Utah?s lack of education funds a disgrace

By By By Jonathan Deesing

By By Jonathan Deesing

Utah has long had the lowest per-pupil spending in the nation for public education. In fact, no current student in Utah’s public K-12 system has attended school when Utah was not the most miserly state in the nation. In our heavily conservative state, lawmakers are averse to raising taxes8212;the easiest and most effective way to increase funding.

Other reasons have kept this despicable tradition afloat, but the time for skirting the issue has long since passed. Regardless of their political affiliation, Utah lawmakers need to make whatever concessions necessary to remove this distinction from our state.

In its most recent expenditure report, the National Center for Education Statistics for the 2005-2006 school year showed that though the nation and neighboring states such as Nevada and Colorado spent an average of $10,000 per pupil, Utah spent a measly $6,600. Indeed, Utah spent less than Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands8212;not even proper states. Perhaps more embarrassing is the fact that no other state spent less than $7,300.

We’re a state of tradition. For proof, look at our old liquor laws. It took decades for someone to finally step up and call for an end to the nationally humiliating laws that crippled the restaurant and tourism industry in Utah.

Unfortunately, our tradition of meager public school spending is much less visible or even known nationally and locally. Low publicity is most likely the reason that Utah has slipped through the cracks for so many years. However, this might not last long.

The Utah Education Association has noticed our state’s inability to maintain spending with the national average and has committed to change it. On the UEA’s website, UEA President Kim Campbell said that though Utahns list education as a No. 1 priority in many surveys, the Utah Legislature is much less concerned.

She finished her July 28 report by saying, “It’s time to refocus on what is important and re-establish our commitment to education.”

She couldn’t be more correct. Too long have we expected Utah teachers to work with limited funds, too many students and not enough support. Utah teachers teach nearly seven more students than the national average, according to the NCES. And they do so with thousands of dollars less than teachers with smaller classrooms.

By paying teachers paltry salaries and expecting so much of them, Utah legislators have effectively limited the pool of available public educators. Why would college graduates
want to work longer and more stressful hours for tens of thousands of dollars less than a position in the private sector? The fact is, they wouldn’t.

By limiting funding, the Utah State Legislature is limiting students’ resources, education quality and ultimately, their future. Whether through reallocation of other funds or increased taxing, lawmakers need to do what is right, and they need to do it soon, before they hurt any more students’ educations.

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