Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. plans to continue pushing for a big boost for education, even if other priorities have to be cut back.
Huntsman wants a 7 percent increase in the WPU, the state's per-student funding formula, and reiterated his support for that at a Wednesday meeting with the Utah PTA.
He said that he is still committed to that increase, even though the state's estimated surplus is $340 million less than expected, according to numbers released by the Legislative Fiscal Analyst Office earlier this week. Despite that reduction, the $613 million surplus is still the third largest in the state's history, and while it will cut into funding for some programs, education should not be one of them.
"Some priorities, no doubt, are going to be impacted," Huntsman told the parent volunteers. "One area I am holding firm is in teacher compensation," even if it requires sacrifices elsewhere.
"We will surpass the national average of teacher compensation," he said. "We can do it. We can ... do something I don't think anybody thought doable."
He said that this year there will likely be a $2,500 bump up on the base salaries to teachers, plus a 2 percent to 3 percent in the WPU. That would equal about a 6.6 percent WPU increase, according to the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which recommended those increases.
Huntsman was speaking to parent volunteers during the "PTA Day at the Legislature." He urged the volunteers to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill and in their communities, particularly to get more parents involved in their children's education.
"You have an army that can change the world," he said.The group talked to the governor and legislators about their priorities during the lobbying day at the Capitol. Those included boosting child safety, closing the achievement gap and increasing parental involvement in schools.