Context is Important! Understanding Utah’s Educational History is Key!


Here’s some educational context to keep in mind as we go into the legislative session– where every year, literally hundreds of education bills are proposed.

In 1910, compulsory education was only in place through grade 8.

The Bible was allowed in schools. So was prayer.

The UEA was organized that year (though it grew out of the Deseret School Teachers’ Association, begun 1860).

The Jordan and Granite School Districts’ student population, about 4,000 each, was 5 years old.

The LDS church’s “Release-time” seminary program was begun two years later (1912).

Taxes were much lower, which indicates that education spending was much lower. The most specific info I found was that the average tax rate in Logan, Utah in the 1870’s/80’s was about 1.8%, and there was no federal tax.

The average nationwide in per-pupil spending, *adjusted for inflation* (2020 figures) in 1920 (I found no stats for 1910) was about $800. In 2018, including capital expenses, it was over $10,000 per student. Nationwide, the average length of the school year was 110 days (now 180; it wasn’t standardized nationwide then).

The average pupil-to-teacher ratio was 35:1Average in the US was that 82% of education funding came from the city or county, 18% came through the state, and none from federal.

This quote, below, was from 1915. I wonder what he would say today now that the burden is even greater on the taxpayer, and given the fact that there is a push to tax our income, even more, to fund education even after millions of dollars are already being mismanaged and misused.

“I believe that we are taxing people more for education than they should be taxed. This is my sentiment. And especially this is my sentiment when the fact is known that all these burdens are placed upon the tax payers of the state to teach the learning or education of this world. God is not in it. Religion is excluded from it. The Bible is excluded from it. And those who desire to have their children receive the advantages of a moral and religious education are excluded from all these state organizations, and if we will have our children properly taught in principles of righteousness, morality and religion, we have to establish Church schools or institutions of our own, and thus the burdens of taxation are increased upon the people. We have to do it in order that our children may have the advantages of moral training in their youth. I know that I shall be criticized by professional “lovers of education” for expressing my idea in relation to this matter”.

President Joseph F. Smith Conference Report, Oct 1915, p.4

How much were the public schools taking then? While I didn’t find education statistics for 1915, I found some for 1910 and others for 1920.

In 1920, the average nationwide in per-pupil spending, adjusted for inflation (compared to 2020 figures) was about $835 ($63.48 in 1920 dollars). Today, it’s $10,259 on average in Utah per student, per year. (Utah is at the low end of this in the nation.) Almost $1000 of this is for administration.

Think our classes are too big now?

In 1910, the average student-to-teacher ratio was 35:1. In 2020 in Utah, it was just under 22:1. I don’t think it’s the class size that is the issue; it’s what is required, top-down, from teachers.

Other facts about 1910:

The Bible was *allowed *in schools, though it wasn’t the core.

Prayer was allowed, too.

The UEA (Utah teachers’ union) was organized that year, growing loosely out of the Deseret Teachers Association from 1860.

The Jordan and Granite school districts were about five years old and had approximately 4,000 students in each district. Granite School District now has about 70,000 students. I live in the Jordan School District, and it has about 60,000 students now, even after a big section split off ten years ago. (Four of Utah’s school districts are in the 100 largest in the nation.)

While there were high schools, they were not yet compulsory. That changed in about 1917 for Utah. Until then, only 1-8 grades were compulsory.

82% of education funding came from the city or county, 18% came through the state, and none of it from the federal government.

Several of the stats came from here.

Financials from here.

Written by Rhonda Hair – Posted with Permission

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