State superintendent says Utah schools among world's most effective, efficient

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 19 2013 9:00 p.m. MST

Lawmakers were able to meet the top funding priorities of both public and higher education during the most recent legislative session and increased the education budget by roughly $150 million, the largest increase in several years.

In September, Gov. Gary Herbert announced that Utah ended the 2013 fiscal year with a revenue surplus of $242 million, all of which was expected to be allocated toward the state's education budget and Education Rainy Day Fund.

But the state is also working toward a goal of having two-thirds of adult Utahns holding a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2020, which is expected to require extensive capital investments.

Last week, the Utah System of Higher Education released a report stating that an annual tax revenue increase of 11 percent would be needed for colleges and universities to meet the so-called "66 by 2020" goal, as well as increases in tuition costs and efficiency.

Those increases would be independent of the resources needed at the elementary and secondary level to better prepare students in grades K-12 for continued education and training in relation to the 66 percent goal.

On Tuesday, Menlove applauded the governor for his leadership in pushing the state toward greater education outcomes and degree attainment. But he also acknowledged the challenges facing public schools, particularly the funding and staffing of classrooms for an ever-growing student body.

Roughly $70 million is required to simply maintain current funding levels in light of the 12,000 new students expected to enter Utah schools next year, Menlove said. He also said that between 2,000 and 3,000 new teachers are required each year as a result of both growing student enrollment and the high rate of educators who leave the profession.

Introducing Menlove at Tuesday's event, State Board of Education Chairwoman Debra Roberts expressed her thanks to the state's teachers, as well as the parents, business leaders, community members and lawmakers who work to support local schools.

"The need for support for public education grows ever more critical as we face both the opportunities and the challenges of educating the state’s children," Roberts said.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com

Twitter: bjaminwood

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