An Oklahoma education advocate with an evangelistic flair prodded Utah teachers to get into gear and lead the charge against proposals to limit or roll back taxes.
"Nobody will save you but your-selves," said Frosty Troy, editor of The Oklahoma Observer, and award-winning political journal. He spoke to Utah education Association officers holding an annual summer meeting Tuesday.The association presented troy its Friend of Education award. He has traveled the country speaking against tax propositions such as those being pursued by tax-limitation groups in Utah. Petition signatures have been gathered, and if there are sufficient to meet state guidelines, three tax-limitation groups in Utah. Petition signatures have been gathered, and if there are sufficient to meet state guidelines, three tax-limitations questions could be a fall ballots.
Troy warned the educators that they can't "depend on imported people" to wage the fight against the tax proposals. Californians concerned with Proposition 13 hired "the best public-relations firm in the state" and still lost to the tax-limitations proponents, he pointed out. Tax limits have been accepted in 12 states "with great damage" to their educational systems, he said.
"I came to Utah because I care about what happens to children in classrooms all over America," said Troy. He was critical of Utah news media for not getting the facts about the tax issues and passing them on to their audiences.
He also took pot shots at critics of education, who, he said, get their information from other critics and pass it along. America's educational quality shouldn't be judged by the 50 largest districts, located essentially in inner cities, which have significant problems.
"Education is a wonderful experience for the overwhelming number of children in American public education. The 50 largest school district give others a terrible black eye," he said.
"Don't look at those situations," he said. "Look at the 90 percent of 15,556 school districts in America where a marvelous thing happens every day. They have no durgs, no stabbings... their kids are coming to school and their teachers are coming. It's marveous to see that. Who tells that story?
Utahns are not being overtaxed, Troy said. The state makes the lowest per-pupil contribution to education and gets very good results for its expenditure. He urged the educators to "preach the gospel" of education's success in Utah and to convince voters with the facts that it would be devastating to reduce tax support for education.
"Facts will do it. The truth will destroy critics," he said. "Tell that public education is not an expence. It's and investment. Our kids are worth it."
Troy said a proposal for a tax break for people opting for private education for their children would be "the most invidious proposition on the ballot this fall." It would drain the public school system and allow limited funds to be funneled into private schools.
Utah educators should alert voters to the damage done to education and other public insititutions in California and Massachusetts, where tax limitations were passed, Troy said.
Drawing from the experience in Oklahoma, he said when the state began cutting back on education because of a downturn in the oil industry, it took a new governor who had the fortitude to raise taxes significantly to turn things around. The infusion of tax money ultimately worked to help relieve the state's financial problems, he said.
Troy said it appears the likely presidential candidates are interested in bolstering education and that the future may see better things for the system countrywide.