Survey Highlights State Education Shortfalls

Survey Highlights State Education Shortfalls

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah got an `F' for public education funding and other low grades for teacher quality and school accountability from Education Week newspaper.

Utah hardly needs to be reminded it spends the least per student of any state -- $4,769 a year, according to Education Week. Barely 1 percent of students here attend schools where the funding is better than the national average. Utah's burgeoning school-age population also makes for some of the nation's most crowded classrooms.

The 50-state survey, funded by Pew Charitable Trusts, spotted another problem in Utah: Even though it churns out plenty of teachers, half are lost to other states and rural school districts have trouble attracting the remainders.

Brigham Young University led nine education colleges in Utah that graduated 2,400 teachers in 2001.

"We know we're not keeping a lot of our teachers. They're being courted by other states, where they can get signing bonuses and higher salaries," Utah Education Association President Pat Rusk said Tuesday.

Average pay for Utah teachers was $36,441 last school year, the union found.

Low pay leads to another problem that's behind Utah's `D' for teacher quality.

"We have teachers in rural areas teaching outside of their major or minor simply because a district can't find anyone else," Rusk said. Less wealthy, urban districts face similar problems.

President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 will mandate "highly qualified" teachers in math, science, English and other subjects by 2006. It means all teachers must have majored in the topic they're teaching or passed a standardized test Utah has yet to develop.

Education Week gave Utah its highest grade, a B-plus, for equitably spreading funding among all 40 districts.

The state got a C for adopting standards and accountability for schools, even though Utah is one of five states already prepared for pending federal standards. But Utah doesn't reward performers or penalize laggards, meaning it hasn't made accountability meaningful, according to Education Week.

Even as Utah struggles to devote more money for education, it can't keep up with other states. Utah contributes more of its state tax revenues to education than many other states, but is overwhelmed by enrollment growth. The state has 480,000 students, a figure expected to grow to 580,000 by 2010.

Education Week, a 50,000-circulation newspaper, has been grading states by education performance for seven years.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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