Education is an interesting thing.  It is in the public interest for us to have a well educated public but it seems that we are always fighting about funding for education as if money is the answer to our educational problems.  Once the basic needs of an educational system are met there is no significant benefit to increased spending in and of itself.
Every year we hear more stories about how Utah is dead, dead, dead last in per pupil spending.  This year the story is that Utah only spent $5,683 per pupil in the 2006-2007 school year.  This is $942 per student behind Idaho which is next to last for the same time period.  New York spent the most per student at $15,981.  The stories seem like an attempt to make us all feel guilty for not doing enough for education Utah.  There are a few things that are important to consider when discussing funding for education in Utah.
Utah has a comparatively small yearly total budget compared to New York.  New York’s total projected budget for 2010 is $121.1 Billion with$20.7 Billion for their public schools, or approximately 17 % of their projected budget for 2010.  The Utah total projected budget for 2010 is $11.2 Billion with $3.48 Billion for public schools, or approximately 31.1% of the projected budged for public schools.  In comparison to Idaho (which did not cleanly separate public school spending from higher education spending in their budget), Utah has dedicated 43.4 % of the total budget for education and Idaho has dedicated 40.5 % of their $6.32 Billion budget for education.  As a percentage of the total budget, Utah is trying harder than either New York or Idaho to pay for education.
Utah is supporting the public schools and several state institutions of higher education with Utah State University, Weber State University, the University of Utah, Utah Valley University, Southern Utah University, Salt Lake Community College, the College of Eastern Utah, Snow College, Dixie State College, and an online university called Western Governors University.  There are a lot of places to spend money on education in Utah.
Utah ranks well in terms of Advanced Placement test passing rates for college credit (mid-60’s percent) and on ACT scores.  According to the standardized test statisticians a greater amount of participation in a test tends to lower a state’s average score.  In New York the state average composite score on the ACT for 2008 graduates was 23.1 with a 23% participation rate.  In Utah the composite score was 21.8 with a 68% participation rate.  In Washington DC with education spending per pupil just behind New York the composite score was 19.1 with a 30% participation rate.  In Idaho the composite score was 21.5 with a 58% participation rate.  Based on ACT scores it appears that Utah is doing quite nicely with their education.
Utah graduation rates are better than New York and Idaho respectively.  Utah has an 86% rate New York is at 64% and Idaho is at 79% from a 2003 study.
Utah has the highest fertility rate in the nation at 92.3 live births per 1000 women aged 15 to 44 in the year 2004.  Idaho’s fertility rate is 77.2 and New York’s is 60.9 for the same time period.  A 2008 population estimate has Utah at 2.7 Million, New York at 19.4 Million, and Idaho at 1.5 Million.
This is a lot of numbers that will make a little more sense in just a moment.
New York has seven times the population of Utah with almost eleven times the statewide budget and spending six times the amount of money Utah does on education while having less children each year proportionately than Utah.  New York has many more taxable adults that Utah does and has much more money to work with.  Utah has 1.8 times the population of Idaho with 1.77 times the statewide budget and spending 1.9 times the amount of money Idaho does on education  while having more children each year proportionately and by total numbers (50 thousand to 22 thousand in 2004).  It is very clear that Utah is pretty much doing everything it can to pay for education in this state without increasing taxes.  Should we be spending more?
In the 1990’s and early 2000’s there were a series of law suits filed in state courts challenging the adequacy of funding for education.  In about 20 of these states the courts found that the funding schemes were unconstitutional under their state constitutions and ordered increased funding in particular for poor and disadvantaged students.  A study from the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research published this year took a look at the four states with the most increased funding from court orders and compared standardized test scores in fourth and eighth grade in each of these states.  The results of the studies were less than stellar.  There was no direct correlation between increased spending and better test scores in any of the top four states.  If better spending leads to better education there should have been a measurable improvement from the increased spending.
Utah not only is last in per pupil spending but is also last in teacher pay.  I was a substitute teacher for about two weeks in a high school on the west side of the valley and I would not want to do it again at any high school.  I do not envy the job teachers do.  What they do is a public service and they provide great value to our state.  If we increase our spending on education it should go to teacher pay because they are doing the most with the least.

