Education

This October we celebrate Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM), a month of bringing awareness to and encouraging and inspiring action on behalf of young people that have and are currently being impacted by our criminal justice system.

Voices is committed to advocating for a more fair and equitable juvenile justice system and do so through assessing current juvenile justice policies and practices as well as partnering with the Utah Board of Juvenile Justice on key initiatives.

Below you will find recommendations for system involved youth and their families when interacting with the court system, along with other information and research in support of a more equitable juvenile justice system.

We also invite you to join us on October 20th as we celebrate Youth Justice Action Month with an online showcase highlighting and elevating youth voices including those that have had experience in the juvenile justice system. 


Recommendations for Utah Policymakers, Courts, and Youth & Families 


In August, we released a new report, Who's Helping Kids in Utah Courts? in which we assessed Utah's system for ensuring that all children in juvenile delinquency court are being represented by a defense attorney through a series of court observations.

The report had some good news to celebrate including that over the past two years, Utah children appearing in juvenile court without a defense attorney decreased from 33% statewide to less than 5%, revealing that Utah children now almost never waive their right to an attorney. 

Furthermore, our findings lead to several recommendations for policy makers, the juvenile courts, and youth and their families that are system involved. These recommendations are available in both English and Spanish. 

Who's Helping Kids in Utah Courts?: Executive Summary & Recommendations  English | Spanish


Juvenile Record Expungement Clinic (Register by Friday, October 8) 


Expungement Flyer

We are pleased to partner with the Utah Board of Juvenile Justice & Utah Juvenile Defender Attorneys in their efforts to provide a virtual juvenile delinquency record expungement clinic on October 29, 2021 and is providing FREE assistance with applications for expungement.

The clinic is open to individuals with juvenile delinquency cases which were originally processed in Salt Lake County, Tooele County or Summit County.

The deadline to apply is October 8th. Space is limited and registration is required. Register today at: bit.ly/expunge123 Questions? Please email

And Yet We Rise: October 20, 2021 at 3:30pm 


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In recognition of October as Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM), we have partnered with the Utah Board of Juvenile Justice to host a free, public, virtual event at 3:30pm on October 20, 2021. And Yet We Rise will elevate the voices of young people, including those who have experience in the juvenile justice system, through a variety of formats interwoven into an online showcase. Leaders, both youth and adult, will be awarded for their service and commitment to the juvenile justice system. Register here today! 


Recent Reports and Information 


Below is a list of recent publications in regards to supporting a more equitable juvenile justice system in Utah. 


Racial & Ethnic Disparities Advisory Committee


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The Utah Board of Juvenile Justice (UBJJ) has a state Racial and Ethnic Disparities Advisory Committee that is dedicated to addressing racial and ethnic disparities at key points in the youth justice system. The committee has county-level working groups in areas with the highest concentration of youth of color: Salt Lake, Utah, and Weber. If you are passionate about youth justice and would like to get involved, please contact Alyssha Dairsow at

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On May 18, 2021, as it always does around this time of year, the US Census Bureau released its Annual Survey of School System Finances. This report is the authoritative source of state education finance data and rankings, including the one we are all familiar with that has ranked Utah last in the nation for per-pupil K-12 education investment every year since 1988. This year's report, which as always covered the data from two years ago (the 2018-19 school year), included both good news and bad news for Utah. 

On the positive side, Utah has finally defeated Idaho in the annual fight for 49th place. Voices for Utah Children has been tracking this annual battle for a number of years. We've come close in the past, and in FY2019 we finally won, by a grand total of $29 per pupil or $19 million overall, as illustrated in the chart below: 

Utah Idaho educ gap chart 2008 2019

 On the negative side, Utah's "education funding effort," a measure of the share of state personal income that we invest in K-12 education, continued its long decline. in the 1990s, Utah invested a total of 6% of our personal income in our education system the 1990s, but that share has fallen by more than a third, to under 4% today, as shown in the chart below: 

ED EFFORT 93 19

The blue line is total education revenue, including revenues used for capital spending (such as new school buildings), while the red line shows only current expenditures, which excludes capital spending. (Utah tends to spend a higher share of overall education revenue on capital compared to other states because our rapidly growing population requires more frequent construction of new school buildings.)

