Letter to the Editor: Petitioners demand $700M more in taxes for Utah schools, but for what?

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — A group, Our Schools Now, wants to increase your income taxes by 40 percent, and increase your sales taxes, too. They have no specific identifiable objective that I have been able to discover other than to grab $700 million in new taxes from you next year, and every year thereafter.

I received the impression at the meeting, as did others, that a few large Utah companies want to spend a million dollars in propaganda to ensure an annual $700 million windfall so their companies will not have to invest money to train new hires for entry level jobs. They want you, the taxpayer, to pay to train their low level employees.


Read more: Our Schools Now amends ballot proposal with reduced tax increase


At the meeting in St. George (in early July), I spoke with the Our Schools Now representative about the glaring absence of specific identifiable objectives. He told me several times that their measurable, specific objectives could be found on their web site. I went there and was able to find nothing at all.

Every year the Legislature provides ever more money, “for the schools” or “for the children.” That should be a legislative decision, not private, closed door decisions by big companies to take money from the little guy.

We never see demands for increasing the performance of the students. Activists resist accountability!

Activists never address the issue of student performance, of student achievement. They evade it.

Before we even think about talking of spending ever more money on schools, let’s look at recent history. The UEA (Utah Education Association) union is always crying wolf to get ever more money “for the children,” but the money never quite trickles down to the children’s achievement.

“More money for the children” is a transparent ploy to have citizens pay company expenses. We never speak of increasing the performance of the children. Most monies now go to sdministration salaries and beautiful Taj Mahal buildings. For example, the Granite School District monstrosity of a headquarters for administrators. Whoops, sorry, “for the children.” Look at our own Taj Mahals here in Washington County School District. Wow! Money.

Before we even look at spending more money, the school districts should consider where the money is going now. One example: administration salaries. The following figures are approximate. There are 919 schools in Utah. 587 elementary, 170 middle schools and junior high schools, 147 high schools, and 15 “other,” making about 919 schools. Assuming a principal and two vice principals at each school that would be 2,757 principals and vice principals receiving maybe $150,000 per year salaries. I believe that is far too much for what they do. We are now looking at over $413 million dollars each year in excessive salaries for principals. Let’s be very conservative and guess a mere $100,000 salary for each of these 2,757 principals and vice principals; that would translate into a mere $275,700,000. Each year.

How many more hundred million dollars for all of the curriculum and other administrators throughout the state? I suggest that there be only one principal per school and that that person be a working principal, receiving as their top wage the overall averaged salary of all of the full-time and part-time employees in that school. At an average $50,000 per year for principals, we could be paying a lower principals payroll of “merely” $45,950,000. That is still a lot of money that could go to the children. But it would free up $367,200,000 for increased salaries for the teachers, secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, et cetera. Lower taxes.

But we still have to pay off the bonds, through taxes, for the Taj Mahals for some school board and other buildings. Have any of you seen the huge Granite School District building in Salt Lake City. Oh, my word! Think of the upkeep!

If money is truly needed for buildings, we have the school Educational Trust Lands (Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA). A resource asset worth billions of dollars. Maybe we can eliminate the major portion of home property taxes that now go to education by using income realized from the State Educational Trust Lands. I’m in favor of that. Let’s eliminate our property tax, not increase taxes!

“… the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), which has deposited more than $1 billion into the Permanent School Fund since 2004, and $125 million last year alone.

Thus we see that we already have most of the money Our Schools Now claims was “lost” annually by nonappropriation of funds over the last 20 years by the state Legislature and we have a no cost to the taxpayer source for any other funding that is actually needed and can be justified.

Several citizens spoke about the fact that there are no text books available in the schools. About money bring squandered. About the Taj Mahals that are constructed “for the children.” We do not need Taj Mahals for school buildings, and especially not for vastly overpaid administrators, curriculum staff, et cetera. The world famous Johns Hopkins University started in an unheated loft in the slums of Baltimore, Maryland, and has produced marvelous graduates, including, for example, Dr. Ben Carson.

Can Our Schools Now enumerate specific, quantified, short-term, specifically specified goals in the performance levels of the students, by individual student and by grades within each class and school, and publish these annually in a clear, unambiguous format?

