Friday, May 30, 2008

Investing in Kids Part 1

Yesterday, the Utah Foundation released a new report entitled “What Can $3,702 Buy: How Utah Compares in Education Spending and Services.” It’s a great read for anyone interested in the future of public education in Utah. (Okay, it is a bit long, so you might want to start with the Executive Summary.) Although most of us know that Utah’s per-pupil spending is the lowest in the nation, the new report looks at more than just the spending, revealing the true cost to our students. Utah Foundation President, Stephen Kroes, summed it up in an interview with the Deseret News:

"Having larger class sizes, lower-paid teachers, fewer librarians, larger school districts, and higher student-to-staff ratios in almost every category are indications of schools adapting to low resource levels. . . . But by merely getting by within these constraints, our schools do not appear to be poised for excellence.",5143,700230217,00.html?pg=1
In fact, a comparison between Utah and states with similar populations reveals that our low funding effort correlates with lower student performance. From the report:

Utah Foundation’s report “School Testing Results, 2006 & 2007” found that Utah is scoring well below what would be expected for a state with its demographic profile. Utah Foundation identified significantly lower spending levels as a possible contributing factor. Certainly below a specific threshold, spending could be an important constraint on student achievement. In addition, although most people agree that the primary objective of schooling is academic achievement, parents and the public also value other educational outcomes not measured by standardized tests (such as civic virtue, creativity, critical thinking or social skills) as well as certain institutional qualities of the education system (such as responsiveness to parents). These also might be detrimentally affected by Utah’s lower spending levels.
So, while lower spending is sometimes considered to be a sign of fiscal restraint, and can also reflect efficient management, we must be aware of the “specific threshold,” below which we short-change our students.

The new report provides great information, and I hope it will become the basis for many productive discussions on how we can improve the educational opportunities for all Utah’s students. I’ll be addressing some of the specifics in the report in the upcoming days and weeks. I hope you’ll join the discussion.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

We're off and running!

Welcome to my campaign blog! I hope you enjoy following the progress my campaign for state House of Representatives and the discussion of the issues that are important to voters in Draper and Sandy. I look forward to a lively but respectful exchange of ideas on this space.

It was great to see many people from district 51 at the Salt Lake County convention last weekend. The convention was actually held in the south end of the valley this year at Jordan High School. That was fun for me for a couple of reasons. First, my husband and I both graduated from Jordan High School, so we’re part of the Beetdiggers’ 100+ year history. (Of course, we’re a little too old to have attended at the “new” Jordan where the convention was held, but we still felt at home when we found the picture of our student body officers hanging on the wall near the auditorium.)

Having the convention at JHS was also a great opportunity for us in the south to play host to a large Democratic function. South valley Democrats are an excited group, and our numbers are growing as more people become disenchanted with the direction Republican leadership is taking the state. After the high attendance at the convention and at caucus meetings in March, we’re looking forward to great things this year!