Senator: Rid schools of senioritis
February 2, 2010
Many high school students spend much of their senior year just goofing off, according to state Sen. Chris Buttars.
Speeding up graduation by eliminating the 12th grade could save about $102 million, the West Jordan Republican said.
"You’ll find people who will tell you, my kid had the greatest experience in the world in 12th grade. But you can find hordes that will tell you that the 12th grade meant nothing to my kid except playing around," Buttars said Monday in a meeting of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee. "If you keep the 12th grade, education has got to find $102 million in cuts. If you go to an accelerated graduation, you don’t need to cut anything this year. It’s covered."
State lawmakers are facing a giant budget shortfall and cannot continue funding education with one-time money and backfill, Buttars explained.
"I believe we’ve got to find things that we can cut back rather than fill in with one-time money," Buttars said. "You’re going to run out of one-time money."
However, shortening the time it takes students to graduate is a bad idea, said Ray Timothy, superintendent of the Park City School District.
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"It’s not something that I can support at all," Timothy said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "You’re not looking at the needs of the students."
For many Park City High School students their senior year is not a waste of time, Timothy said.
"That senior year is an extremely valuable time," he said. "I can give you example after example of students who are taking four AP classes their senior year."
Many students who are 16 or 17 years old are not grown up enough to succeed in college or a career, Timothy said.
"I don’t believe they are quite ready yet," he said. "I would find it hard for anyone to be supportive of cutting out the senior year when it really is a year of substance."
South Summit School District Superintendent Barry Walker said he is also against the proposal.
"There is no question that students who have struggled to get through school need the additional year," Walker said in a telephone interview. "I think it’s a great year for a lot of kids. Granted there are some kids who are through with their major core classes. But they still need an additional year to mature a little bit."
Eliminating 12th grade could mean some students would not graduate, said Lisa Kirchenheiter, a member of the Park City Board of Education.
"It could be make or break for some kids," Kirchenheiter said. "It could determine whether they graduate or not, to have that extra year."
Without the 12th grade some 17-year-olds would be out on their own, said Bohdan Klawe, a senior at Park City High School.
"They’ll have the decision of, do they live at home while they’re still in college or do they move out?" Klawe said. "It just rushes everything a little faster than it needs to be done."
This year, senior Scott Carson said he is taking college-level calculus, physics, literature and government courses.
"I’ve learned more this year in my classes than I have in any of my other classes," Carson said. "I’ve got great teachers and I would not be able to experience them if I was a junior or a sophomore. When I go into college now I’m going to be ahead of a lot of kids because I had the opportunity to take those classes."
As a member of the Park City High School football and wrestling teams, Cash Knight said his senior year has allowed him to excel in athletics.
"As a person, I have just developed leaps and bounds from where I was last year, physically and mentally," Knight said. "Sending me out last year I would not have gotten the same exposure to hardship. The character and the heart you build when you are tired as hell and you’re running sprints with 70 other guys, you really do build as a human being."
However, Buttars said he is seriously pursuing eliminating the 12th grade and plans to open a bill file Thursday.
"I think the greatest thing, as I’ve talked to a couple hundred people, is the fear of the change," Buttars said. "That’s about where you are with a lot of these things that we call sacred cows It’s easy to make fun of big cuts because we have never done it that way."