Utah lowest in per-student spending

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    BY JENNIFER GROSKREUTZ

    Utah spends less money per-pupil on education than any other state in the country. In the ’97 to ’98 school year, Utah’s per-pupil expenditure was $3,787, compared to an estimated national average of $6,131, according to the Provo City School District Performance Report.

    However, professionals say they make up for that difference by allocating state and local taxes toward education.

    In fact, Scott Green, from the governor’s budget office, said in a report issued in 1999 that Utah was second, behind Indiana, in highest percent of state and local taxes that went toward education. The study cited in the report used information from 1996.

    Green said there’s a good reason why Utah has the lowest per-pupil spending.

    “Utah has the most school-aged children per worker,” he said.

    School-age children, who are 5 to 17 years old, represent 23.7 percent of the population in Utah, according to the 42nd edition of the Statistical Review of Government in Utah.

    Furthermore, the review gives details pertaining to Utah’s education paradox. It said Utah households and businesses make a greater effort than any other state to channel tax revenues toward education.

    “Yet despite the high effort for education, class sizes are large and per pupil expenditures are low. This is Utah’s education paradox,” the review said.

    Despite the lower per-pupil expenditures, Utah students score as well as, and often better than, the national average on standardized tests.

    According to Provo School District’s Performance Report, the 1999 eleventh grade SAT scores, from each category in the test, for Provo School District were above the national average.

    Utah students as a whole scored higher than the national average that same year in all categories on the SAT except for one — language.

    On the ACT in 1999, the report shows students from the Provo District also scored higher than the national average in each category.

    Utah students in general placed higher than the national average in every subject except for math, in which they were equal with the national average.

    So why do Utah students perform so well on those tests?

    Former Provo City PTA Secretary Jasmine Strong said she thinks the expectation of parents, set by community standards, most likely contributes to the children’s success.

    “Parents around here expect of lot of our kids,” she said.

    Terry Shoemaker, director of personnel at Provo School District, said he attributes the standardized test score success to the outstanding employees within the district.

    “We make a deliberate effort to put the best teachers in front of the children,” he said.

    Shoemaker said while parental involvement is very helpful, the secret lies with the excellent staff and their efforts.

    The fact that students also want to do well helps, Shoemaker added.

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