Utah's average public-school class size is the highest in the nation, and the cost of bringing it down to the national average would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Utah Foundation, a private non-profit research agency.
Rather than seeking to modestly improve the state's standing in national comparisons of class sizes, the foundation suggests that the state concentrate on the grades where a serious need clearly exists. The foundation report states that efforts aimed only at reducing overall pupil-teacher ratios have little or no effect on pupil achievement.Utah's Public School Finance Law provides limited funds for reducing class sizes in the lowest grades (K-3), where research indicates that smaller classes may be most effective. Teachers, in turn, will need to adjust their instructional techniques to smaller class sizes in order to realize the benefits.
Gov. Norm Bangerter's budget recommends spending $4 million this year to reduce the average number of students in first-grade classes to 22, with similar sums to be provided over the next five years to try to reduce class sizes in grades one through six.
Utah has been in the forefront of class-size debates, due largely to certain demographic conditions. Utah has a larger percentage of school-age children than any other state, but ranks low among the states in per capita income. Consequently, Utah has for years ranked at or near the top of the list of states in percentage of total state and local government expenditures devoted to education, but low in per-pupil expenditure and teacher-pupil ratio.
The Utah Foundation is a private, nonprofit public service agency established to study and encourage the study of state and local government in Utah and the relation of taxes and public expenditures to the Utah economy.