The Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind compete nationally for teachers and have not been able to attract or keep instructors because of low salaries, the schools' director told legislators Monday.
The Utah teachers of visually or hearing-impaired children average $15,139, compared with the national average of $16,620, said Superintendent Tom Bannister. They also rank 40th or lower among Utah's districts, he said.The low salaries have contributed to a 117 percent turnover in the past eight years. Constant teacher turnover is particularly disturbing to handicapped youngsters.
Members of the Joint Education Appropriations Committee lent a sympathetic ear to Bannister's statistics but disagreed on how they could best give his budget a shot in the arm.
Rep. Kelly Atkinson, D-Salt Lake, moved that an additional $129,300 be added to the schools' base budget, rather than putting that amount into a building block that would have to compete with other budget increase proposals as serious budgeting begins. His motion got the necessary majority vote among House members of the committee but couldn't muster a majority of the senator votes and failed.
Instead, Rep. Richard J. Bradford, R-Salt Lake, moved to add $30,000 to the total and put $159,000 into a building block that would have high priority. He also asked that $100,000 be earmarked for summer programs at the schools if money is available in the budget for an additional item. His motions passed.