Utah Foundation on state’s per-pupil spending: ‘We’ve been dead last for a long, long time’

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah—After three decades, Utah still ranks last in the nation for per-pupil spending. While a lot of it has to do with large class sizes, education advocates said the state’s recent income tax cuts could also be to blame.

Utah currently spends roughly $6,555 per student, while the national average is $10,700 per student.

“We've been dead last for a long, long time, in terms of per-pupil funding,” said Shawn Teigen with the Utah Foundation. “If you look at funding effort, that is something where we used to be quite good, and where now, we've slipped over the last couple years.”

Utah ranks 51st in the nation for per-pupil spending.

“The latest numbers from the census bureau is from 2013, and per-pupil funding, Utah is the lowest in the nation,” said Mark Peterson with the Utah State Office of Education.

Education advocates say, while it is difficult to increase the amount they spend on students because of Utah’s large class sizes, state legislators should focus on what they do with the funds available.

Teigen said the state’s recent income tax cuts are also part of the problem.

“There have been some policy changes over the past 20 years that have affected that tax base, and has effectively lowered taxes for everybody in the state,” he said. “Unfortunately, that has impacted the money going into education.”

The state is allocating $512 million of additional funding for education this year, but that will not be enough to lift Utah out of its low ranking. It would take an additional $2.7 billion of taxpayer money  to match the national average of $10,700 per student.

Peterson said taxpayers who are concerned about Utah’s per-pupil spending can influence their government leaders by letting them know how they would like to see their money spent.

“I believe parents should make known to their legislator, to their local board member, to their state board member, where they want to see public schools going,” he said.

Peterson says additional funds would be welcome, because more students are on their way.

“We would like more money, it would certainly be welcome,” he said. “Most of our growth that's coming in the next five years is already here, they just haven't turned six yet."

Some state legislators have recommended increasing the income tax slightly each year to create more education revenue. But Peterson says, as long as Utah’s economy remains healthy and taxpayers continue earning more money, more funding will be available for education in the state.


  • KaliforniKated

    Utah schools rank higher than those in many states that spend far more. Look at California; the schools here are conducted in a foreign language and having an 80% high school graduation rate is seen as a major achievement.

      • KaliforniKated

        More like trying to train jackasses, except intact male donkeys are more polite and less violent.

  • George Smith

    When did this get to be a contest to see which state can spend the most money? California spends a lot more than Utah and their children get a terrible education.

  • jason

    I see a story line like this quite regularly; how about including in the story a report on where Utah ranks in TAX RATE to pay for education. it certainly isn’t dead last. In fact, I believe it is in the top ten. (It is more difficult then you would think to find that #, don’t know why)

  • Tiffany

    This is an absolutely irresponsible story. Utah is a state where a dollar goes much further than most other states. Try buying a home in Washington, California, New York, and a many other places across the country. What Utah spends on public education is the great than the amount charged for elite private education. Public school students in Utah go to school in beautiful new buildings and have many advantages. And, it shows. Utah has placed #1 in the nation on the ACT test, the past two years in a row.

  • KaliforniiKated

    The reality is that California spent huge amounts of money to reduce class size – and the smaller class sizes had no impact whatsoever on student learning.
    I think Utah must be getting too many people from Kalifornia and its two Klones (or was that Klowns) to the north.
    Before Oregon filled up with tax promoting Klowns from Kalifornia, the high school I attended, in Corvallis, was outstanding. Something like 80% of graduating seniors went on to college, many to places like Cal Tech, MIT, and Reed.
    Now the high school has a senior class best known for not graduating. Class time is wasted as teachers focus on the LCD. The school is a complete joke – despite the brand new building that was supposed to help, and far smaller class sizes. (I graduated in the early 1970s, when class sizes of 45 were not unusual.)
    Throwing money at something that isn’t broken is a very bad idea because it encourages the sort of changes that turned my high school from one of the top in the state to a very bad joke.

  • KaliforniiKated

    LAUSD spends more than $15K per pupil, and is currently considering permitting students with a D average to receive diplomas; it seems that only 37% of students will graduate in the next few years if a diploma continues to require a C average.

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