SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, (ABC 4 Utah) - Confidence in Utah's education system is on the decline. Graduation rates at our high schools have improved, but they're still down and barely keeping up with the rest of the nation.
“A low graduation rate impacts our business community and our economy in a big way,” says Heidi Walker from the Salt Lake Chamber.
Walker says we need a talented and skilled workforce in order to attract new businesses to our community and to grow already existing businesses. "I had a conversation with a business leader recently and they said to me we have the perfect job perfect job description but i can't find the skill set,” says Walker.
Mark Peterson with the Utah Office of Education says right now Utah ranks 78% putting the beehive state 26th in the nation, and although it's not the best, it's a trend moving up and puts us closer to the national average.
Peterson says he thinks part of why high school graduation rates have declined is due in part to the economy. He says “There are kids out there who have to help struggling families get by and their doing that."
Peterson says- although legislature gave 141 million extra dollars to help improve Utah's education system Utah schools remain resource poor.
He says a lot of our money is going into the class room rather than truancy and guidance counselors to help prevent drop out rates, something he says they are working to improve.
"We got an additional 12 million dollars to help with early intervention so were looking at getting kids before their dropping out and we think that's going to help.”
As for Walker, she tell us in order to improve Utah's high school graduation numbers and education it needs to be a group effort and it needs to happen quickly. “Our business community our government and our education community need to partner together to make sure we make a difference and funding is a key part of that...and it's got to happen quickly, says Walker.
The chamber also says by embracing technology it will help us improve education in Utah and help us keep up with the rest of the nation.