Education is an interesting thing.  It is in the public interest for us to have a well educated public but it seems that we are always fighting about funding for education as if money is the answer to our educational problems.  Once the basic needs of an educational system are met there is no significant benefit to increased spending in and of itself.

Every year we hear more stories about how Utah is dead, dead, dead last in per pupil spending.  This year the story is that Utah only spent $5,683 per pupil in the 2006-2007 school year.  This is $942 per student behind Idaho which is next to last for the same time period.  New York spent the most per student at $15,981.  The stories seem like an attempt to make us all feel guilty for not doing enough for education Utah.  There are a few things that are important to consider when discussing funding for education in Utah.

Utah has a comparatively small yearly total budget compared to New York.  New York’s total projected budget for 2010 is $121.1 Billion with$20.7 Billion for their public schools, or approximately 17 % of their projected budget for 2010.  The Utah total projected budget for 2010 is $11.2 Billion with $3.48 Billion for public schools, or approximately 31.1% of the projected budged for public schools.  In comparison to Idaho (which did not cleanly separate public school spending from higher education spending in their budget), Utah has dedicated 43.4 % of the total budget for education and Idaho has dedicated 40.5 % of their $6.32 Billion budget for education.  As a percentage of the total budget, Utah is trying harder than either New York or Idaho to pay for education.

Utah is supporting the public schools and several state institutions of higher education with Utah State University, Weber State University, the University of Utah, Utah Valley University, Southern Utah University, Salt Lake Community College, the College of Eastern Utah, Snow College, Dixie State College, and an online university called Western Governors University.  There are a lot of places to spend money on education in Utah.

Utah ranks well in terms of Advanced Placement test passing rates for college credit (mid-60’s percent) and on ACT scores.  According to the standardized test statisticians a greater amount of participation in a test tends to lower a state’s average score.  In New York the state average composite score on the ACT for 2008 graduates was 23.1 with a 23% participation rate.  In Utah the composite score was 21.8 with a 68% participation rate.  In Washington DC with education spending per pupil just behind New York the composite score was 19.1 with a 30% participation rate.  In Idaho the composite score was 21.5 with a 58% participation rate.  Based on ACT scores it appears that Utah is doing quite nicely with their education.

Utah graduation rates are better than New York and Idaho respectively.  Utah has an 86% rate New York is at 64% and Idaho is at 79% from a 2003 study.

Utah has the highest fertility rate in the nation at 92.3 live births per 1000 women aged 15 to 44 in the year 2004.  Idaho’s fertility rate is 77.2 and New York’s is 60.9 for the same time period.  A 2008 population estimate has Utah at 2.7 Million, New York at 19.4 Million, and Idaho at 1.5 Million.

This is a lot of numbers and it matters that we look at them.

New York has seven times the population of Utah with almost eleven times the statewide budget and spending six times the amount of money Utah does on education while having less children each year proportionately than Utah.  New York has many more taxable adults that Utah does and has much more money to work with.  Utah has 1.8 times the population of Idaho with 1.77 times the statewide budget and spending 1.9 times the amount of money Idaho does on education  while having more children each year proportionately and by total numbers (50 thousand to 22 thousand in 2004).  It is very clear that Utah is pretty much doing everything it can to pay for education in this state without increasing taxes.  Should we be spending more?

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s there were a series of law suits filed in state courts challenging the adequacy of funding for education.  In about 20 of these states the courts found that the funding schemes were unconstitutional under their state constitutions and ordered increased funding in particular for poor and disadvantaged students.  A study from the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research published this year took a look at the four states with the most increased funding from court orders and compared standardized test scores in fourth and eighth grade in each of these states.  The results of the studies were less than stellar.  There was no direct correlation between increased spending and better test scores in any of the top four states.  If better spending leads to better education there should have been a measurable improvement from the increased spending.

Utah not only is last in per pupil spending but is also last in teacher pay.  I was a substitute teacher for about two weeks in a high school on the west side of the valley and I would not want to do it again at any high school.  I do not envy the job teachers do.  What they do is a public service and they provide great value to our state.  If we increase our spending on education it should go to teacher pay because they are doing the most with the least.

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