To the editor:
Myrna Marsden's letter (July 21) entitled "School funding is scandal" was largely incorrect in its presentation of the funding scandal in Utah education.Ms. Marsden, in my opinion, has been taken in by the "average" statistics that are continually pounded into the heads of Utahns in an effort to elicit feelings of guilt and more tax money.
That the UEA union is involved in such activity is to be expected. After all, that is what labor unions do. But that the State Office of Education and other "educators" do it is part of the real funding scandal.
For example, Ms. Marsden says our teachers' salaries need to "be competitive with other states." She has no doubt read and heard how Utah salaries are "below the national average." What no one ever mentions is that salaries all over the U.S. vary depending on many factors, not the least of which is cost of living.
A teacher in Provo making the Utah average of about $23,000, for instance, is far better off than a teacher in Boston making the Massachusetts average of over $30,000. This is because it costs almost twice as much to live in Boston as it does in Provo.
It is commendable that Ms. Marsden is concerned about losing good teachers because of low salaries. But the fact of the matter is that in Utah we don't pay teachers based on their performance.
She may also be interested to learn that many teachers leave the public system and take a cut in pay to teach in private schools where they have more control over their activities and thus greater satisfaction in their jobs.
Two other "averages" that are used to shame Utahns into higher taxes are per pupil expenditure and student/teacher ratio. In over 100 major studies in the U.S. between 1966 and 1986, no relation between these averages and student performance has been shown.
In Utah, the district with the lowest per pupil expenditure (if you equalize winter heating costs) had the highest ACT scores in the state by a long shot - 19.8 to the state average of 18.9.
If expenditures per classroom are considered - and, after all, that is the way we teach, in classroom groupings - Utahns make a tremendous financial commitment that they don't need to be ashamed of.
It is time to stop taking labor unions and "education" averages at face value and start looking at the economic reality of the issue. We all want a good education for our children. What the Tax Limitation Coalition wants is value for money spent.
Tax Limitation Coalition of Utah