Some solutions in place to close education gap, but is Utah willing to pay for them?
"It's the lack of an education that's expensive. Education is an investment. When you don't have the skills and the know-how you need, that's when it becomes an expense," she said.
Meeting these challenges will impact the state's economic future. But the challenges of meeting the needs of a more diverse school population also pose moral questions, she said.
"Are we (the school system) up to it? Is our community? Will we invest what we need to?"
Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, said the interests of children and financial wherewithal of the state would be better served by investing in early childhood education. Osmond sponsored legislation during the 2012 Legislature to create and fund a $5 million high quality preschool pilot program patterned after the Granite School District model.
While there is a growing body of research that confirms longitudinal benefits of early childhood education, it remains a tough sell among state lawmakers, Osmond said. He plans to introduce similar legislation in 2013.
Some legislators are skeptical of the data. Others believe early learning is the sole responsibility of the family.
"I understand those concerns and in many ways, I share them," Osmond said. "But if we invest wisely for a specific population now that's already disadvantaged, we could save millions of taxpayer funds down the road."
Editor's note: This report is part 3 of "Coming to our Census," a series of reports that takes a careful look at the issues posed by the changing demographics of Utah and the nation.
Part 1: The changing face of Utah - Are we ready to embrace the future?
Part 2: Poll results: Utahns welcome diversity but perceptions don't always match reality
Part 4: Latino students face barriers to higher education
Part 5: Minorities face hurdles in getting health care
Part 6: Immigrants, refugees can choose which aspects of culture to assimilate
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