With just over a week remaining in the 2013 General Legislative Session, the business community supporting the Prosperity 2020 movement encouraged the Legislature to focus on three unifying elements of a bold, multi-year education agenda.
The Utah State Legislature delivered.
Earlier this week, Randy Shumway, president and CEO of the Cicero Group and vice chair of Prosperity 2020, was a guest on KSL News Radio’s Doug Wright Show to discuss the bills passed to invest in the next generation of Utahns.
“This is a good legislature, a fiscally prudent legislature that, because of their wisdom over the years, we had monies to invest in education this year,” says Shumway. “While other states are hemorrhaging, our state is investing–not just in the short term, but in the long-term for the betterment of our children.”
The original call to action from the business community came by way of a full-page advertisement that ran in both the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News. Shumway also did an interview with Wright the following day explaining why the business community supported education-strengthening legislation.
“The business community is the largest customer of education; we’re the ones hiring all of these graduates,” Shumway told Doug Wright. “So we have a vested interest in the quality of student learning. Education is the key to enduring prosperity. It’s critical to note that it’s not merely an economic motivation. This is a moral prerogative. We owe it to the next generation to give them the highest quality education possible.”
The Legislature did three things to invest in education this session:
- Passed a joint resolution adopting the twin goals of 90 percent reading and math proficiency in elementary schools, and 66 percent of all Utah adults with a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2020
- Made strategic investments toward measurable goals
- Committed to develop a collaborative and united education plan
“We have to create a strategic plan. We spend billions of dollars on public education, K-12 as well as higher education,” says Shumway. “Yet the relevance and depth of what a student and a graduate needs to know and what they need to be able to do is constantly evolving. The state needs a unified plan specifying the objectives, the different audiences we need to serve and how we can best achieve those desired objectives for each demographic at the lowest cost and at the best return on investment. And the Legislature this year committed to focus on and invest in that area, and I believe there will be bills that come of that next year.”
Jobs that require STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) will grow at 17 percent compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations over the next six to seven years. These are jobs that pay 50-75 percent more than other comparable jobs.
“These are creating family-sustaining careers for Utahns,” says Shumway. “We need to establish systemic change that will propel greater innovation, greater accountability and greater investment in the long-term and short-term education needs in our state.”