The Deseret News ran a story recently about educational hand wringing about reading achievement.  By third grade in Utah approximately 1 in 4 students are not reading at their grade level and the numbers apparently get worse the longer the kids are in school.  According to the article the problem should be solved if we only spent enough money.  If we can somehow hire more teachers, specialists, and fund more programs then things will be just fine.

What if there was just more of a focus on reading?  Reading is probably the most important skill for being able to learn in most any other subject.  If you can master reading you gain access to the greatest minds and ideas set down in print.  Right now the Utah state curriculum calls for teaching grade kindergarten through second grade about science, math, language arts and social studies.  Maybe the focus should be a little more exclusive to reading to make sure that the educational foundations for our kids are properly laid.

Many of the greatest minds to expand our understanding of math and science never made a serious study of the subjects until they were in their teens.  Their natural curiosity and desire to understand the world led to their study of their chosen subjects.  Perhaps we should not be pushing science on these kids when so many of them have not even mastered basic reading skills.

A new focus on reading skills would go a long way to helping them along.  A great way to cover the other subjects would be to read books about them and then discuss them in class.  Teachers can read aloud to the students to help expose the magic of reading and when more advanced students are successful at reading the books can be discussed with the entire class and may continue to inspire additional efforts from the students who are not performing as well.

We have enough resources and money for education already.  The money just needs to be better handled.  Tax rates and hikes are already unpopular and many people are simply not willing to pay additional taxes to help an already struggling school system.  Have you seen how popular the police services assessment is in unincorporated Salt Lake County?  The real answer is that the money needs to get to the classrooms.

We could pay three or four teachers with the salary of just one mid-level administrator in many of the large school districts in this state.  The teachers are the ones who are creating value for the tax payers, not the administrators.  The administrators are taking way too much of the education funds for their own salaries and perks when the real needs of the students are not being met.

The biggest false argument about funding is the “per-pupil” spending numbers.  Utah spends a very large amount of money on education and has one of the youngest populations in the nation.  The spending and teaching priorities just need to be reset so we can have better results.

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