Buttars pitches plan to eliminate 12th grade, reduce busing

Posted - Feb. 8, 2010 at 6:00 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- A proposal to eliminate the 12th grade in Utah's public schools could save the state $60 million. That's according to Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, who is trying to advance his idea in the interest of saving money.

Buttars made a pitch to an education funding subcommittee on Monday. Buttars is talking about making 12th grade optional and reducing bus routes in senior high schools.

His colleagues are intrigued by his ideas.

Buttars says these proposals are aimed at saving money, but he says some students may benefit from what he calls "accelerated graduation."


According to Sen. Chris Buttars, if 20,000 high school students graduate early and half of the high school bus routes are eliminated the state would save $67.5 million.

Under his plan, students would get incentives and college credit. Details would have to be worked out, but Buttars says the state could save $67 million a year with accelerated graduation and by eliminating busing for some senior high schools.

"What I'm trying to do is find that money for the $700 million ongoing shortfall in ongoing money, and at the same time try to keep as many dollars as possible in the program," Buttars said. "This does that. Now, to what extent we don't know because it's their option."

There is resistance to embrace these proposals, in spite of the money they might save. Buttars' fellow lawmakers wondered aloud what it would take to get educators to be more open to the ideas.

Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said, "Maybe these budget shortfalls that we see are not scary enough or draconian enough or urgent enough to be this drastic in the policies that we're trying to change."

Education does face potentially enormous cuts this year, but educators say they're reluctant to touch established programs like busing and the 12th grade at this point.

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Story compiled with contributions from Richard Piatt and Marc Giauque.

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