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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Sen. Chris Buttars tells the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee Monday that eliminating the 12th grade would save the state $102 million.

SALT LAKE CITY — Senior year is slacker time for many students, so why not cut high school short and save a few bucks in these tough economic times, asks Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan.

Sometimes the 12th grade means "nothing but playing around," Buttars said.

He made a dramatic pitch during Monday's Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting, saying killing off 12th grade would save the state $102 million.

"You're spending a whole lot of money for a whole bunch of kids who aren't getting anything out of that grade," Buttars said. "It comes down to the best use of money."

He also would like to cancel all busing for high school students to save $15 million.

One lone mom from Granite School District took on Buttars during Monday's committee meeting, saying she believes administration should be cut before anything else.

"The first place to consider cuts is with the bureaucracy," said Cheryl Richardson, a mother of seven. She added Buttars' proposal is "a bad idea."

Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, who taught high school for years, adamantly opposes Buttars' plan, saying senior year is when kids mature and excel in academics, sports and activities.

Further, cutting 12th grade would wreak havoc with college admissions. "Because of our budget concerns, should we lower our expectations … and be satisfied with substandard education options?" Poulson said.

Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said, "Dramatic times deserve drastic measures."

Buttars encouraged lawmakers and educators to cease their fear of change. He made reference to the song "Tradition" in the musical "Fiddler on the Roof."

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"It's easy to make fun of big cuts because you've never done it that way," he said.

One-time money and backfill funding year after year is going to catch up with education sooner or later, Buttars warned. "You can't keep going like this," he said.

The senator is serious about his proposal and said he plans to open a bill file Thursday.

Whether the senator's idea will fly is yet to be seen. Committee co-chairman Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, called Buttars' idea "provocative" and added, "It gets us thinking. We'll see."

e-mail: astewart@desnews.com