If children were really the future, as the worn-out mantra goes, a quick assessment of the current Utah public education system would lead one to believe the state is severely shortsighted.
There were about 22 students per teacher in Utah in 2005; the national ratio was about 16 students to one teacher. To make matters worse, teachers in Utah aren’t only heavily outnumbered; they are also grossly underpaid. In 2005, the average teacher salary in state was about $39,500, whereas the national average was about $45,800. These disparities will only worsen as the state population continues to soar.
By Fall 2015, the Utah State Office of Education expects school enrollment to jump to 662,513 – a percent increase of about 30 percent. The State Legislature can’t afford to ignore these trends any longer. Action needs to be taken today to assure the quality of tomorrow’s classrooms.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. made education his prerogative Tuesday night in his state of the state address. He will propose a $343 million increase, including $25 million in one-time bonuses offered to teachers. Huntsman understands quality comes with a price tag. If teacher salaries and bonuses are more competitive in Utah, fewer experienced teachers will shop for higher paying jobs in other states. In addition, local school districts will be able to attract more qualified graduates from quality universities such as BYU and UVSC.
House Republicans have already said they’d like to see less money go toward education and more money funneled into tax cuts than Huntsman has planned. While a tax cut is alluring, investments in education pay off in the long run.