June 1, 2012

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Educating for the Future

LEARNING THAT WORKS Enhancing Utah’s Educational System Ed...Read More

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Making Education a Top Priority

Sarah Ryther Francom

June 1, 2012

Education is a critical component of individual and collective prosperity. Are we doing enough to ensure our children and, therefore, our community is effectively educated? Will Utah’s future workforce be able to successfully compete on a national and international level?

A recent Wall Street Journal article argues that education is not only critical to individual growth, but to the nation’s economic strength. Co-written by George Shultz, former secretary of state, and Eric Hanushek, senior fellow at Hoover, the article discusses the notion that K-12 education is an investment that can lead to a high return for everyone. “An improved education system would lead to a dramatically different future for the U.S., because educational outcomes strongly affect economic growth and the distribution of income,” the article reads.

Shultz and Hanushek report that countries with stronger education scores—specifically in math and science—have economies that have grown faster than countries with students who score lower. They cite countries like Singapore and Taiwan at the top, with Peru and the Philippines at the bottom. The U.S., according to the authors, ranks No. 31 and is comparable to Portugal or Italy. “If we accept this level of performance, we will surely find ourselves on a low-growth path,” they say.

Here in the Beehive State, poll after poll indicates that education is a top priority among individuals, policy makers and business leaders. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Utah Foundation, a nonprofit organization that researches public policy issues, reported that Utahns now rank K-12 education as the state’s 6th highest priority among 22 issues. Just two years ago, in 2010, education ranked No. 11. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that despite education becoming an increasingly important issue among Utahns, the Utah Foundation has also reported that the state’s per-pupil spending on K-12 public education remains dire; in fact, Utah has had the nation’s lowest per-pupil spending since 1988. Reaching the national average would a require $2.2 billion investment.

In this issue of Utah Business, we hear from three education leaders—Larry Shumway, Ed.D., state superintendent of public instruction; Cynthia Bioteau, Ph.D.,  president of Salt Lake Community College; and Mark Bouchard, chair of Prosperity 2020. They discuss the challenges and opportunities inside Utah’s classrooms. Read their thoughts about Utah’s educational system beginning on page 60.

Education is vital to Utah’s—and the nation’s—economic growth and strength. But if we’re not truly investing and innovating in education today, what does that mean for our economy tomorrow? If we want to have a competitive and progressive economy, now is the time to make education a top priority.

From the Editor
Sarah Ryther Francom

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