Jeff Edwards, President and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCUtah) and a member of the Prosperity 2020 Founders’ Council, wrote the following article, featured in UtahPolicy.com yesterday. CLICK HERE to read.
EDCUtah is a public/private partnership, working with state and local government and private industry to attract and grow competitive, high-value companies and spur the development and expansion of local Utah businesses.
As the end of the Utah Legislature’s 2012 session draws near, business leaders supporting the Prosperity 2020 movement are extolling praise on lawmakers for their support of education while also issuing a call to action on three additional legislative priorities.
So far in this session, Utah lawmakers have advanced education via several important bills:
• S.B. 10 sets clear goals by implementing ACT testing for 8th, 10th and 11th graders
• H.B. 15 and S.B. 97 implements computer adaptive testing to measure progress
• S.B. 64 provides new teacher evaluation tools to evaluate performance
“It is a business principle that you cannot improve anything unless you can measure it,” says Mark Bouchard, chair of the Prosperity 2020 movement and senior managing director of the commercial real estate brokerage firm CB Richard Ellis. “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; embracing 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.
Now, as the legislative session heads into its home stretch, business leaders supporting Prosperity 2020 are encouraging lawmakers to support three additional measures. “Our long-term prosperity depends in part on the decisions made in this capitol,” says Bouchard. “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.”
Optional extended kindergarten
Optional all-day kindergarten is a fundamental and essential investment to help ensure that 90 percent of Utah students are proficient in reading and math by the end of third and sixth grades, which is 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,” says 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,” Bouchard explains. “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.”
Each of Utah’s colleges and universities has a distinctive mission. To achieve the goals set by Prosperity 2020, Utah must invest in the technical education, research funding and other unique missions of each institution. This will enable students to flourish and will ensure that Utah’s research institutions continue to innovate, spinning off new businesses and jobs for our future economy.