Minding the Gap
The good news is that Utah closed the graduation gap between whites and Hispanics by 7 percent between 2011 and 2013. That's a bigger improvement than any other state, according to "Building a Grad Nation," a report by Civic Enterprises. The bad news is that the large jump was likely possible only because the gap in Utah was so abysmal to begin with. Utah's overall graduation rate is at 83 percent (Wisconsin and Vermont do better, at 90 percent), but minorities and low-income students fare much worse. The state is only near the middle in closing the gap for low-income students, which former Lt. Gov. Greg Bell calls unacceptable. "I wonder if Utahns generally are really unaware of both the prevalence of poverty and its heavy costs on impoverished children," he wrote in the Deseret News.
Reading, Writing, Republicanism
Will someone save us from these "disruptive" leaders? You might remember Clark Gilbert, formerly of the Deseret News, who transformed the paper with faith-based content and a 40-percent reduction in staff. Now Utah looks to Brad Smith, the state superintendent of education, whose reputation is equally draconian. The Ogden School District, where he was superintendent, is leaner and meaner because of him. Now he has given two associate superintendents their walking papers. They were in charge of financial reporting and testing—an essential function that is now in the hands of politically right-wing sympathizers. Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, wonders out loud, "I am desperately afraid the very few, loud delegate TeaFolks will bully their way into the classrooms of our state and replace science with voodoo science."
Utah: The High-Rent Hive
If Utah's future is indeed smaller lots and more high-rises, as economists and researchers predict, then someone needs to lecture Utahns about fair-housing laws and the effects of high rents. A survey by a fair-housing specialist and a Utah State University professor showed stunning results—for instance, 16 percent of property owners believe they have the right to sell to white buyers only. Deseret News reported that the average score on the fair-housing survey was 52 percent—not good by any standard. Envision Utah says one possible future scenario has people living in big suburban lots or high-density housing, much of which could be unaffordable. The high costs of construction added to mounting municipal fees are largely to blame.