Tax and Budget

This op-ed by Voices for Utah Children State Priorities Partnership Director Matthew Weinstein originally appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune on October 29, 2016.

This month saw the publication of new state and federal data on high school graduation rates for the 2014-15 school year. "Utah high school graduation rate above average: 84.8 percent" crowed the headline of the Associated Press coverage carried in many Utah newspapers. But a closer look at the data reveals a more troubling picture.

graduation 1316905 639x426For the nation as a whole, high school graduation rates have been rising steadily in recent years. When broken out by race and ethnicity, the data show progress across the board, but also substantial disparities.

Here are the data for U.S. high school graduation rates in 2015: U.S. overall, 83.2 percent; whites, 87.6 percent; Latinos, 77.8 percent; Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, 90.2 percent; African Americans, 74.6 percent; American Indians, 71.6 percent.

And here are the equivalent data for Utah in 2015: Utah overall, 84.8 percent; whites, 87.4 percent; Latinos 74.4 percent, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, 86.0 percent; African Americans, 70.0 percent; American Indians, 70.0 percent.

Two things stand out about these data:

1) Utah is ahead of the national average in the overall high school graduation rate.

2) Every single ethnic/racial group in Utah is behind its own group's national average, including our two largest populations, whites and Hispanics.

How is it possible that we are ahead of the national average overall but behind within each individual ethnic/racial group? The answer is simple math: we have a higher-than-average share of whites, who have a higher than average high school graduation rate. Utah's population is 79 percent non-Hispanic white, while the national average is 62 percent.

But should we be concerned that every racial/ethnic group in Utah is behind the national graduation rates for its own group? We should, for several reasons:

1) Regarding our white majority, these data should prompt us to ask: Why has the white population in Utah over the last few years been 0.2-0.6 points behind whites nationally? Could it be that even Utah's highest-in-the-nation level of two-parent families and high levels of parent volunteerism are not enough to overcome the detrimental effects of our lowest-in-the-nation level of per-pupil funding, even among the most economically secure segment of our population?

2) Our Hispanic minority is growing fast — now reaching 14 percent of the state's population — and 17 percent of our children. This means that Latinos are one-sixth of our future workforce. The fact that their graduation rate is 10.4 points behind the state average — and 3.4 points behind Latinos nationally — should be cause for very great concern.

3) Our two smallest minorities, African Americans and American Indians, together make up 3 percent of our population and fall 15 percentage points behind the state average for high school graduation rates, our largest disparity.

Utah fell behind in college degreesThese alarming findings come just a few months after it was reported that Utah has now, for the first time on record, fallen behind the national average for college degrees (bachelor's degrees and higher among our working-age population ages 25-64). Taken together, these new data show Utah underperforming at both the high school and college levels, seriously weakening the case made by those who argue that new revenues are unnecessary because we achieve good results in spite of low investment.

Following a decade of tax cutting, Utah's overall tax burden (including all state and local taxes and fees) is at a multi-decade low. Utah's sub-par educational performance raises an important question about whether the current generation of Utahns is doing its part, as earlier generations did, to set aside sufficient resources to invest in our children and lay the foundations for our future growth and prosperity. While raising taxes is rarely popular, any mom or dad will tell you that sometimes you have to eat your broccoli, whether you like it or not.

Slide1On the topic of low investment, this month also saw the release of a new national report that found Utah ranks sixth worst in the nation for our drop in per-pupil state formula funding for K-12 education — down 11.9 percent from FY 2008 to 2017 (the current fiscal year). This 11.9 percent drop measures just the state contribution that constitutes two-thirds of our total public education budget. But the picture is no better when we look at the older data that include both state and local funding, which showed us seventh worst in the nation with a 17 percent drop in per-pupil expenditure for 2008-2014.

Opponents of new education revenues have for years counseled patience. They have for years assured us that the economic boom that will generate new public education revenues is just around the corner or perhaps just another tax cut away. How long will we wait and watch our educational performance suffer — endangering our future prosperity — before taking seriously the challenge before us?

 


For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express, our "Making a Difference All Year Long" sponsor. Amex

 

Published in News & Blog

This week saw the publication of new state and federal data on high school graduation rates for the school year than ended in June 2015. “Utah high school graduation rate above average: 84.8 percent” crowed the headline of the AP coverage carried in many Utah newspapers. But a closer look at the data reveals a more troubling picture.

It is a well-known and highly distressing fact of American life that we suffer from tremendous disparities among our various racial and ethnic groups in many social and economic characteristics, including educational attainment. For the nation as a whole, here are the high school graduation rates trends over the past few years, broken out by race and ethnicity:

grad rates US

Now here are the equivalent data for Utah:

grad rates UT

Two things about these data stand out:
1) Utah is ahead of the national average in the overall high school graduation rate. Bravo for us!
2) Every single ethnic/racial group in Utah is behind its own group’s national average, including our two largest groups, whites and Hispanics. Huh?

