Feb. 16, 2010— -- A Utah lawmaker has proposed a cost-cutting measure to keep high school students from slacking off in their senior year -- eliminate 12th grade.
Republican State Senator Chris Buttars earlier this month proposed ditching a fourth year of high school statewide, calling 12th grade a time for "nothing but playing around."
Addressing the Utah State Senate's Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting, Buttars said cutting high school back to three years would save the strapped state $102 million annually.
"You're spending a whole lot of money for a whole bunch of kids who aren't getting anything out of that grade," Buttars said. "It comes down to the best use of money."
Buttars' has since diluted his proposal, saying that eliminating 12th grade should be an option available to students.
The plan has been met with skepticism from other lawmakers, teachers and parents. Though the proposal is perhaps the most extreme version of budget cutting in educational spending, school districts around the country have sought creative ways reduce spending.
Last spring at the height of the recession, the MACCRAY School District in western Minnesota followed several other rural districts and cut their school week down to four days, to reduce gas costs for school bussing.
Buttars has also proposed eliminating bussing for high school students, which he says will save the state an additional $15 million.
Buttars, a controversial state senator who last year compared gay-rights activists to Muslim terrorists, said 12th graders spent most of their time slacking off.
"Almost all the industrial world uses only 11 grades. Why do we use 12? The kinds either got one foot in AP classes in college, or they're just running around taking P.E.," Buttars said.
Utah teachers, however, took umbrage with Buttars' characterization of senior year and said it was essential to prepare students for college.
"It is very shortsighted," said John Balden, president of the Utah chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. "Students don't just play in 12th grade. They really do study. In higher education we find an awful lot of students unprepared for college. Twelfth grade is really a necessary grade."
Rep. Marie Poulson, a Democrat from Cottonwood Heights, told the Associated Press that senior year is when students mature and excel in academics, sports and activities.
Poulson has also said cutting 12th grade would create problems with college admissions.
Balden said the proposal was "not likely to pass," because Buttars "does not have much support."
Utah is the fastest growing state in the nation, with the highest birthrate and the youngest population, but it ranks 50th among the 50 states in per-pupil spending, according to the U.S. Department of Education.