Organizers for the ballot initiative Our Schools Now held seven public information meetings across the state last night. Those who attended shared enthusiastic support along with some skepticism.
Each meeting was held at an elementary school, from St. George up to Logan. At Wasatch Elementary in Salt Lake City a group nearly filled the school gym. Those who wished to speak were given 3 minutes each.
Mary Bailey, a former teacher and administrator with 41 years experience said she is a big supporter of Our Schools Now, which would raise Utah taxes to provide an additional $865 million for public schools over the next three years. Bailey likes how that money will be spent at the discretion of school administrators.
“Every school has different needs and the principal will know that. And the teachers. And the community," said Bailey.
Mischelle Gray, parent of three, doesn’t share that enthusiasm. She feels confused that while Our Schools Now supporters say teachers are a priority, only 25 percent of the tax increase can be spent on teacher salary. She also sees Utah schools as successful in their current state.
"We outscore in testing many states that spend twice as much, three times as much, so why isn’t anyone asking what’s happening there," Gray said.
The campaign director for Our Schools Now, Austin Cox, says that statewide 400 residents attended these information meetings. He and the other organizers now have 14 days to determine if the feedback on Tuesday night will lead to any changes. But Cox still feels good about the proposal as it stands.
“We feel that our proposal is a pretty good representation of the best thing that could be put together," says Cox.
These town halls fulfilled a critical step in the path to the ballot. Next up is gathering 113,000 signatures before April. Cox believes that is very doable and expects Utahns will be voting on the initiative by November 2018.