In addition to my long break from blogging (sorry for the gap, remember, I’m new at this) I took a quick break from campaigning to visit my daughter in Washington, DC this last month. I had the good fortune to chaperone a couple of fieldtrips with my 6 and 8 year-old grandsons while there, with an amazing group of educators. The boys attend an inspiring public school in DC that focuses on art and community, and which capitalizes on their location. We went to a play about Asian culture at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, and I also cooked lunch from scratch with second graders with vegetables that they had grown in their own school garden! It was a really great week and break, but I’m back on the campaign trail full-time now.
I’ve also visited a number of schools in my district over the past few weeks, and have met with some amazing principals and teachers, including the Principal of Roy High, a school that has made national headlines for their commitment to increasing its graduation rate http://www.standard.net/Education/2016/05/04/roy-high-school-cone-graduation-rates-partnerships-for-student-success-grant.html
The entire experience has left me completely impressed. Educators in this country manage not only to inspire young minds and to teach them how to think critically, but they also help children think about their future, and the future of the planet. The experience also left me totally floored by how these amazing teachers and administrators manage to stretch a dollar, and I mean, they really stretch it.
In my opinion, education should be our primary focus as a society—the most important thing. Educated people, people who have been taught how to approach a problem, how to utilize resources, how to ask for help when they need it, these people can make the best decisions about all other matters for society AND for themselves. Educating children has no downside, only upside – is there any other aspect of society that is so unequivocally important? Is there any other policy goal that has no downside?
I’m sure many of you are aware that Utah ranks dead last in spending per student, and has for many years. (http://www.sltrib.com/news/2579711-155/were-no-51-utah-last-again) Even given this, Utah has an astounding and impressive record of graduation rates and high test scores. Imagine if we lived in a state where we spent THREE TIMES the amount on education per student than we do now. Imagine what we could do and how far we could go with that sort of money? I know it’s probably not realistic for us to spend $20K/year on students, but even though we have many more children per capita than some states, I believe we can do more. We can do better than dead last.
Many people have asked me my stance on charters, and I will say that I’m extremely supportive of choice, but equally supportive of oversight. Situations where charter boards profit off of state funds are unacceptable. http://www.standard.net/State/2016/05/22/Utah-charter-schools-spend-public-funds-on-private-companies.html I also fervently believe that we need to be doing more for students than just addressing their in-class needs. Children that need extra support can continue to be successful with the right resources. Sometimes that means focusing on their needs outside of the classroom as well (see Roy High article above.) We need to carefully think out where dollars slated for education are best spent: is it close to $72,000,00.00 on a new high school in Herriman, when we lack in teacher wages, school supplies, and our class sizes are up to 34 students per class? I agree it is nice to have a great learning and teaching environment, but I'm not convinced that's the best use of our funds. http://www.mhtn.com/work/k12ed/det_ked_06.html
I don’t think any of these areas of focus require higher or more taxes, but I do believe they require better money management. The bottom line is that Utah teachers shouldn’t be forced to carry the weight of both the lowest budget per student in the country and a lack of supportive services for the children who need it outside of school. There is nothing controversial about saying young teachers shouldn’t have to spend money from their own pockets in order to give their students the tools they need to learn.