Prosperity 2020 Chairman Mark Bouchard shares details of the 2012 Legislative Proposal as chemistry students work in the background. Photo: Joshua Brown
SALT LAKE CITY- (Dec. 8, 2011) Four days before Gov. Herbert releases his budget recommendations for the 2012 Legislative Session, an unprecedented group of business leaders, representing a diversity of industries and regions throughout Utah, joined forces to recommend increased accountability, innovative reforms, enhanced focus on STEM fields and $67.45 million in strategic public and higher education spending, in addition to enrollment growth. The recommendations serve as a first step in a multi-year effort by business leaders to strengthen the Utah economy through urgent and sustained improvements in Utah’s education system.
“Today’s students are tomorrow’s employees, managers, and CEOs,” said Mark Bouchard, chairman of Prosperity 2020 and senior managing director of CBRE. “This is the first time the business community has presented a single and comprehensive proposal to improve education in Utah. It’s well thought out, it’s specific and we are prepared to work with legislators on ways to pay for it.”
DOWNLOAD THE LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL BREAKDOWN
Prosperity 2020 has set three long-term goals to improve student achievement and to develop a first-class workforce for the jobs of the future. The movement aims to have 90 percent of third graders reading at grade level and 90 percent of sixth graders to be proficient in reading and mathematics by the end of the decade. By 2020, two-thirds of all Utah adults should hold a post-secondary degree or skilled trade certificate.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” said Jeff Edwards, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. “The businesses we are attracting to our state right now are coming with the expectation that we can provide the workers they need to grow and be profitable. Achieving these goals will help us fulfill that commitment.”
Hitting those goals begins with the proposal for the 2012 General Legislative Session. The proposal covers six general areas:
- Investing in our greatest resource
- Early start to success
- All students college and career ready
- Science, technology, engineering and math
- Evaluation and performance pay for teachers and principals
- Higher education and economic development
“These areas have been given careful consideration and have been identified as those where we can do the most good for the students in our state and the economy they will power and create,” said Dr. Richard Kendell, former Utah commissioner of higher education who serves as the education advisor to Prosperity 2020. “I’ve been very impressed with the level of understanding and dedication the business community has shown for education.”
Investing in Our Greatest Resource
The Utah Legislature has not funded enrollment growth in higher education since 2002. Since then enrollment has grown by 29 percent, (33,912 students). Current enrollment for Fall Semester for the Utah System of Higher Education (eight colleges and universities) exceeds 174,000 students. In public education, K-12 student enrollment has increased each year for the last decade and increases for the next five years are expected to range from 15,000 to 17,400 per year. Enrollment was partially funded last year after two years of not funding growth. Funding enrollment growth in public education is estimated to cost $50 million.
“We’ve all had to do more with less and education has done an admirable job during difficult economic times,” said Steve Densley, president and CEO of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce. “Utah’s economy is growing again and it is time to invest in the areas that are most critical to sustained prosperity and that means education.”
Early Start to Success
Getting students off to a strong academic start and evaluating their performance along the way to keep them there is a key part of the Prosperity 2020 proposal. The group is calling for voluntary all-day kindergarten beginning with the students most at risk of underachievement.
“We can make our biggest impact by ensuring Utah children learn the basics in elementary school,” said Deborah Bayle, president and CEO of United Way of Salt Lake. “Kids don’t drop out of high school as juniors and seniors; they start down that path by falling behind in the first few years of school.”
The research on the value of early childhood educational opportunities is overwhelmingly positive. Students who participate in early education programs have better reading and math scores, persist to graduation in greater numbers and more of them enter some form of higher education.
The proposal also calls for the corresponding ACT exams to be taken by all 8th, 10th and 11th grade students. These national exams are the best option for determining readiness in basic subjects that prepare students for college and careers.
All Students College and Career Ready
Utah needs better systems to measure what students know and what help they need to improve. Prosperity 2020’s proposal calls for a statewide computer adaptive assessment to measure student progress.
“It’s a basic business principle that you can’t improve something if you can’t accurately measure it,” said Jeri Mae Rowley, education chair of the Richfield Area Chamber of Commerce. “We also want junior high and high school students to start organizing their college and career paths before their senior year.”
The proposal also calls for every Utah public school to generate a report card that documents student learning and school performance. The State Office of Education is organizing an effective tool for this.
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math, USTAR
The jobs being created today and the jobs that will propel the Utah economy in the decades to come will require a better understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Prosperity 2020 proposal seeks to increase learning in these key areas at all levels, beginning with the expansion of the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative (USTAR).
“USTAR has proven to be a bold and innovative initiative,” said Tom Thatcher, President of Thatcher Pharmaceutical. “Additional funding will expand Utah’s leadership in alternative fuels, biomedical devices and genetic research.
Business leaders also want to expand the USTAR Research Initiative Centers, which provide magnet summer schools where high school students can do hands-on work. Currently 19 school districts and 11 charter schools participate.
The proposal also calls for creating a path for math professionals to get alternative certification so they can teach in Utah schools. Prosperity 2020 supports the Math for America program, which provides a high quality alternative to the regular process of training and licensing teachers. This is often referred to as an alternative route to licensure (ARL).
Evaluation and performance pay for Teachers and Principals
Prosperity 2020 supports the concept of revising the state’s orderly termination law. Utah benefits from thousands of skilled and caring educators. The leaders of the Prosperity 2020 movement believe valid and reliable evaluations of teachers and principals are central to advancing the quality of education in Utah and meeting workforce and economic goals.
“We have so many great teachers and principals and we want to reward them for their excellence,” said Dave Hardman, president and CEO of the Ogden Weber Chamber of Commerce. “To meet our goals we must have effective educators and that means we have to be able to evaluate their performance in the classroom.”
The proposal calls for $2 million to identify appropriate evaluation methods.
Higher Education and Economic development
Utah’s colleges and universities are economic engines. Prosperity 2020 leaders want some college and university funding to be based on mission and performance. This means focusing on things like retention, graduation and economic development contributions.
Business leaders want to fund New Century and Regents scholarships that incent students to take challenging classes and to expedite their educations. The proposal also calls for the state to invest in Success Stipends–formerly called need-based aid. These stipends are granted to students who qualify for Pell Grants but still don’t have enough money to cover their costs. Utah is second to last among all states in aid for needy students.
Provisions for more general education classes offered on-line, and expanded Workforce Cluster Acceleration Projects to prepare students for emerging occupations are also contemplated by business leaders. Examples of great programs include biotechnology, aerospace, energy, digital media and health care.
“This proposal is a sound investment in our future,” said Bouchard. “We have met with many legislators who share our vision that education is our best investment in Utah’s future economy and that it is the path to enduring prosperity.”
About Prosperity 2020
Prosperity 2020 is the largest business-led movement ever assembled in Utah to advance educational investment and innovation. The partnership includes 15 chambers of commerce, economic development entities, and other education-minded entities funded by business. The vision of Prosperity 2020 is for that state’s educated and trained workforce to propel Utah to enduring prosperity, improved quality of life and the strongest economy in the nation. Learn more by visiting www.prosperity2020.com.