In the Jan. 12 Deseret News, we read that federal lands are blocking a source of income for public education. To protect Utah’s spectacular and unique geography, federal lands were part of the statehood package.
Federal lands are not the cause of the underfunding of Utah’s public education. With Utah’s high number of students per household, Utah’s per pupil expenditure is reasonably lower compared to other states, but our effort to educate our students should be among the highest in the nation.
In the mid-90s we were ranked in the top five states in percent of personal income being spent on public education. Since then our Legislature has made changes such that we are now ranked only about 30th in the nation. Without the federal lands, our state is approximately 36,550 square miles in size. There are 12 other states smaller than that. The four that are closest to that size are ranked 4th, 9th, 11th and 15th in percent of personal income going to education.
If our Legislature is not willing with our present resources to at least show a respectable effort, why should we believe that they would do any different if they were able to develop all of the federal lands? Yes, some people want to grab the federal lands, but it is not for the purpose of benefitting public education.