by Becky GINOS
BOUNTIFUL—Students at Meadowbrook Elementary witnessed a piece of history on Monday. Gov. Gary Herbert visited the school to sign a bill intended to bring more education funding to the state.
During the waning hours of the 2018 Legislative session, lawmakers crafted an agreement between the legislature and Our Schools Now, a group advocating for an initiative that would generate $700 million for education through raising income and sales tax.
The compromise will place a nonbinding question on the November ballot asking voters to decide to add 10 cents to the state’s gas tax that could lead to an additional $845 per pupil by 2023.
“Good things are happening and they have to do with you,” Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake who helped run the bill told the children. “Utah cares a lot about you. We’re good in Utah for making more students and children. This is a great opportunity for our future. We care about our students, schools and teachers.”
Edwards said when the legislature saw how many signatures the group had collected they knew it was important. “We said ‘wow’ if that many people care we should too,” she said. “We need people to make their voice heard in November.”
In the House chamber are the Latin words Vox Populi, said Edwards. “That means voice of the people. We’ve seen with this initiative the voice of the people and we will make that voice heard.”
“This bill will help you achieve your dreams,” said Scott Anderson, president of Zions Bank and Our Schools Now member. “We’re lucky to have a governor who is a champion of education and teachers. I want to thank the legislators who carried this bill. It was a miracle because they did it in about two days.”
Anderson also thanked the more than 150,000 Utahns who signed the petition. “These people are heroes for stepping up and speaking out to ensure that students have what they need and teachers have the resources to give you a great education,” he said. “This is Utah’s ‘secret sauce.’ We bring things together that are difficult but we work together to make it happen. These sacrifices will benefit all of you – especially the children in this room.”
Jazz owner Gail Miller, who is also a member of Our Schools Now, said things are different than when she was in school. “Why should you be in school?” she said. “It’s to learn. This is your job as a child. It’s just like going to work every day. It helps you become what you want to be when you grow up. Today I’m a businesswoman and I own the Jazz. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t listened in school.”
The teachers and staff come to work and make sacrifices every day, said Miller. “They do that because they love you. We believe in you and your potential. You have the ability to make a positive impact in society.”
Herbert said the agreement was done in the spirit of collaboration. “We want to make sure we help each other and come together as a team. I challenge you to do two things at school, learn and make a new friend.”
He also challenged the students to seek post education either through college or technical schools. “The more education you get the more opportunities you will have,” said Herbert. “You should come with the attitude that you want to learn. You have teachers who love you and care about you. I hope you can be the best you can be. Our goal is to be the best education system in America. You are our future.”