A recent Deseret News editorial called on the governor and legislative leaders to outline a vision that elevates the state’s education system. The good news is such a plan — the Utah Education Roadmap — already exists. This plan is a culmination of hard work and dedication by many education stakeholders. It is built on research, evidence and Utah values, and reflects the common interest and concern Utahns have for their public schools, colleges and universities.
The Utah Education Roadmap was developed by the Governor’s Education Excellence Commission, whose membership represents teachers, parents, principals, school board members, business leaders, legislators and other stakeholders, each who play a vital role in steering Utah’s education system toward increased success for each student. The plan was informed by previous planning efforts of the Utah Legislature, Prosperity 2020, Envision Utah, the Governor’s Office and state public and higher education agencies.
The roadmap recognizes the importance of identifying broad, yet critical, areas of focus within Utah’s education system, including preschool through post-secondary education. It hones in on four priority areas: ensure early learning, strengthen and support educators, ensure access and equity and complete certificates and degrees. Of note, in addressing issues regarding retaining and supporting teachers, the roadmap includes strategies designed specifically to elevate and show appreciation for the teaching profession, to invest in professional capacity, and to provide resources to enhance effective teaching and learning.
With the formal launch of the roadmap last January, these strategies are already guiding the work of transforming Utah’s education system. This past legislative session, stakeholders involved in crafting the plan worked together to highlight the need for more resources aligned with strategies in the roadmap. Subsequently, more than $204 million in new ongoing state appropriations were put toward public education, with the majority being allocated to local school districts and charter schools, giving them the flexibility to meet their most critical needs. As we have seen throughout the state, this funding, in large part, has been utilized to recruit and retain educators, to improve working conditions and opportunities for professional learning, and to provide training in working with our most vulnerable student populations.
While some may fault the roadmap for not delving into or mandating specific policies and practices, Utah faces unique challenges in this regard due to the complicated nature of the governance structure for education. For example, people (rightfully) look to the governor for leadership on improving education opportunities and outcomes. But while the governor has considerable input and influence in higher education — he appoints both the Board of Regents and the Board of Trustees for our universities and technical colleges — he has virtually no direct authority over public education, other than the bully pulpit and his voice championing the cause.
It is the elected State Board of Education that, constitutionally, is given the general control and supervision over public education. The Legislature has a significant role in dictating programs and providing funding. Further, locally elected school boards and charters are responsible to their communities for the overall policy, curriculum decisions and general oversight of their individual schools. All of these entities must work together in order to achieve the optimal outcome for students.
Education truly is essential to Utah’s current and future success. Our vision, as stated in the roadmap, is to “increase educational achievement and attainment for every learner at each level of the education system,” with our ultimate goal of having the top performing education system in the nation. The National Conference of State Legislatures’ own education plan notes that key to the success of any state’s education improvement effort, “individual reforms (must be) connected and aligned as parts of a clearly planned and carefully designed comprehensive system.” We have a plan — a roadmap for success. Together, we can continue building on our current momentum and increase educational achievement for all Utah students.
To read the Utah Education Roadmap, visit here.