With just 13 days remaining in the 2012 General Legislative Session, business leaders supporting the Prosperity 2020 movement praised lawmakers for their support of education and called for action on three legislative items.
“Our long-term prosperity depends in part on the decisions made in this Capitol,” said Mark Bouchard, chair of the Prosperity 2020 movement and senior managing director of CBRE. “Today we call for action on optional all-day kindergarten, reducing the financial burden on college students and mission-based funding for colleges and universities.”
Already this session, Legislators have advanced education in several ways. Several key bills are making their way through the Legislature, setting clear goals by implementing ACT testing for 8th, 10th and 11th graders (S.B. 10); measuring progress by implementing computer adaptive testing (H.B. 15 and S.B. 97); and evaluating performance to provide new teacher evaluation tools (S.B. 64).
“It is a business principle that you cannot improve anything unless you can measure it,” said Bouchard. “These measurement tools are critical first steps toward improving our educational performance.”
The Legislature has also advanced bills in favor of fair competition, providing pay increases for public and higher education; to embrace innovation, strengthening mathematics and science education, including investment in the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative (USTAR), and by investing in people, supporting Success Stipends and Scholarships.
Heading into the home stretch of the legislative session, business leaders also encouraged members of the Legislature to support three additional measures.
Optional extended kindergarten
Optional all-day kindergarten is a fundamental and essential investment in ensuring that 90 percent of our students are proficient in reading and math by the end of third and sixth grades, one of the main goals of the Prosperity 2020 movement. Utah has shown strong leadership over the last several years to make all-day kindergarten available for disadvantaged students.
“It is critical that students get started right, or they will be at a disadvantage their entire educational careers,” said Deborah Bayle, president and CEO of the United Way of Salt Lake. “Students who drop out of high school start down that path in elementary school if they can’t keep up with their peers in reading and math.”
Reduce financial burden on college students
Students are paying an increasing share of the costs for higher education. Just 10 years ago, the state paid 75 percent of the cost of students’ education. Today, the state pays 52 percent of costs and students pay 48 percent.
“It has a trickle effect into our entire economy,” said Bouchard. “Young people are delayed in being able to invest in homes and support their families. Early excess debt is an albatross to their entire professional careers.”
Mission based funding
Every one of our colleges and universities has a distinctive mission. To achieve the goals set by Prosperity 2020, we need to invest in technical education, research funding and other unique missions of each institution. This will enable students to flourish, and will ensure that our research institutions continue to innovate, spinning off businesses and jobs for our future economy.