The president of the Utah Education Association has expressed disappointment over failure of the Legislature during its special session to provide any funding for Utah teacher salaries.
"This is the third year of no salary increases despite the increase in taxes and state surpluses, which many felt should be used for education," Jim Campbell lamented following the grueling 16-hour session. "It is a difficult pill to swallow in light of the fact that there was money available and it wasn't invested in education."The teachers' union president accused the governor and the Republican Party of choosing to "listen to the right-wingers and tax protesters instead of the majority of Utah citizens who said they didn't want a tax refund.
"Nearly 60 percent of the citizens polled recently said they preferred that the money go to education and other services rather than take a refund," Campbell said.
"Voting was strictly down party lines. And while all Democrats and some Republicans indicated a strong desire for increased support for education, the governor and Republican leadership were not supportive of the public's desire for more funding for education," he said. "Legislators were forced, through the power of the closed caucus, to follow the governor's position."
Campbell said Gov. Norm Bangerter's position specifically excluded money for teacher salaries. Even when $3 million was taken from the surplus to shore up the weighted pupil unit, the governor's position was that none of the money was to go to salaries, he said.
The UEA had asked that $18 million of the surplus be set aside to give Utah teachers a 2.5 percent salary increase. In one of the final actions of the session, the legislators did approve $4 million for textbooks and supplies.