Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Utah's public ed: still terrible

There is a new story out in today's Salt Lake Tribune that has Utah at the 20th in the country in overall "offering children a chance at success" rather than looking at hard numbers like test scores, class size per pupil spending, something we lag far behind the rest of the country on.
Instead of repeating past analyses on K-12 practices, this year's report compared hurdles kids face long before school-age years, as well as opportunities available as adults.
Factors such as parental education, employment, income and English fluency were considered. So were the percentage of adults statewide who hold college degrees, work full-time jobs and earn above-average incomes. School factors such as preschool and kindergarten enrollment, reading and math skills and graduation were also compared.
Utah scored well above average for home conditions kids experience before school. The state scored below average for preschool enrollment and about average for kindergarten enrollment. Elementary reading skills were above the national average and middle school math achievement was on par with the nation.
High school graduation rates were well above average, but after that, Utah's scores fell. Attendence and graduation from college were about average. But the percentage of Utah adults making average salaries and holding full-time jobs was below the national norm.

Utah parents do the best for their kids as they can. Our streets are safer than most other states, and the LDS Church's focus on family pushes families to prioritize their children. Yet, college graduation and attendance is going down, incomes are down and education's share of the budget is too.

Huntsman will supposedly push for a major increase in spending this year, and if true, I support it. But we saw that his first priorities are to cut taxes for his wealthy friends (and himself) as well as spend money on construction projects rather than his state's public education.

We need to build more schools and classrooms, hire more teachers, build up respect for the teaching profession and for education in general. Maybe we need to even build a new University so that folks who go to the U of U don't feel like a number and slip through the cracks...although that will probably be a couple decades down the road and Utah State could probably pick up the slack if they were properly funded.

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