Education - Why I Joined United Utah

Education - Why I Joined United Utah

Teaching and coaching here in Utah has been a big part of my life for nearly 20 years. Education is the main reason I have become a member of the United Utah Party. I need to point out that I believe that there are a lot of people doing their best to make education in Utah work. Over all, we are doing a lot of great things for Utah students. However, there are a few things I find frustrating.

My frustrations with education have been because of  things that have happened at the legislature. Because of legislative decisions that I felt were party driven and not what was best for students, and after years of being on the wrong side of my party education platforms I had to leave.

The first example of my frustration with our state’s party politics was the 2007 School Voucher Law. Our state legislature decided that our state was in need of a Private School Voucher program. The gist of the law was that students new to private schools would get $500 to $3000 based on family income. This law passed in a state where Jeanetta Williams, president of Utah NAACP, stated that 96% of Utah students attended public school. My mind still can not get around taking money out of a system that is taking care of so many of our children.

So how could a law like this make it through our 45 day legislative season. I believe that it did because at the time a national party was pushing that as a major agenda item to its education platform. National leaders wanted it to pass in Utah to make an example out of us. It wasn’t driven by the families of Utah. The proof for that became clear as several groups went to work to gather signatures so the state could vote on it. 62% of Utahans rejected the legislative voucher law. Utah deserves legislators that puts Utah first, not national platform issues.

The second example of my frustration was how a really good idea was undone by party politics this past legislative session. Gail Miller and a group called “Our Schools Now” proposed a ballot initiative to raise the state income tax rate to fund education. The original idea was to increase the 5 percent income tax rate by seven-eights of a percent. It was projected to have raised $750 million annually for public schools, colleges, and universities.

A certain party fearing that the idea was getting too much foothold got involved and changed the tax to a gas tax. I believe the initiative was voted down not because Utah didn’t want to support education, but because its proposed gas tax was a bad way of funding education in a state that is so in need of a gas tax to support its roads. In state that has so much federal land and no lottery, we are going to have to be creative in raising and spending funds for education. I applaud Gail Miller and “Our Schools Now” initiative.

My hope is that Utahans will continue to find solutions to will work for Utah. My belief is that there is more that can unite us. We can not let national parties stop us from doing the right thing for Utah.

This article was written by Robb Fredericks. The author provides personal thoughts that are his own and do not necessarily reflect that of all members of the United Utah party. We highly encourage all citizens to research information from a variety of sources in order to arrive at personal conclusions. Civic engagement and diversity of opinions are fundamental to the United Utah Party's unique approach to politics.