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Both Parties Pledge Bipartisanship on Education Bills

Judy Fahys

Legislators have proposed around 80 education bills in the Legislative session so far. Democrats and Republicans say they will work together to improve Utah’s classrooms.

Lawmakers from both parties have some similar ideas about how to improve Utah’s schools. Both want to beef up science technology engineering and math, or STEM education. Both want to help teachers get the training they need. But Democrats say it’s time to restore school funding that was cut during the recession. They have proposed a dozen bills that call for injecting nearly $300 million into public education. Democratic Rep. Joel Briscoe represents Salt Lake City. He says helping students means supporting parents and teachers.

“We believe every student deserves an effective and well-prepared teacher who has been professionally trained and compensated,” says Briscoe. “We also believe that instruction and curriculum and assessment should expand every student’s ability to understand the world -- not narrow or limit them. ”

Tom Nedreberg is Vice President of the Utah Education Association. The 15,000-member teachers union applauds the Democrats’ proposals, but he notes that it all boils down to money.

“We’re hopeful that they will remember that we used to fund ourselves at a higher level than what we are currently doing,” says Nedreberg, “and we need to make up some ground so that we can always be competitive in a world market.”

House Speaker Becky Lockhart hasn’t seen the minority party’s proposals. She has her own STEM education plan that could cost as much as $300 million. Lockhart says she’s committed to working with Democrats on improving education. 

“One of the big secrets about what happens here is that so much of what we do is bipartisan,” she says. “When we have general agreement sometimes it’s the implementation of what we all agree on that’s a little bit different.”

Lockhart says last summer’s legislative task force on education has set out guidelines for prioritizing all of the proposals.

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