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Letter: Utah schools underfunded

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  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Jan. 16, 2014 7:51 a.m.

    Utah spends $8,224 per pupil per year. How many families have $8,224 to spend on each child per year for their shelter, their food, their medicine, their clothes and every other non-school expense? How many home-schoolers spend $8,224 per pupil? Has anyone looked at the scores that compare home-schooled pupils to publicly educated pupils?

    Here are a few facts published by Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.:

    "The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests."

    "Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions."

    "Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement."

    Every year public schools demand more money. Every year more and more of our children leave school unprepared for the most ordinary demands that society places on adults.

    More money is not the solution.

  • The Hammer lehi, utah
    Jan. 16, 2014 9:00 a.m.

    Both sides seem to miss the point about what part of schooling is underfunded. Why are we having the problems we have? Schools are getting the leftovers and very few diehards who love teaching. Most breadwinners cannot make a living on a teachers salary without an extra income in the household. And our planning for growth is absolutely atrocious as witnessed by the Jordan school district debacle.

    Schools should be small and school districts should be community based to plan for growth. Teachers should be paid as if they are breadwinners and not some second hand income for a family.

  • Thinkin\' Man Rexburg, ID
    Jan. 16, 2014 9:02 a.m.

    This argument is based on a false premise. Funding does not equal quality or results.

    I do agree that public school teachers are the most underpaid group in America, and that making their profession more competitive and rewarding would attract better teachers. But ultimately the success of students correlates most to the involvement of their parents, not to dollars spent.

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    Jan. 16, 2014 9:08 a.m.

    New England states excel at educating their children because they're willing to pay the price. Utah parents are simply unwilling to pay the price for excellence. They're happy with mediocrity. The boat in the driveway is more important than an excellent education for the children. It's that simple.

  • FT salt lake city, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 9:49 a.m.

    Whenever this subject is brougt up the first thing you hear from public education critics is about wasteful spending and poor teaching. Those are just diversion tactics used by critics to starve the educational system and push their dream of vochers.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 9:56 a.m.

    I agree with the people saying that districts need to be small and local (and locally funded). Then you can grow as much (or as little) as the local population wants to grow, and you can fund them as much as you want, pay the teachers more if you want, and tax people more if you want. That's the way they do it in many places back East (like Vermont).

    This has some good and some bad (if you ask anybody back there).

    Good:
    You have local control. Everybody goes to the small local school district meetings and votes on what will happen in THEIR local school. And they get to pay the price of their votes (that may belong on the bad side of the sheet). We'll get to that.

    This results in communitys that WANT a top notch school district to get it (and to pay for it).

    This results in those communities having super-high property values (because everybody wants to buy a home in that school district because their schools are known to be top notch. You actually get more when you sell your house (and pay more to move into that community).

    continued...

  • joe5 South Jordan, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 9:58 a.m.

    If I spend $1000/wk on groceries and all my neighbors spend more than that, does that automatically mean that my grocery budget is underfunded? That seems to be the position of the person who wrote this letter.

    So let's assume that his logic leads to Utah increasing its budget to be middle of the pack. That means some other state is now at the bottom and, according to his logic, that budget will need to be increased. In fact, there will always be some state at the bottom and if that logically shows education is underfunded in that state, we will end up with never-ending escalation of costs.

    Never once does that argument allow for a discussion of what is the right level for education funding. You might very well end up with my grocery example where the minimum funding is ridiculously high. Yet still, those who think like this writer will claim that it is too low simply because it is less than everyone else.

  • RWSmith6 Providence, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 10:06 a.m.

    Irony Guy reminded me of something the writer P.J. O'Rourke said about the baby boomer generation: "We may not have managed America's money well, but the boomers' demand for more and better gizmos has filled the nation with amazing playthings, from tiny talking computers to gigantic flat-screen TVs with roughly 2,000 channels to watch on them. We're the generation that will die with the most toys." (AARP: The Magazine, Dec.-Jan issuee)

    And we wonder why public education is sinking in America, most conspicuously in Utah. The governor and legislators haven't the courage to "tell it like it is" in education--K-12 teachers overloaded, undercompensated, undersupported, and micromanaged into discouragement in an era of missleading test results above all else. If the parents and children are busy with their toys, they'll never miss that education isn't what it should and could be in Utah with the right priorities, not just the Right's priorities.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 10:07 a.m.

    Now for the bad:
    -Poor communities suffer. They can't afford higher taxes so they vote down proposals to increase property taxes to fund schools... so the schools suffer... so the property values suffer.

    Houses sell for lower prices in that neighborhood, many people won't buy them, because of the reputation of bad underfunded schools.

    ----

    But it's also true that the schools with lots of money don't necessarily produce better education (smarter kids).