How is it possible that we are ahead of the national average overall but behind within each individual ethnic/racial group? The answer is simple math: we have a higher-than-average share of whites, who have a higher than average high school graduation rate. Utah’s population is 79% non-Hispanic white, while the national average is 62%. Thus, the fact that we have a higher share of a group with a higher graduation rate gives us an advantage in the overall high school graduation rate.

But should we be concerned that every racial/ethnic group in Utah is behind the national graduation rates for its own group? We should, for at least two reasons:

1) Inevitably we have to ask, why has the white population in Utah over the last few years been 0.2-0.6 points behind whites nationally? Could it be that even Utah’s highest-in-the-nation level of two-parent families and high levels of parent volunteerism are not enough to overcome the detrimental effects of our lowest-in-the-nation level of per-pupil funding, even among our white population? That would certainly appear to be the case.

2) Our Hispanic minority is growing fast – now reaching 14% of the state’s population -- and 17% of our children. This means that Latinos are one-sixth of our future workforce. The fact that their graduation rate is 10 points behind the state average – and 3.4 points behind Latinos nationally – should be cause for very great concern.

These alarming findings come just a few months after Voices for Utah Children reported that Utah has now, for the first time on record, fallen behind the national average for college degrees (Bachelor’s degrees and higher among our working-age population ages 25-64). Taken together, these developments should sound a red alert among our state’s policymakers.

Sources:
http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_RE_and_characteristics_2014-15.asp
http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_RE_and_characteristics_2013-14.asp
http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_RE_and_characteristics_2012-13.asp


For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express, our "Making a Difference All Year Long" sponsor. Amex

 

Published in News & Blog

A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) spends just $1.35 on average per person per meal for households with children, yet lifts millions of families and their children out of poverty. Here are some other key findings of the report:

  • SNAP kept about 10.3 million people out of poverty in 2012, including about 4.9 million children. 
  • SNAP helps families put food on the table. Food insecurity — limited access to enough food for an active, healthy life — among children falls by roughly a third after their families receive SNAP benefits for six months. 
  • Some evidence suggests that children receiving SNAP are less likely than low-income non-participants to be in fair or poor health or underweight, and their families are less likely to trade off paying for health care and paying for other basic needs, like food, housing, heating, and electricity.
  • Children who receive SNAP do better in school. SNAP participation can lead to improvements in reading and mathematics skills among elementary children, especially young girls, and increase the chances of graduating from high school.
  • Adults who had access to SNAP as young children reported better health and had lower rates of “metabolic syndrome” (a combined measure of the incidence of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes), and women who had access to food stamps as young children reported improved economic self-sufficiency (as measured by a combination of employment, income, poverty status, high school graduation, and program participation).

For more information, see the complete report:

SNAP Works for America’s Children 


For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express, our "Making a Difference All Year Long" sponsor. Amex

 

Published in News & Blog

state general funding per student lower than 2008 in 25 statesMost states, including Utah, provide less per-pupil funding for K-12 education now than they did before the 2008-2009 recession, according to a report titled, “Most States Have Cut School Funding, and Some Continue Cutting” by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Their findings echo those reported by Voices for Utah Children in the Utah Children’s Budget Report.

After the recession, property values dropped, making it hard for local school districts to raise significant revenue through local property taxes, but there was an “even steeper fall in state funding.” Meanwhile, the child population continued to grow.

The most recent data, for the 2016 school year, show that 25 states are offering less per-pupil general formula funding that in 2008. (General formula funding is the primary state funding source for schools.) In Utah, general formula funding per student has dropped by 9% since 2008. Only seven other states had a bigger drop in general formula funding than Utah.

But can’t we just do more with less? The authors point out that the data suggest otherwise:

“As common sense would suggest, money matters for educational outcomes. For instance, poor children who attend better-funded schools are more likely to complete high school and have higher earnings and lower poverty rates in adulthood.”


For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express, our "Making a Difference All Year Long" sponsor. Amex

Published in News & Blog

The Secret of Utah’s Success

The secret of Utah’s success has long been our strong, hardworking families. For many of these families, the secret of their success has been the financial boost they get when they file their taxes, thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

eitc bipartisan supportThe EITC was created under President Gerald R. Ford in 1975 as a way to support low-wage workers and their children. Its success in promoting work, independence, and family self-sufficiency has made it a bipartisan favorite. In 1986, the EITC was expanded by President Ronald Reagan as part of his historic Tax Reform Act, and every president since has improved and expanded it further. The results have been remarkable. In-depth studies have documented the EITC’s effects on both parents and children:

  • increased employment and earnings
  • reduced welfare dependency
  • improved maternal and child health
  • enhanced school performance, including high school graduation and college matriculation rates

The EITC’s success in helping families succeed has led 26 states to create their own versions of the EITC, and that number grows every year. State EITC legislation passed the Utah House of Representatives in 2013 and 2014, indicating how seriously Utah legislators are considering this proposal.

