Utah Gov. Tries To Stem 'Exodus' of Teachers
Concerned over what he calls the "mass exodus" of teachers from Utah and from a profession that low pay and status have made unattractive, Gov. Scott Matheson last week proposed that the state create a "consortium of experimental schools" that would try implementing a variety of reforms to make teaching more pleasant and rewarding.
The experiments the consortium might undertake to improve working conditions for teachers, he said, could include "altering the standard 180-day contract, eliminating clerical and custodial duties for teachers, bringing new types of instructional and non-instructional workers into the schools, building career ladders for teachers, and organizing the schools to promote cooperation and teamwork."
"We must improve the attractiveness of teaching--and without delay,'' the Governor told a group of educators attending the annual "Utah Educational Seminar" at the University of Utah.
The lack of enthusiasm for teaching in Utah, he said, has resulted in a 50-percent decline in the number of people trained as teachers in the state over the last 10 years. Moreover, he added, "Some 40 to 60 percent of practicing mathematics and science teachers in the state have neither majored nor minored in their subjects."
He attributed the decline primarily to low pay. Beginning teachers in Utah receive an average starting salary of $13,500, according to the Governor.
"The truth is that bright, capable women have been the mainstay of public schools for years. We have simply escaped paying them what their talents might have been worth because few other professions were open to them," he said.
"More money is unquestionably necessary, but money alone will not solve the problem," Governor Matheson said.
This year, the Governor's fiscal balance sheet provided Utah teachers with a 2.5-percent pay raise in a "no-growth" budget.
"The Governor pressed for more money by urging the legislature to impose a severance tax on oil and gas, which the legislature refused," according to Alene Bentley, a spokesman for Mr. Matheson.
Ms. Bentley says that the Placid Oil Company hired "an armada of helicopters" to land on the front lawn of the capitol and transport legislators to study the operation of an oil rig. Oil-company officials then suggested that a raise in severance taxes would do great damage to the company, she said.
According to Ms. Bentley, school administrators have not been so successful in urging legislators to spend a similar day at a school.sr