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Public education in Utah

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K-12 Education in Utah
State Superintendent: Martell Menlove
Number of students: 598,832[1]
Number of teachers: 25,970
Teacher/pupil ratio: 1:23.1
Number of school districts: 126
Number of schools: 1,020
Graduation rate: 80%[2]
Per-pupil spending: $6,212[3]
See also
Public education in Utah
Utah Department of Education
Utah school districts
List of school districts in Utah
The Utah public school system (prekindergarten-grade 12) operates within districts governed by locally elected school boards members and superintendents.

The Utah state constitution requires that the state legislature provides for "the establishment and maintenance of the state's education systems." This includes: a public education system that is "open to all children of the state" and a higher education system.[4] Additionally, all public elementary and secondary schools are free, however, the state holds the right to authorize the imposition of fees in secondary schools.[5]

School revenues, expenditures and budget

See also: Utah state budget
Utah's education costs are about 1/3 of the state budget

Utah's total budget is approximately $10.6 billion, public education accounts for approximately $3.5 billion, a third of the total state budget. Since 2005, funding for public education has increased 35 percent. For FY 2010, public education budget received a two percent increase in onetime state and federal funding as compared to FY 2008.[6] However, in an effort to close the state budget gap, lawmakers cut 5.2% from public education.[7]

The cost per pupil is $5,765, ranking last in the nation according the Census Bureau 2007-2008 report.[8]

Personnel salaries

For the 2009, legislators picked 3 public schools and 2 charter schools to launch a pilot performance-pay program. The five schools will split $300,000 a year for two years to develop a plan to measure teacher performance and reward teachers for any success. The selected schools include: Midway Elementary School, Manila Elementary School, Ashman Elementary School, Canyon Rim Academy, and Wasatch Peak Academy.[9]

In 2007, the American Federation of Teachers ranked the state of Utah 40th for its average teacher salary of $37,775, a 0.6% increase from the previous year. The state ranked 43rd for the average beginning teacher salary in the 2006-07 school year. The average beginning teacher salary was $28,653, a 4.4% increase from 2005-06.[10]

School year Average annual teacher salary Average beginning teacher salary
2006-07 $37,775[10] $28,653[10]
2005-06 $37,549[10] $27,445[10]
2004-05 $37,006[11] $26,521[11]
2003-04 $38,976[12] $26,310[12]
2002-03 $38,249[12] $26,704[12]

Role of unions

  • In 2006, some unions members decided to depart from the Utah Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, to develop the Utah Council of Educators. The council, however, is not a union and does not participate in collective bargaining. Both organizations are in favor of reducing class sizes and raising teacher salaries, however, one point in which the two differ is their attitude towards school vouchers. The Utah Education Association spent more than $3 million in the fight against vouchers in 2007. The council on the other hand said that they would rather let the public decide.[13]
  • In late June 2009, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) filed an official complaint against a Northwest Middle School principal, Roderick Goode. The AFT filed the complaint with the Civil Rights Office of the U.S. Department of Education in Denver and with the Utah Professional Practices Action Committee of the State Office of Education. The union alleges that Goode is quick to target Latino girls for discplinary action. The AFT filed the complaint after learning that Goode keeps a large number of hoop earrings hanging from a spindle. The hoop earings, teacher and union representatives said, are commonly found among Latino girls and confiscated for safety reasons. According to district officials, several of the school's teachers have transferred to different schools. The school district said that the confiscation of the earrings is not discriminatory but a safety reason. They are backing the principal and has asked the principal to return for the next school year.[14]

Role of school boards

The State Board of Education is comprised of one board member per school district, a total of 15, two board of regents representatives, a Coalition of Minorities Advisory Committee representative and a state superintendent according to the Utah constitution.[15]

The State Charter School Board is comprised of seven members including two State Board of Education members, two financial management members and three charter school representatives.[16]

Taxpayer-funded lobbying

See also: Utah government sector lobbying

The main education government sector lobbying organization is the Utah School Boards Association.


In 2008, the state legislature passed SB 38, requiring state government agencies to make certain financial information available online. The Utah Public Finance website was released on May 15, 2009.[17]

In 2009, the legislature passed Senate Bill 18 - Utah Transparency Advisory Board Amendments. The legislation adds local government agencies including school districts and charter school to the state's 2008 legislation. The information is scheduled to be released May 2010.[18]

Both SB 38 and SB 18 were spearheaded by Sen. Wayne Niederhauser.


A 2009 study, Leaders and Laggards, conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for a Competitive Workplace, Frederick M. Hess of the conservative American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, and the Center for American Progress, gave Utah: "C" in academic achievement; "D" in truth in advertising about student proficiency; "C" in rigor of standards; "A" in post-secondary and workforce readiness; "D" in for its teacher workforce policies; "A" in data quality.[19]


  • In 2009, the State Charter School Board said that they are currently conducting an audit on Rockwell Charter High School after Jenny Foss, treasurer on Rockwell's board, informed the state of possible non-compliance in regards to school policy and procedure. The school has until July 31, 2009 to fix the reported indiscretions. School director Darren Beck said, "We are not doing anything illegal or inappropriate. The board just needs some training." Some items for review include the implementation of a board finance committee, scheduling the director's annual performance evaluation, clarification on board members' terms and the business director or financial consultant must have an accounting degree.[20]
  • In 2007, legislators requested an audit of class-size reduction money sent to local school districts to find out how the money is being spent. The audit was spurred after news that even with the additional funds, Utah's public school class sizes remain the largest in the nation.[21]
    • Results from the audit revealed that loose controls at the district level made it difficult to determine whether the money was spent properly.[22]

Academic performance

The chart below details the results from Utah Basic Skills Competency Test for the school years 2008-2009 and 2007-2008. The chart provides overall state results and results for the three subtests, math, reading and writing.[23]

School year Math Subtest Reading Subtest Writing Subtest Total Test Results
2008-2009 84.93%[24] 92.04%[24] 88.94%[24] 81.85%[24]
2007-2008 84.28%[25] 92.08%[25] 88.17%[25] 80.37%[25]

State Budget Solutions’ Education Study: “Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working”

State Budget Solutions’ examined national trends in education from 2009-2011, including state-by-state analysis of education spending, graduation rates, and average ACT scores. The study shows that states that spend the most do not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor do they have the highest average graduation rates. A summary of the study is available here. Download the full report here: Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working.

