By Irinna Schwenke
With education as a main focus for the 2000 elections, the Utah Education Association is looking for candidates who will not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.
The UEA is receiving national attention due to their campaign against Utah Legislature’s task force on education and the release of scary educational facts, said Phyllis Sorensen, president of the UEA.
“We support pro-education candidates. Utah students deserve more and hopefully we will have representatives who will help alleviate the problems in our schools,” Sorensen said.
The UEA recently posted the result to their Get the Facts survey, an online survey evaluating the reality of Utah’s education woes, she said.
“We hear a lot about high class size averages and not enough money in schools,” Sorensen said. “Teachers are the ones directly impacted. We wanted to hear the truth from them.”
Of more than 20,000 Utah educators, 2,228 responded to the Internet survey. Eighty-seven percent were UEA members, and represented grades kindergarten though 12. This was UEA’s first major online survey, according to a UEA news release.
The survey asked teachers to report the actual number of students in their classrooms, as well as how much of the teachers’ personal money is spent on students.
Survey results revealed that only 13.4 percent of the classrooms meet the Republican leadership’s goal of less than 20 students per class.
“We have the largest class sizes in the nation, yet we spend the least amount on each student. It’s scary and we need to know that the legislature is going to do something to improve these numbers,” Sorensen said.
Another significant finding of the survey found Utah educators spending a lot of their own money to subsidize learning.
More than half of the respondents spend at least $100 on students. Thirteen percent reported that they have spent more than $300, Sorensen said.
Reported expenditures are in excess of Teacher Directed Classroom Supply Money provided by the school district or Legislature, according to the UEA news release.
“These survey results show the frustrations teachers have with the educational system. For the first time teachers are representing what really goes on behind closed doors,” said Mark Mickelsen, director of public relations for the UEA.
With Election Day on the horizon, UEA officials urge the public to select pro-education candidates.
Among those supported by the association is Gov. Mike Leavitt.
“It seems like nothing positive is happening in education, but there has been progress. Leavitt has lead the education charge. Progress is being made, but the legislature has to get in line and get things done,” Mickelsen said.
The UEA has a list of recommended candidates on their website at http://www.utea.org/.