Educating our children is one of the most important things we do as a society. It is an investment that returns over and over. The two statistics always quoted by the sides debating education funding are the per-student spending (where Utah ranks lowest in the nation) and our education spending as a percentage of our state and local budgets (where Utah ranks among the highest in the nation). This is the result of another statistic: in Utah our average family size is largest in the nation. There are six children in my family and I hope to have many grandchildren. I don’t want to discourage large families.
Because we are already dedicating a significant portion of our budget to education and I won’t raise taxes, we need to increase productivity in our education system through choice, innovation and technology. Productivity increases are taking place in all areas of society and as they do, not only do we benefit as consumers, but the providers also benefit. I realize Utah is one of the best states for stretching a dollar, but we need to do more still. If we can increase productivity in our schools, students and their families as well as educators will benefit.
Specifically, we need to use computers, smart boards, student response systems (clickers), and other technologies that improve effective teaching. There are great low cost (even free) programs available and students should be spending more time on the computers. Estimated costs for a computer are $250/year. So a school could have 400 computers at a cost of approximately $100,000, or the cost of two educators (including benefits, etc.). That is an example of using technology to do more.
We may want to use teacher assistants much like physicians are now using physician assistants. That would be innovative. The most important thing is to get the ideas flowing. Necessity is the mother of invention and our unique family demographics require that we invent. We should provide incentives to encourage innovation. I am against just throwing more money at the problem without seeing some benefit. I support charter schools and the online high school.