SALT LAKE CITY -- A new survey from the Utah Education Association and Dan Jones & Associates may give the teachers' union the ammunition it needs to fight future budget cuts.
The poll surveyed 600 state residents, asking them a series of questions about public schools between kindergarten and grade 12. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percent.
Asked, "In your opinion are class sizes, that is the number of students per teacher in Utah's public schools, too large, about right, or too small," 71 percent of those surveyed answered "too large."
Asked, "Do you feel the amount of funding Utah's public schools receive is too high, about right, or too low," 66 percent answered "too low."
UEA president Kim Campbell said the people surveyed would prefer to increase corporate taxes than cut extracurricular programs or see fewer instructional days in the schedule to make up for the funding gap.
"And the other thing they told us is they would rather cut other services than public education," Campbell said.
Campbell pointed to statistics from the National Education Association comparing Utah's per-pupil spending to that of the national average. In the 1940s, Utah's spending was on par with the nation, but has gradually dropped over time. As the spending dropped, the class sizes gradually increased until they reached the levels where they are today.
Some lawmakers have suggested Utah's lowest-in-the-country per-pupil spending is something to be proud of, because it represents good stewardship of funding or high efficiency. Campbell said that way of thinking is backwards.
"If you look at investment in the human infrastructure, you're looking at, down the road, what's going to attract businesses to the state as well as create new jobs right now," Campbell said. "It's not a cost to the state. It's an investment in the future of the state when you invest in public education."
Among the survey's other findings, parents were ambivalent at best about the usefulness of standardized testing. Only 4 percent responded they believe the tests measure a student's overall performance "very well," with most falling in the middle of the scale on the question.