Facebook Twitter



To the editor:

Once again, Twila Van Leer's careful insight has provided the community with valuable educational information. Her article, "Rich vs. poor is sticky issue in '92," which appeared Jan. 20, clearly demonstrated the difference between capital outlay "rich" and "poor" school districts.There is, as Van Leer's article validates, a growing inequity in the quality of education that the various school districts can afford. Disparity in class size, teacher salaries and other measurements is apparent. Those who believe that all Utah students deserve quality education will be quick to see the need for increased equity.

The major cause of this growing difference is the varying ability of districts to raise money from the property tax. Currently, district property tax yields range from a low of $108 per student in South Sanpete to a high of $1,606 per student in South Summit. The property tax provides primary support for the school district's capital outlay program and indirectly affects the regular classroom program.

I was, however, confused by one part of the otherwise excellent coverage. The caption that describes a chart comparing the school programs of Salt Lake and Davis school districts is misleading. It reads: "The differences between Utah's `rich' and `poor' school districts are subtle . . . "

Subtle differences? I think not. Some may believe that an average class size difference of 26.39 compared with 24.05 is subtle. Not so. Ask any schoolteacher if 21/3 students in every one of his or her classes would make a difference. In this regard, it is well to remember that Gov. Bangerter's much heralded class size reduction program was only projected to decrease class size by three students per year.

Some may feel that a difference in maximum teacher salary of $36,031 compared with $33,979 is a "subtle" difference, but $2,052 could make the car payments for a year. Ask a teacher if that is important or subtle.

The most striking differences between Salt Lake and Davis school districts, however, are found in the figures that suggest the district's diverse financial capacity and status. Salt Lake School District has 39 schools and 24,766 students to support with a property tax based on assessed valuation of $6.6 billion. On the other hand, Davis has a valuation of $3.9 billion with 65 schools and 56,510 students.

No wonder the Davis district has $97.7 million indebtedness, and the Salt Lake District has none. In Davis, the current level of debt requires a $12.5 million annual payment - money that otherwise could be allocated to improving the quality of programs.

Rep. Kim R. Burningham