As our education funding effort has declined, so has our national ranking for education funding effort. In the 1990s we consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally for education funding effort, but now we're in the bottom 10-15, as shown below:

ED EFFORT rank 93 19

 Voices for Utah Children's most recent economic benchmarking report, comparing Utah to Arizona and to the nation as a whole, discusses the question of whether Utah's economic development strategy needs to transition away from our practice of passing regular tax breaks (on average $100 million annually for the last 25 years, adding up now to about $2.5 billion each year, intended to spur job growth) and instead focus on rolling back some tax breaks and restoring some revenues so we can address the unmet needs in our education system -- our high class sizes and rates of teacher attrition that are contributing to our low high school graduation and college completion rates, including large gaps between different demographic groups. 

MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE NEW CENSUS DATA: 

 

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February 24, 2021

The High Price of Lower Taxes

Legislative leaders have said that 2021 should be “the year of the tax cut.” Numerous public opinion surveys show that Utahns disagree. This may come as a surprise to policymakers, who have been in the habit of handing out tax break after tax break for decades.

But there seems to be an increasing public awareness that Utah is now paying a price for decades of tax cutting that have left us with the lowest overall tax level in 50 years relative to Utah personal income.

UTAH'S URGENT UNMET NEEDS

We all like being able to pay less in taxes. But there is a growing understanding that tax cuts are leaving us unable to address the long list of urgent unmet needs in education, infrastructure, social services, air quality, public health, and many other areas that affect our standard of living and quality of life. All of these issues will shape the Utah that our children will one day inherit. 

Outlined below are some examples of the urgent unmet needs in Utah. 

Early Care and Education

Amount

Unmet Need

$500-600 Million/Year

Envision Utah estimates that we need to invest an additional $500-600 million each year just to reduce teacher turnover, where we rank among the worst in the nation. 

Our leaders’ unwillingness to solve our education underinvestment problem is why our high school graduation rate is below the national average (after adjusting for demographics) and our younger generation of adults (age 25-34) have fallen behind their counterparts nationally for educational attainment at the college level (BA/BS+).

$52.5 Million/Year Voices for Utah Children estimates that it will cost $52.5 million to make full-day Kindergarten available to all Utah families who would choose to opt in to it.
$1 Billion Well over $1 billion is one estimate for a much needed comprehensive system of early childhood care and education (pre-k) in Utah.

 

Health

Amount

Unmet Need

$59 Million/Year

It would cost Utah about $59 million each year to cover all of our 82,000 uninsured children.

The longstanding preference for tax cuts over covering all kids is why we rank last in the nation for covering the one-in-six Utah kids who are Latinx and why the state as a whole ranks in the bottom 10 nationally for uninsured children.

 

Human Services

Area 

Unmet Need

Mental Health & Substance Abuse Treatment

Utah ranks last in the nation for mental health treatment access, according to a 2019 report from the Gardner Policy Institute.

A 2020 report from the Legislative Auditor General found that Utah’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative had failed to achieve its goal to reduce recidivism -- and actually saw recidivism rise -- in part because “both the availability and the quality of the drug addiction and mental health treatment are still inadequate.” (pg 51)

Disability Services

The DSPD disability services waiting list has doubled in the last decade from 1,953 people with disabilities in 2010 to 3,911 in 2020.

The FY20 $1 million one-time appropriation made it possible to provide services to 143 people from the waiting list.  

Domestic Violence The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition 2017 Needs Assessment identified insufficient funding for shelters, affordable housing, child care, legal representation, and mental health and substance abuse treatment services as major obstacles to protecting women from domestic violence. 
Seniors

The official poverty measure undercounts senior poverty by about a third because it does not consider the impact of out-of-pocket medical expenses.

2018 study found that seniors spent $5,503 per person on out-of-pocket medical expenses in 2013, making up 41% of their Social Security income. (For most seniors, Social Security is the majority of their income, and it makes up 90% or more of income for 21% of married couples and about 45% of unmarried seniors.)  

