Thanks fro a great letter Breck! I was also struck by the editorial's
generalization of "those in the educational establishment". I think there are many of us outside of any "establishment" other than
parenthood that believe that our students are being short changed by inadequate
funding and large class sizes.
Lets talk solutions.Everybody wants smaller class sizes. We must
figure out why we can't get them.It's not just because the
legislature won't give education more money. The legislature gave
education a large funding increase this year (and ZERO of those millions of
dollars were used to decrease class size). 0% of those dollars made it to the
class room. No new teachers were hired (which would reduce class size). Those
dollars were snatch up by the teachers retirement fund. Didn't result in a
single smaller class.Everybody wants to pay teachers more. But what
number must we reach before some can go towards class size reduction??They took a cut years back when the economy and tax revenue tanked. But we
have increased funding significantly every year since. And every year... NONE
of it goes to reducing class size. So don't pretend more money would fix
the problem. We've tried it. It doesn't.You may say the
hundreds of millions in increase over the past 4 years wasn't enough.
Well... what IS enough??IF you can give us that number... we can
figure out the tax increases required... and vote on them...
@2 bits -- Part of a teacher's compensation is the retirement they receive.
So, if their retirement fund was inadequately funded, money had to go there to
shore it up. Had to be done. So now more money is needed to hire additional
teachers. I agree that someone should come up with the tax increase required
and put it to a vote. I think it would win.
@2bits, "Enough" would be the money needed to cut class size in half.
Then you would see astounding increases in performance. It would take about a
billion dollars to do that. We can afford it, but it won't happen as long
as Republicans continue to play poor boy in the so-called "prosperity,
full-employment state." You see, Utah parents will do anything for their
children . . . except pay for their education.
Wonder,Jordan School district put it to a vote last year... it lost. But that was for money to build new buildings. But you would need to
build more schools AND hire more teachers... to make classes smaller.===We have increased funding by millions almost every year. And
none of it has resulted in smaller class sizes. We need to figure out why we
keep giving them more and more money... but class sizes get no smaller.I say until we figure out why that is happening... no more increases.===IF the UEA can tell us a number of $$$s that will actually
result in smaller class sizes... then we can come up with a plan to provide that
number of $$$s, and figure out where we can get it (and who's paycheck we
will take it from).But we can't keep giving them millions more
every year based on the class-size lament... and continue seeing none of it make
it to the class room, or reducing class size (IMO).
2bits...The teachers retirement is set from taking the three highest
annual salaries, combine them, then multiple .2 (2 percent) for each year
worked.So if a teacher's three highest annual salaries is say
45,000 and they worked 30 years (2 percent * 30) the retirement for that teacher
is about 27,000 for retirement.But here is the rub, the money given
to the Board of Education for funding.... DOES NOT include retirement funds.
that is done through another revenue source (URA).So your premise is
flawed. Granted, the money is not ear marked for smaller classes,
but every legislator has their special pet projects they want funded in
education... that is where the money goes.
It's taken a long time for Utah to get into this predicament, and it will
take quite a bit of time - and money, and teacher turnover - to turn the ship
around.Finland has invested 2 or 3 DECADES in their educational
initiative, and it's paying off in a huge way. Of course, their teacher
salaries are much higher there - teachers are on par with physicians and
attorneys, and frequently have a teaching assistant in classrooms mandated to be
no more than 24 kids, or 18 kids for Math in middle and high school.The same teacher stays with the same group of kids from Kindergarten through
the 6th grade, and is expected to alter their teaching approach depending on the
learning style of the specific children they have.And with higher
teacher salaries, very talented and bright individuals are attracted to the
profession. Utah has a lot of dedicated, tireless teachers, but what have been
the incentives to attract extraordinary talent? Large class sizes, modest pay,
over multiple decades?I would be stunned if Utah mustered that level
of desire to improve education and stuck with the initiative over a generation.
Confused,It's not my premise. It may be false, but it's not
mine. I'm just repeating what was stated in an earlier article on the
announcement of the 2014 budget and the education funding increase (that 0% of
the increase will make it to the class room). And it was their statement that
most of the funding increase was already spoken for by the teacher's
retirement. ===I think teachers should be able to
retire comfortably. And they should be paid well while they are teaching.
But we need to figure out why 0% of this funding increase is projected to make
it to the class room, before we give them another one.People keep
saying, "Class sizes are too big... give us more money to fix it". We
keep giving them more money, but they don't fix it. We need to figure out
why that happens.You blame it on the Legislators... but they give
education a pool of money, they don't control how the education budget is
spent. Legislators don't hire teachers (so class size will be smaller)...
