Mission impossible?

Issue: Over the past few years, the Legislature has appropriated millions of dollars to reduce class loads in Utah schools, where the ratio of students to teachers is highest in the country.But figures presented to the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee Wednesday showed that the net result is only about two children fewer per classroom in grades K-3.

Pros and cons: Rep. Kelly Atkinson, D-West Jordan, suggested that the problem is beyond the resources of the state and asked if the money could be better spent elsewhere. The cost of reducing class sizes by just one child in grades K-3 is more than $8.3 million. To reduce the levels to 15 children per teacher, as proposed in the State Strategic Plan, would require more money than the state is likely to have in the near future to address the problem.

Utah Education Association representatives, however, asked the legislators to look beyond the "average" statistics and realize the money being spent is effectively alleviating overcrowding in some school districts. The money, they suggested, should be "targeted" to areas where classes are largest, rather than being spread evenly across districts.