voices are heard. But these monuments belong to all of us, and a majority of Utahns support them just the way they are. And since Zinke still has over a month left in his “review” of national monuments, let’s keep giving him good information to review.

  • Call the Department of the Interior (202) 208-7351 and the BLM (202) 912-7780 and leave messages of support for our national monuments. Calls are being counted.
  • Keep Tweeting Zinke about why monuments make our state and our nation great and why you personally support them. Use #mymonuments and tag @SecretaryZinke
  • Share these great articles far and wide on social media to show Zinke and Senators across the country that Utah supports our monuments and that monuments make good economic sense.

– Deseret News op-ed: “Leave Grand Staircase Escalante and Bears Ears as They Are” – The Boulder-Escalante Chamber weighs in on the economic benefits of our national monuments to our communities
– Headwaters Economics “Summary: The Economic Importance of National Monuments to Local Communities” which finds that “Across the board, trends in important economic indicators either continued or improved in each of the regions surrounding the 17 national monuments studied.”
– Public Land Solutions White Page: “Economic Potential for Bears Ears National Monument” – highlighting the unprecedented economic opportunity that Bears Ears offers to San Juan County.

Thanks for being a part of Action Utah!

Great communities spring from strong civic engagement. Thank you for all you are doing to help shape the policies that impact our lives. Keep up the good work!

Andrea & Katie
Co-Founders, Action Utah

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