Here are some random thoughts I've been having about public education in Utah. Teachers don't make enough. Class sizes are about right. Public schools are least likely to be racially and ethnically diverse.
If we want a quality education product, we need to pay our teachers more.
A friend of mine works in a metal fabrication plant. When his bosses started trying to save money by reducing the wages they paid new employees, my friend warned them of the likely consequences. If you pay someone $8 per hour, you're going to get $8 per hour work. If you start them at $15, you're going to get a much higher quality product, because then you'll attract the people that are worth that much. Time proved my friend correct, as his company began to lose business due to shoddy workmanship.
It's the same with education. We have to have teachers, because we keep having children. So we might as well have good ones. The reason there is a shortage of good public school teachers in Utah is because we don't pay them enough. If they can make more in the private sector with their specialties, we can't expect them to stay in public education. Yes, they should be allowed to be "in it for them money". There is nothing wrong with getting paid a good day's pay for a good day's work. For those of you who aren't public educators, aren't you in your job for the money? At least a little bit?
Even though the Utah teacher/pupil ratio is higher than the national average, it's not that bad.
According to the State of Utah, the teacher/pupil ratio for the 2005-2006 school year was 22.1. (The national average was 16.) It could be better, but that's not as bad as it has been. Part of the reason I say this is that any increase in education money should be prioritized toward paying teachers higher salaries and attracting high quality educators. In that context, I think we can live with 22 students per teacher, at least for the short term.
Public schools are not prone to being diverse when compared to other schools. Vouchers tend to improve the amount of diversity in schools.
Utah public schools are similar to Latter-Day Saint wards--where you live generally determines where you go to school. Public charter schools and private schools, although they have their own set of problems, are not beset with this limitation. Regular public schools are, therefore, less likely to be racially and ethnically diverse when compared to other types of schools, as Utah Taxpayer illustrates. My saying that is not a swipe at public educators; rather, it's just a fact of life. Vouchers could only improve the likelihood of diversity as more families become able to choose where to send their children to school.