Education

Utah Proposes Getting Rid of 12th Grade to Save Money

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

A lawmaker in Utah has a novel idea to save the cash strapped state money that is music to the ears of kids who hate school -- eliminate 12th grade. The proposal has drawn praise from the bean counters, but scorn from education advocates.

The plan from State Sen. Chris Buttars has gained support from many who think seniors just waste the year away anyway -- so called "senioritis." 

"The thing that Sen. Buttars tapped into is that too many seniors take the senior year off," said William Sederburg, the state commissioner of higher education.

But at least one student disagrees with that assessment. "Senior year hasn't been a waste for me," said J.D. Williams, who writes for his school paper, plays lacrosse, sings in two choirs and takes college-level courses. "If you're the type of kid who will slack off, you'd find a way to do that in sophomore or junior year anyway."

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Utah is currently facing a $700 million budget gap. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Buttars estimated the move could save up to $60 million.

"The bottom line is saving taxpayer dollars while improving options for students," said state Sen. Howard A. Stephenson, a Republican and co-chairman of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee. "The more options we give to students to accelerate, the more beneficial it is to students and taxpayers."

Because of backlash against the plan, Buttars changed it to make 12th grade optional. However, that's nothing new in Utah.

"We've always had an option in place for early graduation," said Debra Roberts, chairwoman of the Utah Board of Education, adding that it was all right to give students the choice to graduate early, but that they shouldn't be pushed to leave. About 200 students a year take advantage of early graduation.