(KCPW News)New data released by the U.S. Department of Education shows Utah’s high school graduation rate sits in the bottom half of the country. In 2011 the Beehive State’s graduation rate was 76 percent; lower than 31 other states. State Associate Superintendent Judy Park says more needs to be done to improve graduation rates, but it’s hard to do without funding.
“There is no doubt that when the funding we receive is so much lower, it’s not a little lower, it’s much lower than other states, you’re going to see the effects of that,” Park said. “And I think graduation rates could be one of those effects of funding. When you look over the last 10 years, funding has really decreased.”
Utah’s ranking fell even lower when it came to graduation rates among minorities. The state had a 57 percent rate for Latinos; the fourth lowest in the nation, and tied for second last for Asian and Pacific Islanders.
“Well there is no doubt that Utah has changing demographics,” Park said. “Our percentage of minorities has greatly increased every year and it continues to increase so that definitely is a factor in our graduation rates and it is something that we will have to continue to attend to.”
Park says she was surprised to learn how many states have higher graduation rates than Utah, but she says the state’s graduation rates have actually been improving over the last several years. Iowa, Wisconsin and Vermont have the nation’s highest graduation rates.