This booklet shares the stories of hardworking Utah families whose lives have been transformed by the EITC. About 200,000 Utah families receive the EITC every year, nearly 20% of all filers. These families include about 300,000 children. As you read their stories, imagine how many more families will see their lives improve and their children’s prospects expand once Utah creates our own state version of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Sharing Their Stories

Emily

Jennifer and Roger

Matt and Cheriee

Ada

Jackie

Davin and Shante

EITC Facts for Utah

Utah Mil Vets Infographic 2The federal Earned Income Tax Credit was created under President Ford and expanded by Presidents Reagan, Bush, and all subsequent presidents.

  • 204,000 Utah households received the federal EITC during 2015 for Tax Year 2014, about one in five tax filers.
  • Utah’s EITC households include about 200,000 workers and 300,000 children.
  • The EITC brought about $471 million into Utah’s economy in 2014.
  • Thousands of veterans and military families are helped, at a higher rate than the general population.
  • Were it not for the EITC, 67,000 more Utahns would have fallen into poverty in 2014, including 35,000 children. This would have raised Utah’s overall poverty rate by about 2.4 percentage points—about a one-quarter increase. For children, the increase would have amounted to 3.9 percentage points or a 40% increase in child poverty.

View the Complete Printer-Friendly Report:

pdfSharing Their Stories: How the EITC is Helping Utah Families Succeed

sharing their stories EITC


For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express, our "Making a Difference All Year Long" sponsor. Amex

Published in News & Blog
September 19, 2016

The Race for 49th Place

Utah has been the state with the lowest per-pupil spending on K-12 education since 1988, but in 2015, when Voices for Utah Children released the Utah Children’s Budget Report, we found reason to hope. 

“The gap between Utah and Idaho has been closing steadily since 2010,” we reported. “If the current trend continues, Utah will displace Idaho in 49th place in the national rankings when new national data are released.” Reference A 

Although 49th place didn’t seem like too ambitious a goal to shoot for, a year later, we are sorry to report that we didn’t overtake Idaho for their prized 49th place ranking. Utah remains at 50th place in per-pupil K-12 education spending—51st, if you count Washington DC. Reference B 

There’s nowhere to go but up.


For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express for sponsoring our 30th Anniversary Year. Amex

Published in News & Blog

This op-ed by Voices for Utah Children State Priorities Partnership Director Matthew Weinstein first appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune on June 18, 2016.

It is often said that Utah and Colorado are peer states, a pair of high-altitude economic powerhouses competing to attract the same growth-minded businesses and mobile workers in search of the best quality of life. What lessons can we learn from Colorado, and what can they learn from us?

The two states have many economic similarities — rapid growth, young populations, high household incomes, low poverty and unemployment rates, strong business climate rankings. But where do the similarities end? And which is better poised for stronger growth going forward? Our children's futures depend on being able to answer these questions and learn lessons from peer states like Colorado.

Earlier this month, Voices for Utah Children released the first half of our two-part comparison of Utah and Colorado, comparing the two states for 21 measures of economic opportunity. The results shed light on these questions and include a lot of good news for Utah, as well as some caution signs — and at least one "red alert" warning.

Utah ranks among the very best states in the nation for our low level of income inequality and high rate of intergenerational social mobility. A child growing up in a lower-income family in Utah has a better chance than elsewhere of making it into the middle class. This is thanks to a combination of factors, including our strong commitment to equalizing educational revenue among the wealthier and poorer areas of the state, our success at preventing geographic concentration of poverty, the highest rate of two-parent families in the nation, and our strong charitable and religious institutions that do such a great job of mobilizing volunteers to help neighbors in need.

While Colorado ranks more in the middle of the pack for income inequality and social mobility, our neighbor to the east shines when it comes to educational attainment, with one of the highest rates of bachelor's degrees in the nation. In 2014, 39.4 percent of Colorado adults age 25-64 had a bachelor's degree, nearly 8 points above the national average of 31.5 percent. For historical perspective, in 1990 Colorado's lead over the nation for bachelor's degrees was only 6.5 percentage points.

By this very important metric, unfortunately, Utah's trend is in the opposite direction. In 1990 we led the nation by 1.3 percentage points for bachelor's degrees. But our lead has been steadily diminishing since then, and in 2014, for the first time on record, Utah fell behind the nation for bachelor's degrees among adults age 25-64. Moreover, data for millennials — adults age 25-34 — indicate that this trend will only worsen in the years to come.

