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Saturday, January 06, 2007

What My Constituents Want - Part Two

By Greg Bell
Utah State Senator, District 22

Here's what I'm hearing from the good people in Davis County: Public Education and Transportation are THE issues this year. I'll talk about Public Education first.

People in my district seem to understand . . .
  • Utah has more children per household (3.2 vs. 2.3) than the rest of the nation.
  • Utah’s income per job tends to be less than the national average (about 80%).
  • Utah therefore has to be very efficient and innovative with scarce tax dollars.
  • The economic downturn i n 2001-03 legitimately limited Utah's ability to increase educational funding.
HOWEVER, they also believe that . . .
  • Since the end of the recession, Utah has not adequately funded public education.
  • Class sizes have become a serious problem: 25 students in K-3, and 35 to 40 students in High School math and English are NOT acceptable.
  • Teacher salaries beginning at $12/hr. and topping out around $40K are unacceptable.
  • Increased teacher compensation must be linked to performance-based incentives for quality teaching.
  • Students must have adequate classroom resources: textbooks, access to computers, paper, supplies.
  • Tax cuts at the expense of public ed are NOT desireable.
  • Current record surpluses should be devoted to major educational funding increases.
In exchange, my constituents are demanding that public education . . .
  • Account for monies spent, particularly in administrative costs;
  • Account for individual student progress and school-wide academic achievement;
  • Account for the high cost of new buildings;
  • Eliminate poor, underperforming teachers from the system;
  • Require high school graduates to have basic competency in core subjects; and
  • Allow parents to have a real say in policy decisions.
The bottom line that I am hearing from citizens in my district is that we should use the budget surplus wisely to make a significant and continuing investment in quality public education.


Blogger Voice of Utah said...

To RC: Got your message about Sen. Bell's first post, and responded to it over at VoU. Thanks for the dialog.

1/07/2007 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The truth is that Utahns have always been chasing our tail on this one. It was a problem 20 years ago, and it's a problem today. 20 years of above average economic growth and we're only further behind. Teachers I know are facing class sizes that were unheard of when I was a student - 40+ students, in some cases.

Why is that?

It used to be the large Mormon families that caused the problem - now it's large (mostly illegal) immigrant families. Nearly 100% of the increase in the Salt Lake County school-age population is minority. Statewide, it's 40%. "Minority" isn't an exact substitute for "illegal immigrant," of course, but it's pretty darn close.

So the question now becomes: Why keep our taxes high (8th highest in the nation) to pay for the educations of children who aren't even supposed to be here?

I'm a pretty conservative person, so it's ironic that what's made me abandon my party is my return to Utah.

1/07/2007 5:51 PM  
Anonymous Ryan Jenkins said...

Thanks for you notes and thoughts. I hope the upcoming legislative session can avoid meddling in and financing the REAL Soccer Stadium fiasco. Nowhwer in sound goverment repsonibility is this on the radar. Stick with education and transportation. Education is even questionable.
Ryan Jenkins

1/08/2007 7:16 AM  
Anonymous Marie said...

First your constituents understand: Utah’s income per job tends to be less than the national average (about 80%).

And then they find this unacceptable?
Teacher salaries beginning at $12/hr. and topping out around $40K

I found this estimate for the "national average" for teacher salary in 2008-2009:
According to Rankings and Estimates, the national average public school teacher salary for 2004–05 was $47,674.

If the $12/hr assumes Full-time employment (52wks/yrx40hrs/wk), I come up with an annual salary of $24,960. Then your constituents suggest that the salary tops off around $40k.

Let's do a bit more math here. The $12/hr pay is about 52% of national average. I did not find a "national average" for starting teacher salary. I would assume, as for most fields, starting salary is going to be significantly less than more tenured employees.

For example, the main source of our income comes from employment in the technology sector. Starting entry pay was $9/hr, though national average for the same job is actually more along the lines of $35-40K. So starting pay of $12/hr for teachers seems to be a comparable salary for entry level.

Let's look at the teacher salaries "topping out around $40K" and do the math. And you get that teachers making $40k are making about 84% of national average! So they're already making a slightly higher percentage of national average than other income earners (aka taxpayers) in the state!

I think another element that is often overlooked is benefits. One job may have a higher salary, but the benefits are not there. Another job might have a lower salary, but pensions, 401K, health/medical/dental coverage, holiday/vacation/sick pay, etc. are much more desireable. There are trade-offs to salary.

Why is it is okay for non-teachers to make about 80% of the national average, but it's not okay for teachers?

I don't want to discredit the value of teachers. It is just not very realistic to think that one sector ought to be getting national average on pay when the rest of us are much below that average.

1/08/2007 1:04 PM  
Anonymous Marie said...

p.s. The salaries used in my post are based on the teacher being paid year round for a nine month employment period. If the salary is only considering the actual hours worked and so paid, this leaves that person opportunity to find secondary employment on the off hourse (ie, summer break) to compensate for a full-year income. It is also unfair to compare a partial year income to a full-year income. I can't complain that I only make $40K working 40hrs/wk for 9 months, when my neighbor who works 40hrs/wk 12 months earns $50K. In the end, my neighbor is actually making less than I am per hour of work, even if the end number is higher for him.

1/08/2007 1:10 PM  
Blogger Natalie said...

Senator Bell,

I am not your constituent - I live a little too far south - but I agree completely. Thank you for your commitment to our children and our public schools. Thank you for listening, and making a difference. I am glad that you, and your voice of reason, are up on the hill (and that you're on Senate Ed this year!).

1/08/2007 10:07 PM  
Anonymous goodboy said...

I wonder how the many hundreds of hours that I spend on MY own time as part of my job figure into my salary as a teacher (actually equal to much more than I actually spend in the classroom). Teachers shouldn't be making as much as technical workers for sure, but let's not kid ourselves as say they're rich either. They aren't dirt poor either as many are second wage earners or co wage earners if they have another person in the household or are single. OTHER jobs are indeed underpaid such as social workers, farmers, law enforcement, fire fighters, etc. Teachers do need to understand they aren't the only ones. I do make sure that I appreciate teachers who DO work hard at their jobs. It's not getting any easier being one. I have seen many make a difference in the lives of many children. I also appreciate good parents and all that they do.

1/11/2007 4:03 PM  
Anonymous goodboy said...

as=and d'oh :)

1/11/2007 4:04 PM  

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