(KCPW News) As Utah lawmakers begin their legislative session this week, they may give final approval to an immediate four percent cut in this year’s budget. Educators are concerned, since the state already has the lowest per-pupil education spending in the country. State Superintendent Larry Shumway says there’s not much left to cut except muscle and bone, and hopes cutting public education by that much proves to be unnecessary.
“The total amount of resources in the state budget that are going to public education have increased from last year to this,” he told KCPW on Politics Up Close. “As the state budget has fallen, a greater share of the resources have gone to public education because generally the legislature is committed to trying to keep public education whole, knowing that we’re already so far behind.
Utah spends about $6,000 per student each year, while the leading states spend more than $15,000. Yet Shumway says under the circumstances, education in Utah continues to exceed expectations.
“We are in the top half with success. We’re ranked number one for return on investment. We have the lowest administrative overhead in the country. I think we have an awful lot to be proud of,” he said. “The challenge is to not let that success tell us that we can’t be more efficient, but also to not let that success, in the face of scarce resources, keep us from putting in more resources.”
Last year, public education was able to sustain cuts thanks to one-time federal stimulus money, which runs out in June. Shumway says this money must be replaced to keep public education from falling further behind.
Story by Whittney Evans