Bits wants to make this sound like higher math. "You give them the money and
look where they spend it." So the legislature just gives them the money and
lets them decide how to spend it? Fat chance. These legislators never met a
situation they didn't want to micro manage. They knew where the money was
going, but that is all they wanted to spend.Now for the math
problem: The path of Utah education has been going down in national ranking for
at least 20 years. Most years the funding doesn't even keep up with the
number of new pupils added to the rolls. To get off the bottom of the ranking
would take another 20 years to accomplish. So how about the pledge to fund all
growth at 100% of the WPU, 100% of the required payments (retirement etc.) AND
an additional 5% per year until our classes are at the national average and our
scores on tests put us in the top 25% in the country.Or we could
just point fingers and blame anyone but ourselves for lack of foresight.
2bits...Your partially right... The Legislature appropriate money
for the board of education, and basically the board is the one that divvy up the
money.....However, there are laws on the books that detail how much
and by what percentage is to be used for WPU (weighted Pupil Unit), Professional
Salary (Teachers, Principals, etc), class size and more.The problem
comes in when they allocate money for special programs...Then the
money is also based on what the District reports to the Board of Education, if
they don't send the right numbers, the money is not allocated to the school
districts. What the district does with the money is decided directly by the
district board (the ones you elect every two years)members.By the
way, The local media is wrong about 80 percent of the time when reporting on how
the money is being allocated.
Over the last ten years the state legislature has consistently lowered the k-12
share of the state budget from 50% down to 30% this year. All state income tax
collected by law must be spent on education. 10 years ago all that money went
to k-12. Changes in the law allowed for income tax to be used for higher
education as well. Money sources previously used for higher ed were used for
other programs most specifically UDOT. Five years ago the
legislature started playing an accounting game by moving things previously
automatically funded (retirement being the prime example) into the WPU, giving
the appearance of an increase in funding, because that is what the public
focuses on. Bottom line is TOTAL education funding is below what it was five
years ago with more than 60,000 additional students in our schools. State workers received a 1% raise with their insurance and retirement funded
on another line item. K-12 received 2.5 on the WPU but must fund retirement,
health insurance, raises, increases in utilities, fuel, new textbooks, busses,
etc etc etc. out of their 2.5%The legislature leads citizens to
believe they did more for schools, not true.
RE: Fred44 - "Over the last ten years the state legislature has consistently
lowered the k-12 share of the state budget... down to 30% this year"... Not true. Google "budget summary 2013 Utah".... 2014 not
online yet.Go to figure 4 - "Uses of State Funds General Fund"Education still gets ~50% of the entire State Budget (49.5%)Which part of the pie would you make SMALLER...?===They did fully fund growth, AND gave a WPU increase. Google "Utah
Education Budget"... (UEA's site)$98.56 million = 4% WPU
increaseHigher Education also increased (which you claim didn't
get an increase).Google "Utah lawmakers add $168 million to public
education budget"...===Again... check out the pie
chart in the budget summary... see what percentage goes to UDOT?? We need roads
too! Must 100% of the State budget go into education to be enough?===Big question still is... how much money would we have to give
them to actually reduce class sizes???Would 100% of the State Budget
be enough?I mean should we turn the whole State into a huge
school... and throw out funding for police, fire, roads, courts, etc?
2 bits,Sorry I didn't claim higher ed didn't get an
increase. Go look at Chart 6 and see what percentage of total state revenue
k-12 education gets (28.3% I was a little high). I have noticed that
you like to ignore the fact that 12-15,000 additional students enter the system
each year. I would think logic would indicate that would require additional
funding. You also like to ignore the cuts that took place for almost five
straight years and have not been restored. You also ignore the change in the
way the state funds costs such as retirement which in effect reduced the
"increase" given in the last three years because they quit funding with
a separate line item that they had automatically funded for the last 50+ years.
I assume you are smart enough to realize that there is no simple
answer to your class size question. Do you want a minimum wage teacher in the
classroom well that would be one price. Do you want a highly trained qualified
teacher in the classroom, that would be another price. Do you want students to
have books and other supplies well that will be a different price.
Bits question: "Would 100% of the State Budget be enough?" is
interesting in itself. Notice how it assumes the point that no way, no how would
it ever be necessary to increase taxes in order to fund any cause
whatsoever...the only money available is that we currently have budgeted. Look, my kids are long gone from schools (private), but we are killing
ourselves and our future by starving education to death. For a State that
consistently says "our children are our future", we are talking out of
both sides of our mouth by not making it the highest priority in the budget.