The impact of children on Utah government
Jay Williams’ op-ed (“There is no way around paying for quality education,” Salt Lake Tribune) notes Utah’s demographics present tremendous challenges for funding Utah’s public schools. However, his argument about the “ratio of students to taxpaying adults” not causing similar funding problems for roads, the power grid, sewage treatment system, etc. is not accurate.
With 38 school age children per 100 Utah working age adults, all segments of Utah government struggle to obtain funding for their services. And given the political pressure to move Utah out of last place in per pupil spending, public education is spared the ax more than any other segment of Utah government. For example, to avoid cutting public education spending during the 2002 and 2003 budget-cutting special sessions, the Legislature cut non-public education spending by $234.8 million, and another $90.4 million in transportation spending. By contrast, the Legislature maintained Utah public education spending at its 2001 levels.
As this recent history shows, public education is better insulated than any other portion of government from the challenges our uniquely high dependency ratio creates.