SALT LAKE CITY - Utah school teachers visited Capitol Hill Wednesday and delivered handwritten notes to Governor Gary R. Herbert to thank him for his dedicated defense of public education funding.
"As an educator in Cache Valley, I would like to thank you for the support you have given public education," wrote one second grade teacher. "We appreciate your work for the future of our children in this state."
Another educator wrote, "Thank you for your championship of funding for Utah's public schools. The students of today are our future and need to be the No. 1 priority."
Governor Herbert agrees that public and higher education is the top priority for the State of Utah. Holding education funding at current levels was the Governor's primary goal for this legislative session, which he announced at his budget rollout in December.
Through focused negotiations with the Legislature and stakeholders from the education community over the course of the legislative session, the Governor has succeeded in keeping reductions at manageable levels in both areas.
Under the budget agreement, public education will see a reduction of less than $10 million, which amounts to less than one-half of 1 percent of its overall budget. Higher education will receive an approximate 5 percent reduction, but will get additional funding for capital projects at several higher education campuses.
"This is a great day for education in Utah," Governor Herbert said. "This budget is as close to holding education funding at current levels as possible, given the realities of Utah's economic situation. At the beginning of this process, public education faced budget cuts of nearly $400 million. To get that down to under $10 million took a Herculean effort and a lot of dedication from many people."
The agreed upon FY2011 budget does not fund growth in public or higher education, which education officials assured the Governor as they helped him prepare his budget that they could absorb without detrimental impact on operations.
It does, however, provide future stability for public education by committing ongoing money, rather than one-time, funds to public education's base budget.
"This allows our educators to plan for the future. We started this session standing on the edge of a $400 million cliff, and thanks to the leadership of Governor Herbert and the Legislature, that won't happen next year," said Kory Holdaway, government relations director for the Utah Education Association.
"While we remain concerned about the future growth of students in the system, we're confident that, with his commitment to public education, it is something we can address with the Governor as we move forward," Holdaway said.
Higher education officials are also pleased with the budget outcome, which includes partial restoration of last year's cuts and approval for new facilities for Dixie State College, Salt Lake Community College, Utah State University and Utah Valley University.
"Governor Herbert has been a strong advocate for higher education," said Utah Commissioner of Higher Education William Sederburg. "His leadership in restoring some of last year's base budget cuts, as well as securing much-needed funds for new buildings, will keep our institutions strong even during these difficult times."
Governor Herbert is a strong proponent of making solid investments in higher education in Utah, where enrollment has grown at record rates over the past year.