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Prosperity 2020, Education First Offer Plans to Improve Utah Education

Jeremy Franklin via Creative Commons

Optional full-day Kindergarten, more counseling for students and more money for Utah’s Regents’ scholarship fund are all ways to bring the state’s education system into the top ten in the nation. That’s according to Utah business and community leaders.

Last year, Roy High School Principal Gina Butters was surprised when Prosperity 2020 Chair Alan Hall approached her with an idea to save her struggling school. He asked her what she needed, and then found the money to make it a reality.

“Teachers, educators, principals, administrators, and councilors, all had a say in what areas we need to hit hard in order to make a difference,” Butters says. “And I’m really proud that it wasn’t a plan that imposed on us, it was one that we created.”

Hall sent $250,000 of his own money to schools in the district. The legislature matched his contribution. With that money, Butters says schools added optional full-day Kindergarten, hired a new counselor and amplified teacher training and support. In a year’s time, she says truancy fell, 3rd grade reading improved and graduation rates jumped to 95 percent.

But Hall is worried he can’t continue to fund the program.

“We can’t drop that program and go back to the way it was, we’ve got to keep it going,” Hall says. “So I think we can prove to the legislature for a few dollars you can move the needle.”

The business-lead Prosperity 2020 and citizen-lead political action committee Education First are calling on state lawmakers to help underachieving schools implement the same kinds of changes Roy High School was able to make.

Hall says that begins with fully funding student growth and increasing per-student funding. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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