As I drive to work each morning I pass a sign that implores passers-by to “Put Education First”. The slightly smaller sized letters under that declaration read, “Attend your caucus meetings”. By all accounts not only the education community, but a broad base of citizens propelled caucus attendance to a record high.
The effort to encourage caucus attendance was designed to ensure that voices of support for education are heard by state legislators and other elected officials. The caucus effort came on the heels of a legislative session that saw tremendous support for education. This is good news, not just for public education and not just for education supporters generally. It is good news for the entire state – because as Governor Herbert often states “an educated workforce is critical for a prosperous economy.”
In my previous article I outlined the Governor’s goals and objectives under each of his “Four Cornerstones” of education, energy, jobs and self-determination. The education goal is that Sixty-six percent of adult Utahns will have a postsecondary degree or professional certification by 2020. The education objectives are:
1) Ensure our school children achieve reading proficiency by the end of 3rd Grade.
2) Increase the number of High School students completing post-secondary courses.
3) Align educational training to meet the workforce demands of the marketplace.
To accomplish these objectives and reach our goal of 66% by 2020, the Governor has brought together leaders and experts from across the state and across many disciplines to form his Education Excellence Commission. The commission members, led by Governor Herbert, spent countless hours developing the following eight Action Items that make up the 2012 work plan.
1. Fund enrollment growth in public education.
2. Expand early intervention programs, such as all-day kindergarten, for at-risk students.
3. Implement statewide computer adaptive testing in the areas of language arts, math and science.
4. Improve transition to post-secondary education by implementing college readiness exams in high schools statewide.
5. Increase the number of online college general education courses for high school students.
6. Expand online career counseling through www.utahfutures.org.
7. Fund higher education institutions based on measurable outcomes and national performance metrics.
8. Create a “Utah Jobs” program to align career technical education certificates with specific job openings.
These Action Items received a big boost during the legislative session in the budget bills that were signed by the Governor. For example, funding was provided for the 12,500 new students entering our schools in the Fall, ensuring stable class sizes. Also funded were the early intervention programs, computer adaptive testing, online college courses for high school students, and utahfutures.org online career counseling. We are grateful that the legislature gave careful consideration to the Governor’s top budget priorities in these important education areas, including a modest but well deserved one percent cost-of-living increase for our teachers.
The ongoing work for the Governor and his Education Excellence Commission is to ensure this funding translates into real innovation, real results and real progress. By completing these Action Items and staying focused on the Objectives – and by continuing to “Put Education First” – we will reach our goal of 66% by 2020.