Utah Says Saving $ More Important Than Teenage Development

Utah Proposal Would Make Senior Year Optional

It could save the state of Utah up to $60 million and potentially cure high schoolers of that 12th grade affliction known as Senioritis.

Republican State Sen. Chris Buttars wants to help plug Utah’s $700 million budget shortfall by making senior year of high school optional

Some students said they “need this year,” that 17 is too early to enter college and become part of the “real world.” for students who finish their required credits early. It’s an idea that has sparked debate among teachers, parents and especially students in his state.

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It’s a claim that Buttars, who initially proposed eliminating 12th grade entirely, now acknowledges is true for some students. But he said others waste their time with non-core classes during senior year and could benefit from “accelerated graduation” incentives like college credit.

“You talk to 100 kids and their parents, and I believe the majority of them will say, ‘Well, my kid didn’t do much in the 12th grade,'” Buttars told the Salt Lake Tribune. “Everybody wants to talk about change … But to tell you the truth, they’re scared to death of it.”

In a flier documenting his proposed plan, Buttars insists there would be no pressure on Utah seniors to skip 12th grade, saying “it would be completely up to the students and their parents.”

And so the debating began.

J.D. Williams, 18, a lacrosse player, choir singer and senior class president at Utah’s West Jordan High School told the Los Angeles Times: “My parents are against it. All the teachers at the school are against it. I’m against it.”

Williams, who takes two college-level courses, said 12th grade can enrich a student’s educational experience as much as any other year. He said that “senior year hasn’t been a waste” for him or students like him.

“If you’re the type of kid who will slack off, you’d find a way to do that in sophomore or junior year anyway,” he said.

Buttars and some of his backers argue that students like Williams who maintain their motivation through 12th grade are the exception to the rule. They also point out that the new proposal, which includes the elimination of bus routes for senior high schools, could have direct economic benefits for parents, an attractive prospect in the wake of a national recession.

“We got killed last year with a 20 percent tax increase,” Janalee Tobias, a parent who lives in the Jordan district, said at a meeting of state senate’s Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee. “I don’t think anyone in here can afford another tax increase and if this can stop a tax increase, I would urge you to consider that.”

Education officials said they don’t see how Buttars’ plan differs from the early graduation option that has been in place in Utah since 1990, in which students who graduated after 11th grade received scholarship money.

Todd Haggerty, a policy associate with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said budgetary concerns are forcing states to resort to measures that may be considered drastic by some and industrious by others.

“You’re looking at these budget gaps where lawmakers have to use everything and anything to try to resolve them,” he told the LA Times. “It’s left lawmakers with very unpopular decisions.”

Still, he said that his organization has not heard of any other proposals to make senior year an elective.

“We are unaware of any state or district making a similar proposal,” he said. “State lawmakers are having to look in every nook and cranny to find new sources of revenue or savings.”

A THOUGHT: Although it was several decades ago, I remember my Senior year quite vividly. The important things (besides the education) were the critical developments we all made from ages ranging from 16-18 years old. Since I, like many, had finished my Junior year at age 16, I can hardly imagine going back and skipping my Senior year. Graduating at 16? Ha Ha. That would have been a disaster. My entire ambitions at that age included Bowling, Water Skiing, Learning to Drive, Learning to Shave (the chin and sideburn areas were the only part growing then), Hanging Out At The Pizza Shop On Weekends With Friends, and Trying To Get A Girl To Finally Let Me… well, you know…

There is a huge difference between 16 and 18 years of age because our society has scheduled our development based on graduating at 18 for so many years. But, then again, this is Utah we are talking about… The State that has people marrying at 12. Okay, I digress, maybe we should just eliminate High School altogether and let them graduate at 13 or 14. The Marines are always looking for new recruits…



About Chase Morgan
Chase Morgan is just your average, ordinary All-American writer. Chase began writing several years ago, but never published anything until the "Are You Friggen' Kidding Me?" blog launched in August of 2009. Chase simply got tired of standing around and just observing all of the craziness in the world, so this anxious writer sat down and wrote the first "Are YOu Friggen' Kidding Me?" article on August 19th, 2009. Now, any time something makes Chase say, "Are You Friggen' Kidding Me?", the issue get's transformed into an article. Chase is currently single, homeless and living under a bridge in South Florida.

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