Email me if you want to make meaningful, measurable, positive change in our schools.

Submitted by EARLE RICHARDSON, Washington, Utah.

Letters to the Editor are not the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them.

Email: news@stgnews.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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11 Comments

  • Proud Rebel September 24, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Well golly gee Mr. Richardson, perhaps we should bull doze all of the schools, and demand that our kids attend schools in unheated, and unairconditioned barns. Shoot, let’s go a bit further, as long as the kids are in the barns anyway, lets have them muck out the stalls before going home.
    Fifty grand a year for principals? And just were are you going to find anyone to take that job at that wage?
    Hey, I don’t like tax increases any more than you do. But if you are going to make an argument, at least make it a reasonable one.

    • Gcia September 26, 2017 at 6:51 am

      I’m not sure about 50 grand a year, but I do agree that 100 to 150 grand a year seems a bit excessive.

  • 42214 September 24, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Public schools are like drug addicts and alcoholics. There will never be enough money for them.. Fifty years ago schools complained about classroom size and lack of funds. The only thing that has changed is test scores. They’re worse than ever.

  • bikeandfish September 24, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    Instead of throwing out random #s the author could do more research given these are public employees and there is a public data base to review salaries and compensation.

    The author mentioned “company” multiple times. What in the world are they referring to?

  • statusquo September 24, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Funding for public schools should be with the goal of providing a good education for the dollars spent. Utah has succeeded in this goal with current funding levels.

    Utah public school test scores are 13th in the nation, besting 75% of the states.

    http://isp.netscape.com/whatsnew/package.jsp?name=fte/statesrankedstudenttestscores/statesrankedstudenttestscores

    Good job Utah! No need for more taxes for schools.

  • .... September 24, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Eye dunnit be a need’n skool, Eye speked very goodly much inklush and bee riting goodly

  • dodgers September 25, 2017 at 5:48 am

    Earle makes some very valid points, especially about wasteful spending on overhead, buildings and administration. We don’t want barns for schools but don’t need excessive cost structures either. Administration and overhead should be a very small part of the total spend. As for principals and vice principals, one of each per school is more than adequate. As for the salaries of administration, I suspect they are out of line. Anything approaching $100K/year is excessive.
    There is a feel-good driven mentality that money yields educational success, yet nobody can provide supporting evidence.
    Too many administrators, excessively paid administrators and excessive cost structures, they all present great opportunities for huge savings. Cut significantly and redirect to the teachers some of the savings. Let’s spend the budget on teachers, not the unnecessary overhead. And give the rest of the savings back to the taxpayers, a return of their hard earned money.

  • Not_So_Much September 25, 2017 at 10:13 am

    The more information I receive, the more I know the answer to this huge tax increase is NO. It’s time to completely rethink education and how it is operated and what the expectations should be.

  • commonsense September 25, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    The lavish new school buildings are a waist of taxpayer money. I live near Corner Canyon High School in Draper, UT. It is over the top in terms of luxury: outdoor amphitheater, computer labs, Greek columns, six tennis courts, drivers ed fleet of new cars, etc.

    I attended Douglas Elementary and East High School, both in Salt Lake and both built around 1900. I learned from good teachers and not from a luxurious building. Money was spent on brains and not bricks. Interesting that Douglas Elementary is still being used by a private school which far exceeds performance testing over the new school built nearby to replace it

    • Gcia September 26, 2017 at 7:00 am

      I agree. The schools being built today are excessive just like the principal salary. As long as the student can learn from good teachers why does the building need to be the center of attention. Put some heat in for winter, air in for summer, and call it good.

  • Gcia September 26, 2017 at 7:23 am

    How about spending some of that money on feeding EVERY child for free, not just the needy ones. Make that a part of school and the success of a child’s education. They preach how a good meal is important for them to perform at their best, then offer them a roll for lunch if they forget their lunch money, that is unacceptable! I got so tired of hearing how “every child deserves a FREE education”, then writing a huge check at registration time, and that was without any extra curricular activities. So where does the free part come in if I’m paying money at registration time. The least they can do is feed every child, and spend some money on that, instead of excessive buildings and paying their principals too much!

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