State Policy

Supporting families with young children remains a top policy priority of Voices for Utah Children, leading into the 2024 session. Central to our advocacy efforts is addressing the critical child care needs of these families.

We are currently working with several legislators to propose much-needed public investment in the child care sector. We will also be supporting multiple early care and education bills being championed by other legislators and organizations. Here’s the rundown:

  • Child Care Grants Amendments (Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy): This proposal extends Utah’s current child care stabilization grant program, funded at 50% of the original grant size. Requesting $120 million annually for the next two years as an emergency stopgap measure, this bill aims to preserve some of the recent progress made in expanding child care program accessibility statewide. Specifically, this funding would be directed toward improving wages and benefits for the child care professionals who are critical to the sector. 
  • Child Care Grants Modifications (Rep. Ashlee Matthews, D-Kearns): This bill also extends a successful COVID-era program that supports existing, and recruiting new child care programs statewide. Requesting $750,000 annually for the next three years, the grants will be available to Utah’s six Regional “Care About Child Care” Resource and Referral agencies. These agencies have been integral to expanding Utah’s child care availability over the last three years, with region-specific approaches to recruitment, professional development, and technical assistance. 
  • Child Care Workforce Retention (Rep. Ashlee Matthews, D-Kearns): This legislation will expand access to the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP or child care subsidies) for individuals working in the child care sector. Modeled after a successful retention effort in Kentucky, this legislation allows child care program employees to qualify for child care subsidies regardless of income - providing a powerful incentive for new workers to join the field, and to retain current employees. Wee estimate this program will cost around $15 million a year (supporting up to 3,400 young children with parents in the workforce). 
  • Child Tax Credit Modifications (Rep. Susan Pulsipher, R-South Jordan): Seeking to expand Utah’s new and very limited Child Tax Credit, this bill allows families to claim a tax benefit for any child aged 1 to 4. We support Rep. Pulsipher’s effort, but strongly recommend making the tax credit available for families with any child between birth and age five. Additionally, the Child Tax Credit should be made refundable to include low-income families who are currently excluded, and to ensure that all families receive the full benefit of $1,000 per year per child. 
  • School Readiness Grant Program Modernization (Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden): This bill will streamline and improve the state’s current High Quality School Readiness (HQSR) program, which funds high-quality preschool for hundreds of Utah children each year through public schools and private child care centers. Promise Partnership Utah, our partner organization leading out on this bill, is also advocating for additional funding to be invested in this high-return program. 
  • Public-Private Child Care Development Pilot Program (Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City): This legislation will create an innovative pilot program to encourage collaboration between private businesses, public agencies, and private child care providers. Sen. Escamilla’s bill involves retrofitting unused state buildings for child care programming, contracting with child care providers in good standing with the state, and recruiting local employers to offer program spots to their own employees. A portion of the child care spots would also be open to state employees and the broader community. 
  • Child Care Program Sales Tax Exemption (Rep. Christine Watkins, R-Carbon, Duchesne, Price, and Castle Dale): This bill will allow for a sales and use tax exemption for construction materials used to construct or expand a child care program.

This blog post will be updated as we learn of new child care-related legislation.


With the governor working on budget recommendations and legislators preparing for the upcoming legislative session, it's time to advocate to include public investment in early learning and care in Utah's state budget priorities! 

Write to your elected officials here

Published in News & Blog

At two large pre-legislative events in the second week of January, hundreds of attendees heard Utah's Senate President proudly assert that Utah was the only state that increased education funding during the pandemic. 

Every year, especially around the end of every legislative session, Utah's political leaders proclaim that they are putting record amounts of funding into education. 

Unfortunately, these claims are contradicted by the data published by the Utah State Board of Education in its Superintendent's Annual Report

Real FY21 and FY22 State + Local Education Funding Did Not Rise -- It Fell

 Real State Local K 12 Education Funding

These data are from the USBE Superintendent's Annual Reports, adjusted for inflation using the standard CPI-U inflation index from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. They show that Utah's real (inflation-adjusted) state + local education funding fell in both FY21 and FY22, both in total and on a per-student basis. (During those two fiscal years, the Utah Legislature passed over $300 million in income tax cuts.) 

