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SALT LAKE CITY - After months of study, the Governor's Education Excellence Commission today unveiled its vision statement and a draft action plan to improve educational opportunities for all Utahns.
 
Governor Gary R. Herbert serves as chairman of the 31-member Commission, an initiative he launched earlier this year to create a "blueprint" for educational success in Utah. The group has met at least monthly since March.
 
The Commission's long-term action plan for the state, titled "Vision 2020," is predicated on the goal that, by the year 2020, 66 percent of all Utahns ages 20 to 64 will have a postsecondary degree, certification or advanced training.
 
"A solid educational system is the backbone of our great State, and aligning education and economic development is absolutely critical to our future success," Governor Herbert said. "This draft plan is the beginning of a long-term strategy that will prepare Utah students for success throughout their entire educational experience, while also ensuring that our educational systems meet the needs of the marketplace."
 
At today's meeting, discussion focused largely on several priorities, or "strategies," to help achieve its goal, including bolstering early childhood education, improving instructional quality and curricular alignments, aligning education with economic development and workforce needs, and increasing the use of technology in education.
 
"A well-educated workforce is critical to a strong economy," said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, and a member of the Commission. "We applaud the Governor for bringing together a diverse and engaged group to help chart a path that will result in Utah becoming a leader in education."
 
Commission members include education, business and community leaders, as well as legislators and other key stakeholders, and represent a diverse group of voices.
 
"Creating an educational system that ensures excellence and provides opportunities for all of Utah's students is a community effort," said Deborah Bayle, President and CEO of United Way of Salt Lake. "Our recommendations will have long-standing benefits, not just for students and parents but for the entire State of Utah."
 
The Commission's goal - 66 percent by 2020 - is possible, said William Sederburg, Utah Commissioner of Higher Education. "We truly believe this is an attainable goal. It gives us a great metric to rally around."
 
Ensuring adequate funding for public and higher education has been a large part of the Commission's discussions over the past year. The group has also focused on reading and numeracy proficiency goals, early childhood education, full-day kindergarten, educator salaries and performance rewards and technology use in Utah's classrooms.
 
Education is a top priority for Governor Herbert. As Lt. Governor working alongside Governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr., he helped add $900 million in new funding to public and higher education since 2005. In fact, since 2005, public education funding in Utah has grown at twice the rate of student population growth.
 
During the 2010 legislative session, Governor Herbert successfully fought to avoid deep budget cuts to education that other state agencies have sustained as a result of the national recession and its impact on the state. The end result was a decrease of less than one half of 1 percent to public education's budget, and an approximate 5 percent reduction to higher education.
 
The Governor's proven commitment to education has earned him the praise of Utah educators and officials and an endorsement from the Utah Education Association.

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