OPINION: Public education isn’t free – and Question 1 won’t be, either.

Oct 15, 2018, 5:39 PM
school safety...
File photo of students at Brockbank Elementary School raising their hands to ask questions. (Ravell Call/Deseret News)
(Ravell Call/Deseret News)

On the ballot, this November, we’re going to get to our say on Nonbinding Opinion Question 1: whether we should raise taxes by 10 cents per gallon and put the money toward schools.

People are talking about this idea like the only way you could be against it is if you hate kids, but I’ve got to be honest —

I don’t like this. I am not a fan of this idea at all.

I know that’s not a popular opinion, and a lot of you won’t like hearing that. But we need to talk about this before we go out to the polls and vote for an idea that could be a huge mistake for Utah.

There are serious problems with this plan, and before you vote, you need to know about them.

Question 1 taxes the wrong people

Utah gas prices are 28 cents higher than the national average. (Peter Samore/KSL Newsradio)

Public education is not free education.

We’ve been lying to ourselves about this for too long. We put up smoke-and-mirror shows by taxing everything that isn’t related to education so that we can trick ourselves into think that our schools are free — but they’re not.

Question 1 plans on getting its money through gas taxes, but is that really a good idea?

Gas is already incredibly expensive in Utah. Our prices are 28 cents higher than the national average, and we’re just making them higher and higher every chance we get.

Our taxes went up by about 5 cents per gallon less than two years ago, and now we’re planning on adding another 10 cents to that. If we pass this bill, we’ll have put our gas taxes up by 15 cents per gallon in just two years — and there are no plans to ever make that tax hike go away.

Who’s going to be paying for that?

It’s not going to be the people with money to spare. The people with lots of money lying around are driving cars with great gas mileage, or else have hybrids or even Teslas. If you’re wealthy, this tax isn’t going to pinch your wallet too badly.

But if you’re a trucker or someone who goes to work in the old gas-guzzler they bought used because it was the only thing you could afford, you’re going to be the one really paying for our kids’ schools.

This plan unfairly targets people who don’t have the money to spare – and all just so that we can trick ourselves into thinking that our schools are free.

There’s no reason to get this money through gas taxes. This could just as easily have been a tax on baloney, ice cream, or over-sized novelty mustache combs. We’re just picking on drivers so that we don’t have to admit that we’re paying for education.

If we really need the money, there are other ways we could get it. We could be make it a head tax and charge parents for each child they have in school. Or we could do fundraisers. Or we could be do almost literally anything else.

But a gas tax isn’t the right way to do it. For a lot of people who really can’t handle that extra charge, it’s going to add up, and it’s going to cut into their bottom line.

There is no plan for how to use the money

File photo of students at Daybreak Elementary School in South Jordan, taken on March 21, 2018. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

I like to know where my money’s going before I give it away. When legislators ask me for my money, I want to know what they’re actually going to do with it.

So, naturally, I was a little curious what the schools were going to do with the money they get if the bill behind Question 1 gets approved. And, well — I’ll just quote what it says on their website:

“Because each school has its own unique challenges, individual schools will determine how to best invest the new funds. Each local school board will create a framework guiding the use of funds, and schools would submit their plan to their board detailing how the new funding will improve student achievement.”

Okay, so you’re going to do — what exactly?

That doesn’t give any indication whatsoever about how the money is going to be used. All it tells me is that they’re asking for $180 million with no plan about how they’re going to use it.

As far as I can tell, the whole plan behind Question 1 is just to throw money at schools and hope it will somehow magically make our kids smarter.

And that would be great. It would be great if all we had to do is throw dollar bills into children’s faces until they’ve mastered chemistry. But that’s not how it really works.

I want our schools to be better. But let’s be honest: not every penny put into education is a penny well-spent. Sometimes, that money gets wasted.

I’ll say it again: public education isn’t free. It costs people an arm and a leg. And if there’s isn’t a plan to use this money wisely, I’m not convinced it’s worth paying more for it.

More to the story

We want you to vote this November — but we want you to be informed. And that means hearing both sides of the issue.

When we talked about this on KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic, we invited Question 1 supporters to respond to our worries and share why they plan on voting “yes”.

If you missed the show live, I encourage you to listen to everything they had to say on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

Listen on Apple PodcastsListen on Google Play Music

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OPINION: Public education isn’t free – and Question 1 won’t be, either.