    The kids and the parents enjoy it more (because everything's nice and clean and the teachers are fat and happy). But in the end... test results show that the actual basic education they get is not neccesarily different. But the preppy kids do better in college (because they have everything they could want in school, the parents are highly involved, and the kids are highly motivated to learn and succeed).

    But kids in the poor neighborhoods have it stacked against them.

    So there's good and bad. But at least they have more control and can make their own local funding decisions. If we increase property taxes... The money just goes to build somebody elses school.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Jan. 16, 2014 10:09 a.m.

    Thinkin\' Man,

    Agreed that parental involvement is key.

    And it is true that funding does not necessarily equal quality or results. But try to get them without funding.

    In every human endeavor properly applied resources are the keys to success. You buy resources (teachers, buildings, texts, etc.) with money. Yes, there has to be a good plan in place to use them and, that which is beyond what can be well implemented is wasted. But, overall, funding = resources = improved success.

    Look at similar geographic and demographic districts with vastly different funding (might be hard in Utah but it is not so hard in the New England states). The difference is clear.

    If money and success are not correlated, then the conclusion is simple. Stop funding education and you will still get the same product. We know this is false on its face because we also know that money is essential to the equation. How much and how allocated are great discussions to have. But the concept that there is no real relationship between money and success is impossible in the real world.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 10:38 a.m.

    I still think the people who think all we need to do it increase funding... need to put a number on it. What number will make you happy?

    Then we will know if we are talking about something realistic and do-able? Or shooting at a moving target that can never be hit.

    ===

    Every year we increase school funding (State Wide). And every year we think these people will be even a little happy. But every year it isn't enough for them. What number IS enough??

    If you can't put a number on it... how do you expect us to satisfy you?

    ===

    And if you just say we need to compete with other States spending... then there's no way we win. If we just play the escalating-spending game (to avoid the bottom of the list)... that game just means EVERYBODY must increase spending forever (to stay off the bottom of the list).

    We can't win this escalating-spending game (comparing our spending to other States). It's a no-win scenario.

    We need to figure out what the magic number is for Utah (not California or NY)... and shoot for that.

  • Ranch Here, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 11:30 a.m.

    Utah would rather spend money to fight equality than spend it to educate children.

  • Wonder Provo, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 11:52 a.m.

    @Mike Richards -- Guess what. Public school teachers have to be paid. Parents don't. Thus, public schools are going to cost more than a home school. Darn those teachers for wanting to be paid for doing their jobs!

  • J Thompson SPRINGVILLE, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 12:15 p.m.

    In 2011, Sara Lenz reported for the Deseret News: "From 2007 to 2010, the number of home-schooled children nationwide rose by about 25 percent to the current estimate of 2 million."

    One website reports that over 3,000,000 students drop out of high school each year. That report also cites that over 8,000 students give up every day. Further, it reports that 75% of all crime is committed by high school dropouts and that 90% of all jobs are unavailable to high school dropouts.

    Why would anyone want to increase spending on a system that is failing so badly? If 3,000,000 students give up on the system every year across America, how will money improve the system. Sure, the teachers will be happier, but the students will still leave.

    Home schoolers don't have any money, yet they value their children enough to spend a little money and much time educating those children.

    As long as the emphasis is on money and not on results, the exodus will continue.

  • iaacp Heber, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 12:21 p.m.

    I have never responded to one of these but I just can’t let this go.

    Joe5

    Your point is a good one, but how about I give you a better argument than the one in the letter.
    How about this? We don’t put enough money into education and it causes our schools to be overcrowded. Can you honestly tell me that current class sizes in Utah are acceptable? Don’t tell me that school districts just need to be more efficient and that will solve all our problems. That’s a bunch of bull.

    2 bits

    “Every year we increase school funding (State Wide). And every year we think these people will be even a little happy. But every year it isn't enough for them. What number IS enough??”

    It will be enough when we don’t have overcrowded schools and when teachers are paid a decent living wage. 1-2% increases pay for growth and that’s about it. The legislature wants you to think it’s doing something really great and wonderful, but they are just maintaining the status quo.

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    Jan. 16, 2014 12:27 p.m.

    2bits, I can put a number on it. As soon as we've paid the price for Utah's students to be scoring alongside world-class students, then that's the number. And it's not hard to calculate. Just look at the increase in funding over the past 20 years in MA and NJ and you'll see a strong correlation between funding increases and standardized test score increases. That amount of money is about 2X per student what we're spending now in Utah. Tiny incremental increases that don't even match inflation do NOT cut it.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Jan. 16, 2014 1:01 p.m.

