“The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93:36)
I approach this topic with a framework that the doctrine of the LDS Church, and the words spoken over the General Conference pulpit, emphatically supports the need for education. And as we are all aware that God is no respecter of persons, the need for education would apply to all of His children.
You might be thinking, “That just applies to gospel teaching.” Well, in a way, you would be right if you consider the teaching that “all truth” should indeed be considered as “one great whole.”
Modern revelation proscribes a learning curriculum for Heavenly Father’s children. The 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants delineates the things “that are expedient for” each of us “to understand.” In verse 79, it says:
“Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—“
And additional guidance is given in verse 118:
“And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”
Current church publications outline the importance of education beyond our study of the scriptures and gospel manuals. On the official church website, there is a section on education. Under “education and literacy” the following is plainly written:
“Education is an important part of Heavenly Father’s plan to help you become more like Him. He wants you to educate your mind and to develop your skills and talents, your power to act well in your responsibilities, and your capacity to appreciate life.”
“Education is an investment that brings great rewards and will open the doors of opportunity that may otherwise be closed to you. Plan now to obtain an education. Be willing to work diligently and make sacrifices if necessary.” (downloaded from - https://www.lds.org/youth/for-the-strength-of-youth/education?lang=eng – on 3/22/15)
The church has made the priority for education clear. The establishment of the Perpetual Education Fund speaks volumes of both the need for and the commitment to education.
It is challenging for me to understand how all these things can occur without the assistance of schools. I fully respect those who choose to home “school” their children. If they have the training, skills, ability and personal knowledge to meet the requirements of the learning outlined in the scriptures and by the modern Church, they are incredible people indeed.
Most of us require assistance. “It takes a village to raise a child.” While this is attributed to a 1996 title of a book penned by Hilary Clinton, it was derived from the proverbs espoused by several different African tribes. While some may be fortunate to live circumstances where they have access to extended family and close, trusted friends, many of us do not have that blessing. It becomes necessary that we utilize our available schools to help meet these needs. We need the schools to be a part of our village.
Our responsibility extends not only to our own children, but to all the children around us. Education for all should be understood as a right for those children and a responsibility for each of us. So, as a people, how do LDS dominated areas do with supporting their schools?
The states with the two highest concentrations (by percent) of LDS people are Utah (71%) and Idaho (26%). (Reported percentages were very close in three different publications.) Yet, census bureau statistics for 2011 show Utah and Idaho in a battle for the last two slots in per pupil expenditures. Local media has reported this battle is ongoing and, depending on who is spinning the statistics, it is consistently one or the other in last place. In FY2011, statistics show that for about the previous four years the national average expenditure had crawled above the $10,000 level. At the same time, the expenditures in Utah and Idaho were in the mid $6,000s. Question: Are our children only worth 2/3 of what the nation spends?
In my training as an educational leader, whether at BYU, or any of the other five colleges or universities that I attended, there was consistently an idea framing the discussion of the financial foundations of schools. A budget is a literal translation of your mission (or philosophy) into action. You can give all the lip service in the world to saying you believe this or that, but, if you do not pay for it, your actions communicate that you do not really believe any such thing.
If we, as a people, continue to claim how much we value education, it's time to put our money where our mouths are. All kinds of excuses can be provided. However, we just keep falling further behind. In Utah, this year the governor made a proposal to add 6.25% to the school’s budget. That would have been a small gain. The Legislature gave 4%. But as the Salt Lake Tribune stated: "Utah's public schools got more funding during the 2015 legislature, but still are not back up to pre-recession levels .”
We can’t state how much we value education and continue to fail in its funding; to do so is hypocritical. Remember, a budget is a literal translation of our mission (or philosophy) into action. The Utah and Idaho state budgets loudly scream that whatever our “mission” is, it translates to the lowest support for education in the nation.