On May 18, 2021, as it always does around this time of year, the US Census Bureau released its Annual Survey of School System Finances. This report is the authoritative source of state education finance data and rankings, including the one we are all familiar with that has ranked Utah last in the nation for per-pupil K-12 education investment every year since 1988. This year's report, which as always covered the data from two years ago (the 2018-19 school year), included both good news and bad news for Utah. 

On the positive side, Utah has finally defeated Idaho in the annual fight for 49th place. Voices for Utah Children has been tracking this annual battle for a number of years. We've come close in the past, and in FY2019 we finally won, by a grand total of $29 per pupil or $19 million overall, as illustrated in the chart below: 

Utah Idaho educ gap chart 2008 2019

 On the negative side, Utah's "education funding effort," a measure of the share of state personal income that we invest in K-12 education, continued its long decline. in the 1990s, Utah invested a total of 6% of our personal income in our education system the 1990s, but that share has fallen by more than a third, to under 4% today, as shown in the chart below: 


The blue line is total education revenue, including revenues used for capital spending (such as new school buildings), while the red line shows only current expenditures, which excludes capital spending. (Utah tends to spend a higher share of overall education revenue on capital compared to other states because our rapidly growing population requires more frequent construction of new school buildings.)

As our education funding effort has declined, so has our national ranking for education funding effort. In the 1990s we consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally for education funding effort, but now we're in the bottom 10-15, as shown below:

ED EFFORT rank 93 19

 Voices for Utah Children's most recent economic benchmarking report, comparing Utah to Arizona and to the nation as a whole, discusses the question of whether Utah's economic development strategy needs to transition away from our practice of passing regular tax breaks (on average $100 million annually for the last 25 years, adding up now to about $2.5 billion each year, intended to spur job growth) and instead focus on rolling back some tax breaks and restoring some revenues so we can address the unmet needs in our education system -- our high class sizes and rates of teacher attrition that are contributing to our low high school graduation and college completion rates, including large gaps between different demographic groups. 



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Salt Lake City - Voices for Utah Children released publicly today (January 6, 2021)  "#InvestInUtahKids: An Agenda for Utah's New Governor and Legislature," the first major publication of our new #InvestInUtahKids initiative. 

Utah begins a new era in this first week of January, with the swearing in of a new Governor and Lt. Governor and a new Legislature. The arrival of 2021 marks the first time in over a decade that the state has seen this kind of leadership transition. Last month Voices for Utah Children began sharing with the Governor-elect and his transition teams the new publication, and on Wednesday morning Voices will share it with the public as well.

The new publication raises concerns about the growing gaps among Utah's different racial, ethnic, and economic groups and lays out the most urgent and effective policies to close those gaps and help all Utah children achieve their full potential in the years to come in five policy areas: 

  • Early education 
  • K-12 education 
  • Healthcare
  • Juvenile justice
  • Immigrant family justice

The report, which was initially created in December and distributed to the incoming Governor and his transition teams, closes with a discussion of how to pay for the proposed #InvestInUtahKids policy agenda. The pdf of the report can be downloaded here

Published in News & Blog
July 30, 2020

Early Learning and Care

Early childhood education is one of the best ways to invest in future success for Utah kids and, by extension, our entire state! 

For every dollar we spend on positive interventions for children under six, we can save between $7 and $10 in later years (through reduced reliance on government benefits, lower utilization of special education and fewer instances of criminal justice involvement).  

When we invest in early learning opportunities for children, regardless of their family background, we are ensuring positive outcomes for Utah overall. These outcomes include an educated workforce, empowered parents, economic prosperity and safer communities. 

Early education can be a bridge to opportunity for low-income children, in particular. High quality pre-school and child care help all children start school ready to learn and succeed resulting in: higher academic achievement, increased graduation rates and enhanced future self-sufficiency. 

That is why, at Voices for Utah Children, we promote targeted investments in early childhood care and education, woven together into an efficient, effective early learning system in Utah that supports and empowers families.

Whether Utah’s littlest kids spend their days at home with their parents, in formal child care, in private or public pre-school or with family and friends, they all deserve as much attention and support as our community can provide them!

Published in 2020 Issues
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