By Lok Yi Chan
As Governor Gary Herbert launched his four-day tour yesterday at Grouse Creek School, the one-room school that facilitates 17 students from kindergarten through tenth grade immediately caught the eyes of the media.
Once again, the problem of insufficient state’s funding for public schools, especially in rural communities, floats to the surface; with people questioning why Utah, ranked No. 1 by Forbes in 2010 as the best state for business and career and No. 1 by Business Facilities Magazine in 2010 for best quality of life, will see a school so small and unsupported.
In fact, Utah students have been experiencing a decline of the state’s funding effort. A report released by Utah Foundation earlier this June shows that Utah’s funding effort, as measured by how much Utah incomes are dedicated to funding K-12 public education, has decreased significantly since 1992, from almost $60 per $1,000 income in 1992 to slightly over $40 in 2011.
The Public Education Finances:2009, issued by the U.S. Census Bureau in May, shows that Utah ranked 51st from 2008 to 2009, lowest in the nation, in terms of spendings on public elementary and secondary schools per pupil, amounting to only $7,954. This would seem low when compared to the $20,645 New York spent per pupil, which also ranked 1st in the nation.
In one of its latest articles titled “Utah’s Education Funding Effort: State Faces Long-Term Challenges,” Utah Foundation concluded that “[m]any observers, thinking of past performance, still argue that Utah is exerting a heavy effort to fund education, that the state is doing as much as it can, and that per-pupil ratios are only low because Utah has so many children to educate. In reality, Utah is not exerting a heavy effort and has not since the 1990s. Previous Utah Foundation research shows that since the mid-1990s, rather than emphasizing funding for public education, state policymakers have placed a higher priority on growth in budgets for other programs or on reducing taxes.”