The Utah Education Association has set aside $15,000 of association reserves to start up a foundation to help thousands of Utah students at risk.

The "seed money," UEA officials hope, will prompt the state's power brokers, corporations and all private citizens to lock arms with the UEA and contribute financially to the foundation. Next year, $1 of each member's dues may also be allocated to the foundation, initiated to fund programs developed to combat problems plaguing Utah's youth."Think about these statistics: Last year 2,906 students dropped out of Utah schools. Literally tens of thousands of Utah children are living at or near the poverty level as defined by the federal government," UEA President Jim Campbell said. "Thousands more of Utah's sons and daughters have drug and alcohol-related problems. And in 1986, Utah had 4,380 pregnancies in young women between the ages of 15 to 19. These young people are at risk."

Campbell announced the establishment of the foundation at the UEA Spring House of Delegates meeting Saturday at Union Middle School in Sandy. The 263-member house voted unanimously to set aside the $15,000 seed money.

Throughout the morning the delegates representing the association's 44 local affiliates heard progress reports from UEA officials. They also adopted the association's 1989-90 budget, set goals, objectives and activities and approved an extensive legislative platform that, among other things, asks lawmakers to eliminate "the disparity between Utah educators' salaries and the national average."

But announcement of the foundation, which Friday was approved by the UEA board of governors, garnered the greatest enthusiasm among the teacher-delegates who "know the pain of losing a child."

"We are losing a million children each year who drop out of school," Campbell told the gathering. "Over a quarter of our nation's young people never graduate. Many cannot read a classified ad or the warning on a bottle of medicine."

But Campbell emphasized that too many choose suicide as their escape.

"Some may disappear from our classrooms, but they won't disappear from our society. We will see them again on our streets and on our welfare rolls. We will find them in our unemployment lines and in our prisons."

Four years ago, Mary Hatwood Futrell, outgoing president of the National Education Association, proposed an initiative - called "Operation Rescue - that would rescue potential dropouts and illiterates from academic failure.

Following Futrell's lead, the UEA initiated its own foundation and dedicated members' efforts as "a living tribute" to Futrell. Campbell said the foundation will be established as a non-profit organization, governed by a board that will administer funds and establish guidelines.

But Campbell said everyone in the state - parents, school boards, government officials, colleges and universities, businesses - who has an investment in Utah, will be asked to join with the UEA to make the foundation a success.

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Legislation is sought to:

-Bring Utah educators' salaries in line with national average

-Provide adequate funding for optimum class size

-Increase funding for library media centers

-Provide more certificated counselors

-Increase funding for textbooks and supplies

-Continue funding Utah schools for the deaf and blind

-Empower school districts to establish a local option income surtax.