Ron Smith's Feb. 5 guest commentary, "New ideas for funding education need consideration," recommends that the Utah Legislature, by increasing taxes in creative ways, can finally provide sufficient funding for public education and finally show that we care about our children. His assumption is that sufficient funding for education is the answer. There is no evidence to support this assumption.
Inadequate funding has always been the excuse education has given for current performance. A simple analysis of the state-by-state per pupil funding shows that there is no relationship between funding and performance as shown by standardized test scores. States with low per pupil funding, like Utah, regularly outperform states with more funding. Although the United States spends over twice as much in inflation-adjusted dollars on education as it did 30 years ago, our education performance continues to decline when compared with our sister industrialized nations.
Why is this? We are using a nineteenth century education model in the twenty first century. Several elements of a possible new educational model were proposed to the 2004 Utah Legislature at their request. That legislature was impressed enough to appropriate a million dollars to pilot several of these new elements. (see line item 85 of House Bill 3) Unfortunately, then Governor Walker used her line item veto power to eliminate this funding. In spite of the veto, the Ogden School District displayed independence and adopted one of the proposed elements for their English as a second language program.
A similar version of one of the other elements in that 2004 vetoed proposal is now a hot topic in educational circles. It is presented by its creator, Salman Kahn, of the not-for-profit Kahn Academy in a most interesting video. It describes the core of a new educational model. Note at the end of the video Bill Gates appears since the Gates Foundation is now funding it.
This is what our education system needs. Creative new thinking using the tools of the 21st century. The private sector is leading the way in this venture. For all we know, public education in Utah may be sufficiently funded using this new education model.