Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: What are the tough issues facing Utah's Legislature?

Published: Sunday, Dec. 2 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Just 14 states have worse high school graduation rates than Utah, and minority student graduation rates are among the worst in the country. Given that abysmal performance, can Utah really meet Gov. Herbert's lofty goal to have 66 percent of Utah adults earn a post-high school certificate or degree by the year 2020?

Pignanelli: State Sen. Daniel Thatcher has noted that neighboring Utah high schools — with similar demographics — have huge disparities in graduation rates. His observations are crucial indicators of best and worst practices that must be analyzed soon to ensure achievement of Herbert's goals.

Webb: This is Utah's most pressing issue, deserving intense focus by Utah's leaders and citizens. Utah excels in many ways, but not in education. We have many excuses, but we shouldn't accept any of them. Simply put, Utah's economy will not prosper, our children and grandchildren will not be successful, unless our education system prepares students for good jobs that can support a family.

I acknowledge the complexity of the problem. No simple solution exists. Thankfully, education is getting more attention today than in many years. It's the governor's top priority. It's the Legislature's top priority. Business groups, like the Salt Lake Chamber, have put together critical initiatives like Prosperity 2020 and Education First.

Elected officials need to feel pressure. From you.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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