- Utah ranks 50th in the nation in teacher pay
- Utah class sizes are the largest in the nation (In the eleven years I’ve taught, I’ve had classes as large as 44 students. My average class size last year was thirty-seven.)
- 15% of Utah teachers leave the profession within the first five years
- According to the United States Census for 2014, the median income in the United States is $53,657
- An entry level teacher in Utah will make $37,882 this year in Davis County. It will take nineteen years until a teacher reaches the median income—assuming the teacher’s pay raises are never frozen (In the eleven years I’ve taught, mine has been frozen twice) and the median income does not increase
Regardless of how you feel about teachers, one thing is clear: if you have children—and if you live in Utah you probably have several—then without openly admitting it, you probably appreciate the school year because, at the very least, it is mostly-free daycare. Even at the high school level, parents take solace knowing where their child is during the day. Schools allow parents a reprieve from parenting for a few hours every day.
A few years ago I was on a flight to Salt Lake City. My seatmate was from Seattle, and at the time, Seattle teachers were striking. This quickly became the topic of our conversation. He expressed his disdain for the strike because he didn’t know what to do with his children during the day. He wanted, in his words, his “free daycare back.” When teachers are viewed as nothing more than glorified babysitters, is it any wonder why some would choose to leave the profession? This belittlement has lent itself to force teachers to lower classroom standards in an attempt to appease parents and administrators that want students to receive maximum classroom rewards for minimal efforts. Yes, that is where education has devolved to. When standards are lowered, graduation rates increase. On paper it looks great to boast a ninety-five percentile graduation rate, even if the classroom standards had to be compromised to do so. Parents, students, and the top education echelon win, while the teachers lose.
Utah is known for large families and conservative values. When it comes to public education, these items do not coalesce. Public education is funded by tax dollars. The average Utah family has over four kids. It is not unusual for those kids to come from a single-income home. Dad works and mom stays home. That means there is one tax payer for four or more kids. Even if both parents do work, there are still more kids filtering though the public education system than taxpayers (parents) to fund them. There lies the problem.
Utahans claim to hate socialism and government handouts, yet we don’t have any qualms about cramming forty students into a classroom and taking the $1,000 per child tax credit that the government hands out every year. The truth is public education is a socialized program, and unless your kids are in private schools and you opt not to claim your children on your tax returns, you benefit from socialism. Do we really hate socialism or just the politicians that seem to back it?
If Utah wants to retain quality teachers and offer quality education to its students, then it needs to offer competitive pay and smaller class sizes. That can only happen if we raise education taxes on the families that have more kids than taxpayers. Most don’t want this because most want to continue receiving a service they don’t pay for. The result will be more of the same: fewer qualified teachers in classrooms that have more students than desks, followed by repeated empty rhetoric from lawmakers.