    To those of you that think we just need to spend more on education, that is a dumb idea. The poblem isn't how much is spent per child, but how much makes it to the classroom. Think of it this way. What good is it to add $2,000 per child if only $100 makes it to the classroom while the other $1900 is spent on 3 new district specialists, a school aid that spends half her time surfing the internet, and helped justify hiring a new non-teaching coach at the highschool. Currently the nationally we average only 60% of every dollar making it to the classroom. If we got rid of the waste at the district and administration levels, we could do more without paying more.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 1:17 p.m.

    What's the number iaacp and Irony Guy? That's all I ask.

    If it's so easy... give us the number.
    If what you say is correct, "it's not hard to calculate"... give us the number.

    ===

    As long as every increase we give education never makes it to the teachers... it's not easy to calculate.

    ===

    I'm out of comments... so if you can just give us the number that will satisfy you... I'm sure the legislature will look into it.

    But if you just keep saying... till we don't have any crowding, or until our spending matches other States... we will continue to not know what is actually needed, or if what we are doing is actually getting us there, and we will continue just sending more and more money to a group that will never, ever, ever... be happy.

    Name a State where teachers (and their Union) think they have enough money and they aren't pushing for more...

    I'll be waiting.

  • joe5 South Jordan, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 1:37 p.m.

    iaacp: You seem hung up on class size so I assume you think there is a direct correlation between education and class size.
    - I assume then that you believe most colleges have it all wrong with their auditorium-size classes with hundreds of students.
    - I assume you can trot out data (vs opinion and conjecture) that show a near 1.0 correlation between class size and education.
    - I assume you can define "education" and determine the best way for it to be measured.

    When I was growing up in the '60s, it was pretty widely accepted that testing is an inadequate measure of education because of things like culture or language. For example, Civil War history is more likely to resonate with a student in Georgia than one in Nevada. Does that mean the one from Nevada is uneducated?

    In short, I don't think you even have a good way to assess "education," much less isolate a specific cause for its differences.

    Is class size really the disease you want to heal or is it education? To me, they are two very different things.

  • stuff Provo, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 1:58 p.m.

    One comment & one question:

    1. Everything is underfunded - roads, Highway Patrol, state buildings and every other type of infrastructure, department and salary.

    2. When referring to education, just what within education is underfunded? Is it teacher salaries, staff salaries, buildings, utilities, tables and chairs, books, band programs, busing, floor polish, UEA/NEA dues or what?

  • Steve Cottrell Centerville, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 2:01 p.m.

    Dear 2 bits: You ask for an amount so I have a proposal. How about spending just a national average amount? We spend an average amount for the average car or bag of groceries or tank of gas. We don't seem to expect other products for 2/3 of average national cost.

    Is it not amazing that we get an average education (it varies a bit depending on the measure) for 2/3 of the average cost?

    Of course average expenditure would require nearly a 50% increase above current funding levels so that proposal is sure to be rejected. So how about just enough to make us second to lowest? or perhaps even third lowest?

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 4:57 p.m.

    "1. Everything is underfunded - roads, Highway Patrol, state buildings and every other type of infrastructure, department and salary."

    Yep. Now do you understand why so many here in Utah are outraged at the state wasting millions on this gay marriage debate? Now do you understand why so many Americans are upset with the endless wars that Bush started?

    "2. When referring to education, just what within education is underfunded? Is it teacher salaries, staff salaries, buildings, utilities, tables and chairs, books, band programs, busing, floor polish, UEA/NEA dues or what?"

    Spend one week in a classroom and you will find out. Undercompensated, huge class sizes in small classrooms, old facilities which are falling apart, severely outdated textbooks, and lack of materials.

  • Sense Maker SANDY, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 8:22 p.m.

    Volunteers are the answer. One more adult in a classroom can make a huge difference. Many schools that are middle income and above, have enough parents that will volunteer. If we want to make a huge difference we need to volunteer in the more impoverished schools, and schools where there are twenty different languages spoken within the school boundaries. (I know. I taught at a school like this and know how much difference volunteers make. I had members of my family helping, but the principal no longer allowed this.) With the Common Core Curriculum, the federal government will have more and more power over our schools. They can force the school district to teach the children the propaganda they want them to hear, even though the local school community doesn't want it to be taught. Also, parental expectation of their child, and the willingness to help and encourage children at home, is a huge factor in success at school. Parents and students who want to achieve can excel at any school they go to. We have a vast amount of knowledge available on the internet,"Google," etc. Libraries have computers, also, for student use.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Jan. 16, 2014 10:25 p.m.

    joe5,

    First, college kids are (nearly) adults mentally. Kids in grades 1-12 are not.

    Second, the huge auditorium based classes tend to be the introductory classes – not the more advanced classes where more individualized attention is necessary. Note that what is “advanced” depends on the kid’s age and learning status.

