Utah's PTA wants schools to reward good teachers with extra pay, make sure every student has textbooks and curb rising youth-suicide rates, among other things.
But those priorities are taking second place for the next two months while leaders of the organization fight against passage of three tax-limiting initiatives, officials told Gov. Norm Bangerter on Tuesday.Darlene Gubler, state PTA president, said the group's priorities look insignificant compared to what she thinks will happen if voters approve initiatives A, B and C. The initiatives would reduce property and income taxes and grant tax credits to parents whose children attend private schools.
Gubler said the PTA, which has 143,000 members statewide, endorsed Bangerter's 1986 tax increase and believes the money is still needed for the education system.
"We are willing to work diligently and to take the flak for it," she said. "If they (the initiatives) pass we will not be able to serve the underprivileged people."
Leaders of the Tax Limitation Coalition, the group supporting the initiatives, could not be reached for comment. Group leaders have said before, however, that education does not have to suffer if the initiatives pass.
The PTA also criticized Bangerter for asking state administrators last month to prepare budgets showing where cuts would be made if voters approve the initiatives.
Because the budgets are not final, some people may mistakenly think they will not be affected by cuts and may decide to vote for the initiatives, she said.
Bangerter said he ordered the tentative budgets because, if the initiatives pass, there will be little time to react before decisions are due.
"I think they (administrators) need to do some thinking on the subject," he said.
If voters defeat the initiatives, PTA leaders said they would fight to enhance teachers' public image and self-esteem by lobbying the Legislature to appropriate $55 million for a career ladder program and extra money for cost-of-living raises.
They also want teachers to be rewarded for finding ways to cuts costs.
"We need adequate funding to attract and retain competent teachers," Gubler said.
PTA officials said Utah ranks 14th in the nation in the number of suicides among young adults. Few people are aware of the problem because teenage suicides are seldom publicized.
The officials said school districts could be held legally liable if they fail to provide adequate suicide prevention programs.
PTA officials also want schools to de-emphasize extracurricular activities such as band and sports and they oppose schools charging any fees for attending kindergarten through 6th grade.