Hats go off to Representative Draxler today for his valiant attempt to increase teacher salary, fund the pay for performance mandates that will go into effect next year, and increase technology in the classroom. The struggle to balance taxpayers’ general distaste for taxes and public educators’ general taste for increased salary and support is a difficult one and one we applaud Draxler for taking up. The bill failed to pass out of Committee in an 11-2 vote, Representative Poulson and Representative Moss the only two affirming votes, but the political courage to raise the issue and assert its dire need did not go unnoticed.
Draxler began his presentation by explaining some of the economic background in this state. In 2007, the income tax rate was reduced from 7% – 5%. During the Great Recession, the education budget took a major hit, as did many other budgets. As the economy has improved, so have revenue earnings but any increase in the WPU that has gone to teacher salary has been offset by reductions in retirement or other cutbacks for teachers. Draxler urged the Committee that, while he hates taxes as much as anyone, “the point is we’ve danced around this topic for years and we’ve tried to pull a little bit of money from here and there and we’ve tried to use various methods, none of which have long-term addressed the problem: to elevate the teaching profession and to award those who are teaching at a high level.” He concluded his presentation by stating, “It is disingenuous to say education is our #1 priority and not being willing to step up and fund it.”
When the floor opened up for public comments, several members of the audience spoke in favor of the bill. Notably, Superintendent Norton of Cache District asked the Committee for its support, stating “the real crux of this bill is to compensate teachers”. Syd Dickson, Associate Superintendent at USOE asked the Committee to consider the mandate now codified in law that requires a pay for performance program to go into effect beginning in 2016-2017 school year and stated any existing funds out there are minimal at best and are already dedicated elsewhere. Deon Turley with the PTA shared a straw poll taken among members at a recent conference wherein an overwhelmingly majority stated they would support an increase in taxes if it went to the classroom.
At the end of the day, however, the $228/year tax increase per family of 4 was too much to ask legislators and the bill was overwhelmingly defeated. Sorry teachers. It looks like it’s (still) not your year.