The Utah School Board Association voted Saturday to make defeating the tax initiatives on November's ballot its number one priority.
The possibility Utah voters will approve tax cuts cast a pallor on discussions about other education issues during a meeting at Canyon View Junior High School, where school board members and superintendents from Utah's 40 school districts gathered.The group unanimously approved a strongly-worded resolution to "put on the gloves and come out swinging" against the cuts.
"It is imperative that school board members take the leadership role in their districts. . .The number one priority of USBA's short-term goals is to defeat the three tax initiatives," the resolution states. "Board members and PTA members are the only two groups in the education family that cannot be criticized for personal gain or being self-serving as they work to inform the public.
"If these initiatives pass, and school board members have not informed the public as to the consequences, then citizens have every
right to accuse board members of not doing their duty. . .State PTA volunteers will do the yeoman's job of informing every citizen in the state regarding the negative impact of these tax initiatives on our youth. . ."
Some members of the group questioned calling the impact of the initiatives "negative" without informing patrons of the opposition's perspective. They fear educators will become vulnerable to criticism that they don't want the public to hear any opinions but their own.
But a proposal to delete the word from the resolution was quickly shot down.
"I don't think we have an obligation to tell them the other side," Alpine School Board member Linda Campbell said. "If they want to know the other side, they can find out for themselves."
Winston Gleave, executive director of the USBA, said educators should have no doubts that the initiatives will be completely negative.
"The impact will clearly be negative to the state," he said. "I think it's negative. We ought to say it's negative and quit apologizing, because that's part of (initiative supporters') strategy."
Opponents of the initiatives say education will face a 15 percent budget cut if taxes are reduced. Programs such as busing, career ladder and kindergarten may be affected.
The three initiatives would limit property taxes, roll back tax increases approved by the 1987 Legislature and provide tax credits to the parents of children attending private schools. If a majority of Utahns approve the People's Tax and Spending Limitation Amendment, limits on property taxes would begin almost immediately, and additional limits on government spending would start at the end of December.
The People's Tax Reduction Act would cut back state income tax, sales, gasoline and cigarette taxes that were approved in 1987. Under the Utah Family Choice in Education Act, parents with children in private schools would begin receiving a tax credit at the start of the next school year.
Those supporting the initiatives say no one can know where cuts will be made, and the numbers educators use to show that schools will be devastated are inflated at best and based on false information at worst.