    Third, my elementary education was in the 1960s. I recall plenty of testing.

    You think there is no way to assess education? Sure there is. Is it perfect? Of course not. It likely works only somewhat to measure the knowledge of a single person but much better to compare educational efficacy among different populations.

    Class size is like so many things – there is a sweet spot. A little bit of variance one way or the other is not very important. But start to get outside the norm and efficacy will suffer.

    Class size is one of several things that must be in line for education to be effective.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Jan. 16, 2014 10:35 p.m.

    "With the Common Core Curriculum, the federal government will have more and more power over our schools. They can force the school district to teach the children the propaganda they want them to hear, even though the local school community doesn't want it to be taught. "

    Propaganda? Examples please.

    Darn that common core for teaching kids propaganda like evolution and how the founding fathers weren't perfect and owned slaves. Dang propaganda!

  • RedShirtCalTech Pasedena, CA
    Jan. 17, 2014 7:34 a.m.

    To "Twin Lights" unfortunately there is even more testing now than in the 1960's. The kids have at least 4 different national standardized tests in addition to the testing that Utah has set up to determine if you meet the state standards.

    It used to be that the students were given national standardized tests once every 2 years. Now they have multiple tests each year.

    If class size is so important, explain Korea. For elementary school they average 30 to 40 kids per class, and in Highschool they average 35 to 45 kids per classroom. If class size was so important I would expect them to do worse not better than the US on the international testing.

    What you, and most liberals, have ignored is that the key to success in school is determined by their parents. You can't legislate parents to care about education and ensure their kids have a desire to learn.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Jan. 17, 2014 11:18 a.m.

    RedShirtCalTech,

    First, I am no more liberal than any Eisenhower style Republican.

    Second, I essentially agree with you on the testing. One or two testing periods a year are enough. My point was that we were tested then too.

    Comparing us to Korea would be difficult. There are so many differences that I could not account for. Nor do I believe it is the only issue. But the point was made about large lecture hall type classes and I responded to that.

    In my teaching experience and classroom experience (in both professional education and church), class size does make a difference. Too few - the discussion can languish. Too many - and you cannot really talk to everyone and guarantee the type of participation you want.

    I stipulated earlier that parents are key (see prior post). My point here was simply that there are other things too.

  • Mike in Sandy Sandy, UT
    Jan. 17, 2014 1:42 p.m.

    That's because they waste money fighting lost causes like trying to derail gay marriage, which will soon be accepted nationally. And spending those dollars on outside sources. And other states like California.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Jan. 19, 2014 12:39 p.m.

    The old adage that in college we can have huge auditorium filled classes and it works just fine is a false premise. It doesn't work out just fine. Half of college students will probably wash out. Do we want that percentages in our high schools. Do you think we could put 500 kindergarteners in a auditorium and it will all work out? Plus, like said above, once you get past the "survey" classes, most of my classes were much smaller than what I see in our high school's today. My post-graduate courses never have more than 20 students. You see, college use large auditorium classes as a way to weed out students. I hope our public schools can do better. I hope any of the above that think this is quality education and we need to spend less and just house hundreds of our students in an auditorium because it might have worked for them or some others, is totally ridiculous. Those who argue against this letter need to bring more to the intellectual table.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Jan. 19, 2014 2:43 p.m.

    I have to address how what in college really works.

    1) Large lecture hall classes don't work. They are weed out courses. Those who are intelligent and good test takers will do well. The lecturer may be entertaining. But a good share of students drop out of college after the first year. Perhaps, this is the way it is designed.

    2) Will you continue to have large classes as you go deeper into college and in your post-graduate studies. Well, no. Because here good teaching comes with smaller class sizes. In many cases you will develop strong one-on-one relationships with your professors, class sizes rarely are over 15 students.

    3) Does anybody really believe that putting 100 seniors or 100 9th graders or 100 first graders in a lecture hall with one teacher will really work because it supposedly "works" in college.?

  • Nan BW ELder, CO
    Jan. 25, 2014 9:44 p.m.

    Schools have too many functions that have nothing to do with education. (Teaching political correctness for one.) The record keeping required of teachers and other staff is overwhelming and is largely a waste of time. Too many school resources are wasted because we have become extravagant with paper, technological equipment, food, pencils, educational knick-knacks and a thousand other things. Students are not respectful of what is provided for them so maintenance and repair are costly. Too many people believe that new buildings and equipment are necessary for academic excellence.

    I do think the teachers should be paid salaries appropriate for the job they do, and I think a lot of administrators are not worth their salaries. I don't see greater expenditure as the answer. I see better use of what's available is a better solution. I also see greater family stability and students with greater character development a big step in the right direction. I have been there (teaching in four different states over several decades, with spaces in between when I had small children).