 

Infrastructure, Environment, and Housing

 Area

Unmet Need

Infrastructure

The American Society of Civil Engineers gives Utah a C+ grade for infrastructure in its December 2020 report

The Utah Transportation Coalition has identified a funding shortfall of nearly $8 billion over the next two decades.

Air Quality  The Wasatch Front ranks as the 11th worst air quality in the nation for ozone and 7th worst for short-term particle pollution
Housing

Affordable housing units fall 41,266 units short of meeting the need for the 64,797 households earning less than $24,600. Among extremely low-income renter households, 71% pay more than 50% of their income for housing, which is considered a severe housing burden.

The FY21 affordable housing appropriation request for $35 million from Sen. Anderegg, which was already just a small step in the right direction, was reduced to just $5 million.

 

WHY TAX CUTS ARE A BIG DEAL

Some legislators have said to us, "What's the big deal with $100 million of tax cuts out of a $22 billion budget?".

The big deal is that we’ve been cutting, on average, about $100 million every single year for the last 25 years.

Voices for Utah Children’s research has found that tax cuts from the last 25 years has left us short $2.4 billion each year, amounting to an 18% cut to public revenues.

One could even call us a “slow-motion Kansas” because in 2012 they cut taxes overnight by 15%, leading to an economic slump and political backlash that saw the Republican legislature reverse the cuts in 2017 and the public elect a Democratic governor in 2018.

But here in Utah, we’re like the proverbial frog in the pot of water heating on the stove. The devastating impacts of these revenue reductions have been slow and incremental, so we’ve come to accept as normal a state of affairs that Kansans quickly reversed.

Instead of figuring out the fairest way to restore some of those lost revenues so we can address our most urgent challenges, Utah’s political leadership continues to pass new tax cuts every year, generally skewed toward the top of the income scale.

For example, Voices for Utah Children analyzed two of the tax cuts proposed this year and found that they excluded lower-income Utahns completely and mostly went to the highest-income households – even though their supporters said publicly that they are intended to help low- and middle-income Utahns.

Public opinion surveys conducted last year by the Deseret News and Hinckley Institute, by the Utah Foundation, and by Envision Utah all found a strong popular preference for public investment over tax cuts.

Same thing with surveys this month by the Deseret News-Hinckley Institute and by Voices for Utah Children.

Breaking old habits can be hard. As is often the case, the public appears to be ahead of our political leaders. But let's hope that they too will eventually come to appreciate the wisdom of their constituents, who are increasingly aware of the high price Utah is paying for lower taxes.


Utah has been fortunate in weathering the current recession. This gives us a unique opportunity to be able to make smart long-term investments at a time when other states are cutting budgets. As a State we need to take advantage of this situation and invest in Utah kids, not tax cuts.

THIS OP-ED APPEARED IN THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE ON MARCH 1, 2021

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Salt Lake City - Voices for Utah Children released publicly today (January 6, 2021)  "#InvestInUtahKids: An Agenda for Utah's New Governor and Legislature," the first major publication of our new #InvestInUtahKids initiative. 

Utah begins a new era in this first week of January, with the swearing in of a new Governor and Lt. Governor and a new Legislature. The arrival of 2021 marks the first time in over a decade that the state has seen this kind of leadership transition. Last month Voices for Utah Children began sharing with the Governor-elect and his transition teams the new publication, and on Wednesday morning Voices will share it with the public as well.

The new publication raises concerns about the growing gaps among Utah's different racial, ethnic, and economic groups and lays out the most urgent and effective policies to close those gaps and help all Utah children achieve their full potential in the years to come in five policy areas: 

  • Early education 
  • K-12 education 
  • Healthcare
  • Juvenile justice
  • Immigrant family justice

The report, which was initially created in December and distributed to the incoming Governor and his transition teams, closes with a discussion of how to pay for the proposed #InvestInUtahKids policy agenda. The pdf of the report can be downloaded here

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