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Utah Legislature adopts '66 by 2020' education goal

Published: Tuesday, March 12 2013 11:15 a.m. MDT

"Great jobs and businesses start with well-educated workers," Gov. Gary Herbert said during a Prosperity 2020 news conference Thursday. "By bringing industry and education together, we start recruiting tomorrow's scientists in today's classrooms."

Laura Seitz, Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — An eight-year goal to increase the number of adults in the state with a postsecondary education was officially adopted Tuesday by the Utah Legislature.

Lawmakers join Gov. Gary Herbert, the Governor's Education Excellence Commission, public and higher education officials and members of Prosperity 2020 — a public-private education advocacy group — in supporting the goal, which seeks to have 66 percent of Utah's adult workforce holding a postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2020.

Roughly 43 percent of adults in Utah currently hold a postsecondary degree or certificate.

SCR5, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, was substituted Tuesday morning in the House by Brad Last, R-Hurricane, to include the goal that 90 percent of students score proficiently in reading by the end of the third grade.

The substitute also changes the title of the resolution to more clearly reflect the state's intent to have 66 percent of Utah's adults educated beyond high school by the year 2020. Later that day, Senators approved the new version of the resolution in a unanimous vote.

"This is a vision statement. That's really all that it is," Last said. "It indicates that we all want to get together and pull together and get two-thirds of our adults educated so they can be well-employed by 2020."

The "66 by 2020" goal has been a key component of Herbert's educational initiatives. In his proposed budget, the governor called for a series of targeted investments toward the initiative, as well as science, technology, mathematics and engineering, or STEM.

The latest budget proposals include funding for several of the governor's proposals, such as ACT testing for all students, early intervention technologies and a STEM action center, as well as flexible funding in the form of a weighted pupil unit increase for public education and mission-based funding for higher education that could be used toward increases college preparation and degree attainment.

While not all of his budget requests were funded in the latest budget proposals, Herbert said Tuesday he is grateful and pleased by the efforts of lawmakers to prioritize education. He said that between public and higher education, the Legislature will appropriate roughly $20 million toward STEM education.

"I feel very good about what they've done and how they've done it," Herbert said.

The substitute bill by Last received three votes in opposition in the House.

Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, described the resolution as an instance of "watch what I say, not what I do." He said the idea of educating Utah's adults is a nice one, but the resolution does little in the form of quantifiable action toward that goal.

"Let's be serious and do things," Nielson said. "Not saying we're going to do things, but just do them."

But Last said the resolution helps establish a long-term vision that lawmakers and educators could work toward in partnership.

"I think all of us have heard the statement that you need to begin with the end in mind," he said. "That's what this is about."

E-mail: benwood@deseretnews.com

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