This is the red alert warning mentioned above. Falling behind on college degrees could have grave consequences for Utah's ability to grow good jobs and compete for high-wage industries in the years to come. We already lag far behind Colorado in worker productivity — by nearly $10,000 per worker — which is the economic basis for wages and standard of living.

If there is one glimmer of hope for Utah in the college comparison, it's that, even after all the budget cuts and tuition hikes of the last decade, we continue to invest more than Colorado in our public universities — $7,752 per student vs. $4,754. That helps keep tuition 35 percent lower in Utah than next door, though at $6,363 on average, it is still 37 percent higher than before the Great Recession.

But the investment edge that Utah enjoys in higher ed vanishes at the early end of public education. Not only do we invest less per pupil in K-12 than any other state, including Colorado, we are weakest when it comes to pre-K and kindergarten. Only 13 percent of our 4-year-olds attend public pre-school vs. three times that in Colorado. And a similar share attend full-day kindergarten here vs. 74 percent in Colorado.

And while we find good news in the 4th and 8th grade NAEP math and reading assessments, where Utah's performance jumped sharply to 14th place in 2015 from 23rd in 2013, we remain far behind when we adjust the scores for demographic differences. Our demographically-adjusted NAEP ranking only improved from 47th place to 44th, while Colorado fell from 12th to 22nd.

As Utah builds on our many assets and grapples with our challenges in the years to come, we believe this benchmarking information can contribute to understanding why we are succeeding and how we can ensure our continued success in the years and generations to come. 


Read the complete reports here:

A Comparative Look at Utah and Colorado:


For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express for sponsoring our 30th Anniversary Year. Amex

Published in News & Blog

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has released a new report, State Estate Taxes: A Key Tool for Broad Prosperity.  The report makes the following recommendation:

As the income gap between the wealthiest Americans and those at the bottom and middle has widened in recent years, many states have eliminated their estate tax ― a key tool for reducing inequality and building broadly shared prosperity. States that have eliminated their estate tax should reinstate it and those with an estate tax should keep it and, if needed, improve it. 


For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express for sponsoring our 30th Anniversary Year. Amex

Published in News & Blog
Tagged under

dreamstime s 40303844 working mom baby cropped verticalThe goal of the Working Families Benchmarking Project is to identify a variety of economic trends affecting working families across Utah, and then to examine those issues through a comparative lens, evaluating Utah’s overall progress by using a peer state as a benchmark. Colorado was chosen for this inaugural edition, in part for its geographic proximity to Utah — and thus relatively similar regional identity — as well as for its comparable rates of economic and population growth, demographics, and policy challenges.

Many existing economic comparison studies and rankings look at the economy as a whole or at its impact on specific sectors or on employers.  This project seeks to augment those very useful comparisons by focusing on how the economy is experienced by middle and lower-income families. In particular, it is these families whose children are most at risk for not achieving their potential in school and later in the workplace and in society in general.  Thus, how they experience the economy is of particular interest to Voices for Utah Children.   

In Part I of the Project, we focus on economic opportunity. The dynamism, flexibility, and competitiveness of a state’s economy is a major contributor to economic opportunity, so we look at this topic through a wide range of metrics, from business climate and entrepreneurship rankings to educational attainment and demographic gaps.  

Utah ranks ahead of Colorado in:

  • colorado is ahead of Utah GDP but Utah is closing the gapBusiness climate rankings
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth
  • Lower unemployment
  • Labor force participation
  • Higher education system investment
  • Referring fewer minority youth to the correctional system
  • Reducing inequality and increasing social mobility

Colorado outpaces Utah in:

  • Pre-K and kindergarten enrollment
  • K-12 investment and performance
  • Higher education attainment
  • Workforce productivity
  • Entrepreneurship
  • The status of women in the economy

working families benchmark utah colorado

The gaps in educational attainment are perhaps the finding
of greatest concern for Utah’s long-term future.

education rankings Utah and Colorado 10124 image001

Utah fell behind in college degrees

Since education is the foundation of opportunity and prosperity in a modern economy, Colorado’s success in educating its population and attracting highly educated migrants from other states may well hold lessons for Utah. Utah is wise to invest more that Colorado in higher education to attempt to make up this gap and should apply a similar lesson in the area of pre-K-12 funding.

As Utah builds on its many assets and grapples with its challenges in the years to come, we hope that this benchmarking project may contribute in a constructive way to the broader economic policy conversation among experts, policymakers, and the general public.  

For more detailed information, see the complete printer-friendly report:

benchmarking utah colorado cover 1
pdf Working Families Benchmarking Project Part One: Economic Opportunity

These measures of economic opportunity also relate directly to the questions we address in Part 2: Standard of Living.

 

 

 


For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express for sponsoring our 30th Anniversary Year. Amex

Published in News & Blog