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Unsatisfied with Student Performance, Utah Business Leaders Release Education Plan

Andrea Smardon
Lane Beatty, Salt Lake Chamber president, and Richard Kendell, former commissioner of Higher Education and Education First board member, discuss their education plan at a conference at The Grand America Hotel. (Oct. 28, 2014)

Utah business leaders unveiled a five-year plan on Tuesday to improve the educational system in the state. The plan comes just one day after test resultsrevealed that less than half of Utah students are proficient in math, language arts, and science. Business leaders say Utah’s student performance is on a downward trend relative to the rest of the country.

Lane Beattie, president of the Salt Lake Chamber, is concerned that the state does not have enough educated people to support the growth of businesses.

“The number one issue for new companies coming or growing in Utah is the fact that we have an employment base, and those are the kids that have gone through school,” Beattie says.  He and others are frustrated by gridlock in the state legislature surrounding education.

“You know the business community is used to getting results, and you don’t get results unless you have a plan,” Beattie says. “So basically, we said where are we at, where do we need to be and how will we get there, and once you know the answer to all those questions, you move the dial.”

Business and education leaders have collaborated on a plan to improve reading, math, high school completion and post-high school certificates and degrees. Beatty says one of the biggest priorities of the proposal is to get more students reading by grade 3. There is also money allocated to raise teacher salaries and to provide more training opportunities. Governor Gary Herbert agrees that the state needs to be thinking into the future when it comes to education.

“Everybody has ideas and we come up to the legislature every year and rehash the same debate,” Herbert says. “We need to have a longer term goal, and longer term plan.”

Herbert says his administration will be spending the next year gathering input to develop an even longer 10-year plan to elevate Utah into the top 10 education systems in the country.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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