The Birth Rate Myth, How Utah Under Spends on Education.
For my inaugural post on BlUtah, I would like to comment on the Utah Legislature’s fig leaf arguments that only demographics and birth rate explain Utah’s continual lag in education spending. What they would like you believe is that if you divide Utah’s student population by the amount of money that education deserves out of the State revenues, it is inevitable that we will have the lowest Per Pupil Expenditures (PPE). This makes a huge assumption that revenue is fixed and is not controlled by the State Legislature. Everyone in Utah knows that this isn’t true and a majority agree that raising revenue for education is a better policy choice.
After the US Census Bureau again showed Utah scrapping the bottom of all States in PPE, I decided to see how much of the State’s economic output local and state governments were willing to invest to educating the next generation of workers and leaders.
Let me break down how I made that calculation. I took the per state education revenue from the Census Education Report and removed the federal revenue component from the calculation because I considered it largely outside the control of local and state governments. In this calculation, Utah spends 3,699,587,000 on education. I then pulled the Census’s per State GDP calculation which tracks how much economic output the State creates. Utah in 2008 created 109,777,000,000. This comes out to 3.37% of GDP is spent on the education of Utah students.
So how does that compare to other states. Vermont comes out on top at 5.52% of GDP spent on education. Delaware comes out on bottom at 2.53% (not including DC where almost all revenues are considered federal) and the National average is 3.78%. Lets say that Utah only invested the national average of 3.78% and federal education funding stayed the same. This is probably a low number for a state that does have a higher than average number of students to workers. In this scenerio, Utah would spend $8,792 per student and would jump 5 spots in PPE ranking to #46. This jump in spending would have a large effect on class sizes and resources available for Utah children.
Next time you hear the Utah Legislature or the Governor act like Utah’s ranking in funding in education is a foregone conclusion, remember that we get out of education what they put in.