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New Research Paints Clearer Picture Of Utah Ed Spending


The non-profit research firm Utah Foundation released numbers today that break down education spending in the state. While the information isn’t entirely new, it’s an attempt to give the public and policymakers a clearer picture.

Utah Foundation’s Vice President Shawn Teigen says this research is timely because this year some major decisions are being made regarding education spending. Along with Utah’s budget, there’s the Our Schools Now initiative that could increase taxes statewide.


Take the number that’s often thrown around, “second.” As in, when it comes to per pupil funding, Utah is the second lowest spender in the country.


“What does it tell us?" Teigen asks. "If we don’t move up or down if we’re always just the lowest, it doesn’t really inform where the money goes that is currently being spent.”


The numbers that Teigen and his team released today organize a more in-depth view of state spending. For instance, despite the low national ranking, the allotted amount for K-12 education makes up 23 percent of the entire state budget.


Also, Utah has the second highest class sizes in the country even though the state receives the lowest percentage of federal funding. That’s due in part to a low poverty rate, but also because federal funding follows state trends.


And then there are administrative costs.


“I think one of the most interesting things that I found is just how little we spend on district administration [compared] to the other states," Teigen says."


Piggybacking on previous research, the findings show that Utah districts spend only 7 percent on administrative costs. That’s way lower than most Utahns think — surveys put their guesses at more than a quarter of the entire budget.


Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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