See National Chart to compare data from all 50 states.

State Spending on Education vs. Academic Performance 2012

State 2011 Total Spending[26] 2011 Education Spending[27] 2011 Percent Education Spending 2012 Total Spending[28] 2012 Education Spending[29] 2012 Percent Education Spending 2010 Avg. ACT score[30] 2011 Avg. ACT score[31] 2012 Avg. ACT score[32] 2010 Graduation Rate[33] 2011 Graduation Rate[34]
Utah $23.8 billion $7.6 billion 31.9% $23.6 billion $7.6 billion 32.2% 21.8 21.8 20.7 76.6% 74.3%

School choice

Utah is one of the leading state's for school choice. In 2007, in a 38-37 the House of Representatives passed the nation's first universally available school choice program. The Senate also passed the legislation, 19-10. On February 12, 2007 Gov. Hunstman signed the bill into law. The legislation allows for students to redeem vouchers at any private school. Vouchers can be anywhere between $3,000 per child, for lower income families, to $500 per child, for higher income families.[35]

School Choice options include:

  • Charter schools: the state of Utah had approximately 70 charter schools in the 2007-2008 school year. In August 2009, it is expected that the state of Utah will see the opening of 7 new charter schools.[36]
  • Public school open enrollment: in Utah, the state has two mandatory policies: intra-district and inter-district enrollment. Intra-district allows for students to apply for a transfer to another school within the same school district in which they reside. Inter-district allows for students to apply for a transfer to another school outside of the district in which they reside.[37]
  • Carson Smith Scholarship Program: allows for students with physical or learning disabilities to apply for a scholarship tot attend any eligible private schools in the state.[38]
  • Online learning: the state has a two main programs: Utah Electronic High School (EHS) and an online charter school, The Utah Virtual Academy. Additionally there are five district online programs throughout the state.[38]

External links

Additional reading


  1. National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12," accessed March 18, 2014
  2. ED Data Express, "State Tables Report," accessed March 17, 2014 The site includes this disclaimer: "States converted to an adjusted cohort graduation rate [starting in the 2010-2011 school year], which may or may not be the same as the calculation they used in prior years. Due to the potential differences, caution should be used when comparing graduation rates across states."
  3. United States Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011," accessed March 18, 2014
  4. Utah Constitution,"Article X, Section 1," accessed July 15, 2009
  5. Utah Constitution,"Article X, Section 2," accessed July 15, 2009
  6. State of Utah,"FY 2010 budget summary," June 2009
  7. The University of Utah's Center for Public Policy and Administration,"Balancing Utah’s Budget in Tough Financial Times," March 25, 2009
  8. Maine Watchdog, Education Spending Per Child, July 6, 2010
  9. KSL,"5 schools to launch pilot performance-pay program," June 3, 2009
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 American Federation of Teachers,"Survey and Analysis of Teacher Salary Trends 2007," accessed July 14, 2009
  11. 11.0 11.1 American Federation of Teachers,"Survey and Analysis of Teacher Salary Trends 2005," accessed July 14, 2009
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 American Federation of teachers,"Survey and Analysis of Teacher Salary Trends 2004," accessed July 14, 2009
  13. The Salt Lake Tribune,"Utah school workers shun teachers union, seek Legislature's ear," January 7, 2008
  14. The Salt lake Tribune,"Rolly: Teachers union: Trouble is brewing at Northwest Middle School," June 22, 2009
  15. Utah State Board of Education,"Members of the Utah State Board of Education," accessed July 13, 2009
  16. Utah Charter Schools,"State Charter School Board Members," March 16, 2009
  17. Utah State Legislature,"SB 38," accessed July 14, 2009
  18. Utah State Legislature,"SB 18," accessed July 14, 2009
  19. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute,"Utah Education Report Card," retrieved November 17, 2009
  20. Deseret News,"School whistle-blower fears retaliation," June 22, 2009
  21. Deseret News,"Audit to track school money for class-size cuts," April 1, 2007
  22. Utah State Legislature,"Performance audit of elementary school class size," accessed July 14, 2009
  23. Utah State Office of Education,"Assessment and Accountability," accessed July 14, 2009
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 Utah State Office of Education,"Utah Basic Skills Competency Test 2008 results," accessed July 14, 2009
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 Utah State Office of Education,"Utah Basic Skills Competency Test 2007 results," accessed July 14, 2009
  26. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  27. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  28. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  29. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  30. 2010 ACT National and State Scores "Average Scores by State"
  31. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  32. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  33. National Center for Education Statistics
  34. National Center for Education Statistics
  35. Cato Institute,"A Voucher Victory," February 14, 2007
  36. Standard Net,"Utah to open seven new charter schools in August," July 4, 2009
  37. Education Commission of the States,"Open Enrollment: 50-State Report," accessed July 15, 2009
  38. 38.0 38.1 The Heritage Foundation,"School Choice in Utah," accessed July 15, 2009