Public Education Funding
Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant. –John Adams
Utah has a problem when it comes to funding K-12 public education. Utah has consistently been 51st in the nation for per-student spending. Over the past twenty years, state leaders have made deliberate policy decisions taking about one billion dollars from the annual budget for public education. And although Utahns continue to rank public education as one of their top priorities year after year, the state’s education funding effort continues to fall even though incomes continue to increase.
State policymakers counter that Utah faces unique challenges, including a higher than average population of children, for why they are not able to adequately fund our public schools. They say that it is more important how we spend that money than how much we spend on our schools. However, the meager funds we are now putting towards education are not paying off.
Utah ranks in the bottom forty percent for student achievement, and when adjusted for demographics, we plummet down to the bottom ten percent. Less than thirty-eight percent of our eighth grade students are proficient in math and reading. Less than twenty-three percent of our high school students achieve the ACT’s “college-ready” benchmarks. Utah’s teachers are not receiving the funds necessary for professional development or training to meet standards or use new technologies, leading to a forty-two percent five-year attrition rate of teachers from the classroom. The size of classrooms in Utah are among the largest in the nation.
In January 2016, the Alliance for a Better Utah announced its intention to sue the State of Utah in an effort to secure more funding for our state’s schools. Better Utah believes that the Legislature is not living up to its duty under the Utah Constitution to provide adequate funding for our children’s schools. Utah is one of only four states to have not yet faced this type of litigation, and it is our belief that if the Legislature continues to ignore their responsibility to provide for our children’s future, they should face up to their failures in a court of law. We will continue to advocate for adequate funding for the sake of our children and their teachers.