State Education Funding Has Fallen While Local Education Funding Has Risen

FY2022 real per student state K 12 funding

We have heard legislative leaders assert every year that they have appropriated record amounts for education. We have also sometimes heard them say that local education funding (from property taxes) has not kept up, and that is the reason that overall education funding is inadequate to reduce Utah's largest-in-the-nation class sizes or address our high rates of new teacher turnover. Yet the data from USBE show two trends that contradict these claims, as illustrated in the chart above: 

    1. Real per-student state education funding was 2.5% lower in 2022 than in 2008 (the peak year for education funding before the Great Recession). 
    2. Real per-student local education funding was 12% higher in 2022 than in 2008. 

It is also worth noting, in this context, that permanently cutting the state income tax rate, as the Legislature has done in recent years and is considering doing once again this year, tends to put additional pressure on local property taxes to make up the difference for schools. The income tax and the property tax are the two main sources of funding for education. If policymakers intentionally and repeatedly undermine one of them, that inevitably creates pressure to increase the other (or allow it to increase naturally, as has happened the last two years with property taxes as home values have shot up).  

Can We Have Record Education Funding and Record Tax Cuts?

Legislative leaders have used their incorrect claims that Utah increased education funding during the pandemic to bolster their case that Utah can have it all -- record high levels of education funding and record tax cuts. But USBE data reveal that, in fact, we cannot have it all, that tradeoffs exist, and that hard choices must be made. If we have record tax cuts, we likely will not have record levels of education funding. If we want to strengthen education finance for the long-term betterment of our children and our state, we ought to consider what we are giving up when we give in to the tax cut temptation.  

One Final Comment: Inputs vs Outcomes

Needless to say, this entire discussion concerns only inputs to, not outcomes of, our K-12 public education system. But, as one superintendent wisely observed over a decade ago, "We cannot have the best school system in the country and be the lowest in the country in funding. We can't be first if we're always last." 

While there is little doubt that Utah does more with less in our public schools better than probably any other state, there are several key educational outcome measures that most concern Voices for Utah Children: 

  • Our high school graduation rates are no higher than or below national averages for nearly every racial and ethnic category. 
  • Our high school graduation rate gaps between haves and have-nots and between majority and minority groups are larger than nationally.
  • Our rate of college degrees, an area where Utah's older generations outpaced the nation, has fallen behind the nation's among our younger generation, the Millennial generation, based on Census data for Utahns age 25-34

Closing these gaps and regaining our once enviable lead will require substantial new investments at every step in the pipeline, from expanding pre-K and full-day kindergarten options to reducing class sizes and new teacher turnover in our elementary, middle, and high schools, to ensuring that more of our sons and daughters finish what they start at our public colleges and universities. 

 Note: The charts in this blog post are from Voices for Utah Children's forthcoming "Children's Budget Report 2023" that will be published in February 2023.

Both graphs are available for download here

Methodology and Location of Data  

Utah’s education funding rises each year, but so does the student population. And prices rise due to inflation, which has been worse the last year than in 40 years. So how can we judge whether education funding is really going up, as our political leaders always claim? There is one metric considered to be the gold standard for this purpose: inflation-adjusted per-student spending. To calculate this metric, you need three pieces of data. The locations of these items are detailed below:

1. State, Local, and Federal Education Spending

Source: Utah State Board of Education Superintendent’s Annual Report at

Direct Document Link: Statewide Total: Revenue and Expenditures by Fund, June 30, 2022 

Comments: In the charts above, we used the state and local education spending data

2. K-12 Student Population

Source: Utah State Board of Education Superintendent’s Annual Report at

Direct Document Link:  Fall Enrollment by Grade Level and Demographics, October 1, School Year 2022-2023 

Comments: Be sure to use the fall enrollment data from the fall of the year you are analyzing. For example, for FY/SY22, use October 2021 enrollment data.   

3. Inflation Index CPI-U

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics 

Direct Document Link:  All Urban Consumers (Current Series) (Consumer Price Index - CPI)  U.S. city average, All items - CUUR0000SA0....then use “Annual Averages”  

Google Sheet with all collected data, sources & formulas


Published in News & Blog
January 17, 2023

Comparing the Tax Cuts