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Schools headed for disaster

Published February 9, 2013 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I am impatient with our Legislature. After years of politely asking its members to acknowledge and address the problems in the education funding formulas, which the public overwhelmingly supports, I can barely be anything less than snarky.

Seriously, lawmakers, why don't I see any bills to attend to serious immediate and long-term education funding? Laudably, Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan, and Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake, have each suggested some tweaks to add a trickle to the education budget, but what we really need is an overhaul of our current tax system.

The millions of education dollars lost when we moved to the flat tax has proved disastrous, and Utahans clearly support doing whatever it takes to address education needs.

Teachers aren't asking for the moon. We understand that funds are limited and everyone's taken cuts in recent years. But the economy is turning around. Just funding student growth is no longer acceptable after years of absorbing tens of thousands more students into our classrooms.

Now it's time to take care of students and the teachers to whom they're entrusted.

The first things that need to be addressed are teacher preparation /training days and class sizes. In my novice days 30 years ago, teachers were given 10 days to set up their rooms, learn new curriculum, and prepare lessons, report cards, and so forth. Instead of adding time to ensure adequate or even stellar preparation, we're now down to just a couple of days.

Does anyone honestly think we can be well prepared to teach for 180 days with only two days of preparation for the entire year? Can teachers really implement completely new curriculum with a couple of half days to learn and understand it ourselves?

Lower class size is the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge because addressing it costs too much money. Remember when 24 students in an elementary class was the goal? Nowadays it's not uncommon to see 35-plus kids in a room.

Is any child going to get the help he or she needs under those circumstances? Can anyone out there imagine having a child's birthday party and inviting 37 10-year-olds for two hours?

How about trying to teach to 37 kids how to add and subtract fractions and mixed numbers, or the reasons for the seasons, or phonics or constitutional amendments or anything else?

Have legislators perhaps not considered the fact that students who leave school without basic skills and a diploma don't just disappear? They enter society and cost us in other ways. Think about it.

And is it a concern to lawmakers that educators who are asked to do more and more with less and less aren't going to stick it out much longer? If lawmakers want to turn education into a stop-over job instead of staffing schools with dedicated career professionals, they're on the right track.

No more excuses, Utah legislators. Make a serious investment in education or the consequences will be much uglier than any of us wants to see.

Judy Mahoskey has taught in a Title I school in Murray School District for 30 years. She is a 2012 recipient of the Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education.






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