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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's teachers say education needs more funding in order for public schools to improve. That's the key topic at the annual Utah Education Association convention which got under way this week.
Teachers say they're at a breaking point, trying to educate more children with limited funding. Utah remains in last place nationally for per-pupil spending. UEA leaders say the state can't continue the trend of low spending and increased class sizes.
With cutbacks, changes in tax laws and a growing population, public schools have lost an annual $1 billion, union president Kim Campbell told the Salt Lake Tribune.
The teachers' union says people need to look at education as an investment, not an expense.
It also says the state needs to keep up with an increasingly diverse population. Educators say schools need to start programs to reach out to minority students.
Each year, thousands of Utah teachers attend the convention-- which includes workshops and speakers-- to hone their skills in the classroom. But this year turnout is much lower.
Most districts get a fall break in mid-October. The UEA usually holds its conference then. But UEA changed the dates and bumped up the convention to this week because of scheduling conflicts at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, where the convention is being held.
Some districts stuck to their mid-October break. Alpine, Provo and Nebo districts are among almost a dozen districts statewide that do not have a break this week. Teachers wanting to attend the convention would have to pay for a substitute.
A UEA spokesperson said it's a loss for the teachers who can't attend.
The State Office of Education says there are more than 22,000 teachers in Utah this year. Last year, 5,500 educators attended the convention.
The UEA says the convention will be held in mid-October for the next three years.