I really enjoyed a recent Utah Foundation’s report on how Utah’s tax policies since the mid-1990s have shortchanged Utah public schools. The bottom line is that since 1996 instead of raising taxes to cover increased costs of health care, social services, higher ed, roads, relocation of the prison, other infrastructure, economic expansion, etc., our Legislature has chosen to pay much of those cost increases by reducing funding for public education.

What the report didn’t mention was that before 1996, teachers and other public ed employees were not highly paid, schools were economically built, and some of our school districts were recognized nationally for how economically they were run.

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Some say the public education system doesn’t need more funding, that our students score well on national testing. Yes, our students seem to be scoring well on national testing, but a recent study I read demonstrated that with our state’s demographics, our students should be doing much better than they are. And we are now facing a crisis in attracting and retaining good teachers because of poor teaching conditions, especially high student/teacher ratio and low teacher wages.

Nobody likes to pay taxes. But our Legislature should have never been allowed to take money away from public education to cover other public needs. If we need to raise taxes, it is not to increase funding for public education; it is to “restore” funding that was taken away. It would have been wiser to raise taxes for other services as needed instead of allowing our public education system to arrive at the financial crisis it now faces.

Fred Ash