Gov. says Utah on pace to reach ambitious educational goal, Democrats disagree

Posted at 9:51 PM, Oct 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-09 23:51:36-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Gary Herbert said the state of Utah is on pace to reach an ambitious goal when it comes to educating Utah's students, but one Senator is blasting Governor Herbert's so-called "rosy picture," saying there's an educational crisis in the state.

The governor has his sights set on 2020, saying he has a plan in place to make sure nearly two-thirds of Utahns achieve more than a high school diploma by then. However, State Senator Jim Dabakis said it's all just lip service.

"There is no plan for 2020 funding, the governor is blah, blah, blah," Dabakis said, describing how he feels about the governor's education summit.

The summit was packed with educational leaders, who were discussing the future of education in Utah.

"It's important to make sure that everybody is on the same page," Herbert said.

The page he's referring to revolves around paving the way for PACE, which stands for: Prepare young learners, Access for all students, Complete certificates and degrees and Economic success. The hope is PACE is reached by 2020, and that 66 percent of Utahns earn more than a high school diploma by then.

Herbert said it’s an ambitious but critical goal.

"It's a necessary thing to do if we want to have a continuing, growing, expanding economy,” he said.

Dabakis had a different view.

"Utah education is a catastrophe, and it's one that the Governor puts on his rose-colored glasses and pretends doesn't exist," he said.

Dabakis pointed out that Utah's per-pupil spending at $6,500 is still the lowest in the country, and Utah's classroom sizes are the biggest.

"We can't compete with kids in Idaho and Colorado, never mind New York and Massachusetts, because our legislature refuses to fund the amount of money we need to educate our children,” he said.

Yet the governor paints a different picture. He said, while more needs to be done, the state is right on track. He said Wednesday's summit was a reminder for teachers about Utah's mission.

"Their responsibility is to meet the benchmarks in elementary, junior high and high school and in post high school, provide opportunities in the classrooms,” he said. “Our responsibility, mine and the legislature, is to give them the resources necessary to enable them to do so."

Herbert said the state has invested $3.4 billion in education. Senator Dabakis said it's not enough; he thinks the legislature needs to allocate $500 million more annually just to be sub-par.