Utah Democratic Party calls for education plan

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Salt Lake City–The Utah Democratic Party challenged recent claims that teachers are failing students, saying Utah leaders are failing schools.

An education task force met to discuss the high achievement gap in minority groups after Michael Clara, a Salt Lake City school board member, blamed the issue on a lack of experienced teachers last February. Several Republican representatives shared Clara’s stance.

The Utah Democratic Party defended teachers, calling the statements made at the Education Task Force meeting “scapegoats” for the real issue–Republican Utah leaders failing schools.

“We’re losing a generation because we’re not willing to admit there’s a problem,” said Matt Lyon, Executive Director of the Utah Democratic Party.

Utah does not currently have a plan to better public education. Last January, Utah Democrats called for an education plan.

“We have a 10-year plan for curb and gutters. We have a 5-year and 10-year plan for roads and transportation. We have a 30-year plan for facilities and maintenance. But we don’t have a real, concrete plan for our education system,” Lyon said in a prepared statement on August 29.

The Utah Democratic Party is working on legislation to lower class sizes and increase teacher support. Lyon said the party proposes a plan every year, but has yet to receive support from Republicans.

As of 2007, Utah has the lowest average score in eighth grade writing for Hispanic students out of the 37 states on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Test. There is a 30-point gap between Caucasian and Hispanic students in eighth grade math on the NAEP test, with 10 points averaging one grade-level. This gap has increased by 37 percent since 1992.

The Utah Basic Skills and Competency Test (UBSCT), or high school exit exam, showed a 27-point gap between graduating Caucasian and Hispanic students in 2008 according to the Utah State Office of Education. Students who fail the UBSCT in tenth grade are offered state-funded vouchers to pay for tutoring.

According to its website, the Utah Democratic Party hopes to have schools that are safe and focus on creativity and critical thinking more than testing. They hope to achieve this by improving student achievement, lowering dropout rates and retaining well-qualified teachers.

The Utah Democratic Party also wants higher education and career programs to be accessible by all Utahns. The party hopes for a renewed emphasis on four-year college education.

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