Education is how we invest in the future, and by many measures western states
simply aren't investing enough. We aren’t making the grade.
Every state in the Rocky Mountain region except Wyoming spends less per pupil
on K-12 education than the national average. Four of the states – Idaho, Nevada, Arizona
and Utah rank in the bottom 7 of U.S. states. All of the region's eight states pay teachers
below the national average. See the National Education Association's statistics and more
state-by-state spending and performance data.
Western states also do relatively poorly in the percentage of high school graduates
who go directly to college and in the percentage of college freshmen who graduate within
six years according to the Center for American Progress.
A number of states in the region also do a poor job of providing pre-school
In Colorado, state support for higher education is a major concern. According to a
study cited by state college and university officials, the system would need another $832
million in funding to meet average spending levels of Colorado's peer states. A Colorado
State University study found that inflation adjusted state funding per student fell by about
42 percent between 2001 and 2004.
Many governors in the region recognize the problems and have asked for more
money from their legislatures. In Arizona, Gov. Janet Napolitano asked for a minimum
base salary for public teachers of $33,000 per year, while her neighbor Gov. Bill
Richardson of New Mexico asked for $100 million to relieve overcrowding. In Utah,
Gov. Jon Huntsman asked the legislature to increase school funding by 18 percent.
Western Progress strongly supports those and other initiatives that would boost
investments in public education.