A few weeks into the school year and parents are again painfully reminded that Utah spends far less than other states on educating our children. A visit to the typical Utah classroom drives home that point. In Utah, spending on the average child is about $3000 less than what that child would receive in another state. We hear that Utah has the lowest per pupil spending, but what does that really mean for our children's education?
The student-teacher ratio in Utah elementary schools is more than double what it is in many other states. That means each Utah child has to share his or her teacher's attention with over twice as many other students as would be the case for that child in some other state! Many studies have shown that smaller class sizes can be more effective for learning, permit teachers to get to know individual students better, and contribute to fewer discipline problems in schools.
The problem isn't just what happens in the classroom. It affects a child's overall school experience. For example, Utah's guidance counselors are responsible for over four times the number of students as the national average for such counselors. That means each student gets less time with a guidance counselor helping them with their academics and their future plans. Those of us who have been parents of high school students know how harried those school counselors are when they have so many students to assist.
There are other ripple effects of lower spending. Teachers get paid less than they do in other states. The average Utah teacher pay is at least $10,000 less than the national average and is the lowest pay of teachers in the intermountain West. Each school librarian serves twice as many students as the national average. Utah's school nurses serve three to four times as many students as do their peers in similar states. These are real costs to our children.
And all of this is getting worse. This year the state legislature provided no funding for the thousands of children who are newly entering our school system this year. That means schools have absorbed new students without the funding they need to do so. All of our children will suffer because of that short-sighted decision.
The legislature said, during the couple of years immediately prior to the recession, that they boosted education, but their actions only slightly mitigated a 15-year neglect of public schools. And when the recession hit, they pared back an educational system that was already hurting because it has been starved for funds for so many years.
None of this has to be. I've spent many years in education as a teacher, administrator, and parent. I've seen these problems first hand. Our children deserve better. We need to devote more of our state's resources to educating our children. We can do so.
But the majority of our current state incumbent legislators won't do so. They caused the biggest share of the problem in the first place. When election time comes around in November, think about whether you like this situation and want it to continue, or whether you're ready for a change.
Steve Baugh, former Alpine School District superintendant, is Democratic candidate for state House District 58 (northeast Orem and Lindon).
- Doug Robinson: Utah man's new running shoe...
- Timothy R. Clark: Graduation advice for my...
- Letters: Threats justified
- My view: Nothing sinister about Common Core
- Snapshot of 2013 in political cartoons
- State pensions threaten to bleed states dry
- In our opinion: New leader in Iran, but...
- In our opinion: Limit the power of the...
- Letters: Stop the witch hunt 35
- John Florez: Show leadership on... 31
- Supreme Court, Congress, citizens: The... 27
- Letter: Media failure 25
- Robert Bennett: Sticking to facts is... 23
- Letters: Threats justified 23
- In our opinion: Limit the power of the... 18
- Doug Robinson: Utah man's new running... 17