Utah ranks 32nd in nation in overall high school graduation data
State's Hispanic students show a graduation rate of just 57 percent
Funding is a perennial challenge for schools in the state, but Park said recent years have seen the growth and diversification of Utah's student population while funding has dwindled as a result of the recession.
"We've seen, for many years, decreases in funding as our demographics have changed and our minority population has increased," she said. "I think that's creating some very difficult challenges in Utah."
At Tuesday's meeting of the education commission, members voted unanimously to recommend to the Legislature that growth in education be funded first and foremost, followed by compensation for teachers and professors and then funding for programs that would keep the state on pace with the goals set by Prosperity 2020.
The commission also voted to recommend that lawmakers pass a resolution outlining the Prosperity 2020 goals, which include benchmarks for reading proficiency, graduation rates, ACT testing as well as the primary goal of two-thirds of Utah's adult population holding some form of post-secondary certification by the year 2020.
"We are doing everything we can to raise the bar for achievement here in Utah," Herbert said. "And it is working. Our graduation rates are improving and that’s as it should be."
The state's Democratic Party chairman, Jim Dabakis, was less convinced that solutions were being found. In a prepared statement, he described the state's graduation rates as a "5-star emergency" and called on Republicans to put money where their mouths are.
"We simply cannot continue smug claims to be a state that values education, that 'does more with less,' when faced with such a horrendous record, and with no movement from Republicans in state government or the Legislature to right this sinking ship," he said. "Utah has hit a tipping point."
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