Utah’s legislative session began Monday and a new poll shows education is the top priority among voters. More than 500 Utahns were asked questions about the what issues concern them the most in the state and this year, the poll shows voters are more willing to pay more to make public education stronger.
For the past four years the Utah Center for Public Policy and Administration, along with the Exoro Group, has worked with Dan Jones and Associates to get a feel for what issues are most important to Utahns going into the legislative session.
This year, Jennifer Robinson, Director of the Utah Center for Public Policy and Administration says the answer was overwhelmingly education.
“The survey showed us that 88 percent of Utahn’s believe that it is important or very important that the state focus on education," she said.
Such a majority is the largest it has been since the survey started, and many of those polled where specific on what they wanted lawmakers to focus on when it comes to public education.
“Utahns really want legislatures to make sure students learn how to read by the end of third grade. 87 percent of the people polled said that is near or at the top of their priority list for the session. Then investing in public education, 80 percent said that is near or at the top of the list for them.”
But what surprised Robinson the most, she said, was that many voters polled said they would be willing to put their money where their mouth is by raising taxes to help fund public education.
“Our income tax rate is at 5 percent in the state and by law all income tax revenue goes to fund public education. So we asked the question would you favor or oppose an increase in the income tax rate knowing it goes to fund public education and 55 percent said they would somewhat or favor an increase in income tax.”
Utah has consistently ranked last in per pupil spending in public education.