By Sheryle Jackson
What students learn in school today may not be what students learn tomorrow.
The Utah State Legislature is currently defining the core mission of public education because of a lack of state funding.
Senate Bill 154 proposes a three-stage plan for stretching state education dollars, causing budget cuts.
However, there are opponents to the legislature”s prospective budget cut decisions.
Several concerned educators, parents and legislators met Tuesday to discuss what programs are essential to developing a “whole child.”
“There is more to our humanness than math, science and English,” said David Fullmer, president of the Utah Music Educators Association.
Tuesday”s meeting was organized with two purposes in mind.
The first was to allow concerned individuals to speak with a unified voice on the topic of education, Fullmer said. The second purpose was to bring about a dialogue among different school associations.
Discussion Tuesday focused on the potential effects on students of cutting the arts, music and sports from public schools.
“To not give those children that opportunity (to participate in extracurricular activities) would be educational homicide,” said Tim Lautzenheiser, director of Education for Conn-Selmer Inc.
Some parents and citizens at the meeting were concerned about the possibility of cutting the arts, music and sports.
“What made me whole – as far as my career – they may cut that,” said Greg Carlisle, a volunteer with the Utah School Board Association.
Rep. Jim Ferrin, R-Orem, is a member of the Education Appropriation Committee that determines Utah”s education budget.
Ferrin said there are two reasons Utah”s education budget is as low as it is: First, Utah has a higher proportion of people between the ages of 5 and 17 than any other state, and 70 percent of the state does not pay property tax because the land belongs to the federal government.
Ferrin said Utah has the largest proportion of the state budget allotted to public education in the United States.
For the 2004 fiscal year, which began July 1, $2.38 million have been set aside for public education, Ferrin said.
“We still have the lowest funding per pupil of any state in the nation,” Ferrin said. “However, to conclude that means that our policy makers don”t care about education is a huge mistake.”
All sides of the issue have valid expectations and desires, Ferrin said; however, a conclusion can only be reached if everyone cooperates.
“I would like to see the education community join the rest of us in defining what constitutes a free public education,” Ferrin said. “It cannot include everything.”
In this difficult situation, Ferrin said, the question everyone must ask is to what extent do the citizens think they are cheating their students today and how could they remedy that?
“If there is a dirty little secret, it is I know that there is no easy solutions,” Ferrin said. “Which is why, ultimately, hard decisions are going to be made by policy makers.”