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My view: 2016 progress in education legislation and Utah's prosperity

FILE — House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, addresses legislators in the House of Representatives on the first day of the Utah Legislature at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016.
FILE — House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, addresses legislators in the House of Representatives on the first day of the Utah Legislature at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

The Utah State Legislature’s support for both public and higher education this year is laudable. As an organization advocating for improvements in Utah’s education system, we were joined by over 80 of Utah’s top business leaders and over 300 community and education leaders asking for a significant increase in funding for Utah’s public education. We want to thank the 2016 Legislature for supporting many of the priorities in our Prosperity Through Education plan.

First, we are pleased to note that the Legislature has passed bills that directly relate to strategies in our five-year education plan: to increase academic achievement in reading and math, to improve high school graduation rates and to increase post-high degrees and certifications among Utah’s young people. The following bills are a large step in helping us reach our goals:

HB277 — Personalized Learning and Teaching Amendments. This bill aligns with Education First’s public education second objective supporting strategies that improve technology in the classroom as well as professional development training for teachers to effectively implement the technology.

HB182 — Concurrent Enrollment Education Amendments. This bill aligns with Education First’s higher education objective two that promotes increases in high-wage, high-demand workforce needs.

SB51 — Teacher Leader Role — This bill aligns with Education First’s public education objective two that promotes professional learning communities.

SB67 — Partnerships for Student Success — This bill aligns with Education First’s public education objective two that promotes innovative public-private partnerships to support school readiness and success for at risk students.

SB101 — High Quality School Readiness Program Expansion — This bill aligns with Education First’s public education objective two that advocates for voluntary preschool, community schools and other innovative public-private partnerships.

SB103 — Strategic Workforce Development — This bill aligns with Education First’s public education second objective for higher education as an initiative to increase participation and completion rates of underserved higher education students.

SB109 and SJR12 — School and Institutional Trust Lands Amendments — This bill aligns with Education First’s public education overall goals to increase targeted funding growth to increase academic performance.

SB8 — State Agency and Higher Education Compensation Appropriations — This bill aligns with Education First’s higher education goal for enhanced compensation and health care.

Second, we applaud legislative leadership for listening to our suggestions for a long-term legislative funding solution for education. Early in the session, we at Education First presented a bold, innovative plan to allow Utahns to vote on raising the income tax by 7/8ths of 1 percent to fund crucial, targeted investments found in the plan. We are very gratified to be at a point where legislators support Education First’s plan and agree Utah needs increased long-term, stable education funding. Education First has been working closely with legislative leadership during the 2016 session to find ways to inject public education with a significant increase in funding, but there wasn’t enough time during this session to come to a suitable funding solution for such a monumental request that will impact generations to come.

As a result, legislative leadership has asked us to assist in developing a revenue plan, rather than a ballot initiative as we had originally proposed. We have committed to working together after the session to develop an alternative legislative solution that will provide a significant boost to education funding.

Third, Education First is also grateful for the business community’s and the public’s support to improve education in Utah. And, as this process unfolds, we ask for your continued support in helping us sustain the progress we’ve made.

And fourth, we thank this newspaper for editorially supporting Education First’s efforts to improve education in the state and for its first-class coverage of important education issues throughout the year. We’re very encouraged and remain as committed as ever about making Utah’s education one of the top in the country. With everyone’s help, we can ensure creating an educated workforce that will build and maintain Utah’s future prosperity.

Jesselie Anderson is co-chair of Education First and also co-chair of the Utah Board of Regents. Nolan Karras is co-chair of Education First and the Karras Company. Bob Marquardt is co-chair of Education First and president and CEO of Management and Training Corp. Richard Kendell is co-chair of Education First and a retired commissioner of higher education.