Utah Education Association PAC endorsed Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s bid for re-election Friday — the support suggests Utah’s educators acknowledge progress made under the governor’s administration.
U-PAC backing Herbert’s campaign can be viewed as a message from Utah educators signifying that, in a statement released by Gov. Herbert regarding education, “Utah is on the right track.”
Since taking office in 2009, Gov. Herbert made education an important issue, finding and funding ways to address Utah’s lackluster education system.
“I’ve made education a priority from day one and I’m proud of the progress we’ve made,” Herbert said.
Gov. Herbert led efforts to secure $200 million to fund growth in public education which is “new, ongoing money,” according to a statement released by the governor’s campaign. His office also established and funded a Women’s College Task Force to focus on increasing graduation rates for Utah women.
Shifts in proposed U.S. Department of Education funds for next year will result in a 2.8 percent net gain, or over $48 million from Washington to Utah education programs. Some education levels will see cuts in federal dollars.
President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal estimates cuts in select federal programs at the elementary and secondary level, short-changing the Beehive State $10.2 million in that category. However, an estimated $11.3 million in grant money will be added to postsecondary education programs, of which most is directed entirely to the Federal Pell Grant program.
Herbert locked the Utah GOP gubernatorial nomination last April with 2,464 of the delegate votes, defeating former Republican state representative, Morgan Philpot, by three points — over the required 60 percent needed to avoid a primary.
Democratic challenger, retired general Peter Cooke, commented on the current state of education in Utah when he announced his candidacy this past February.
“If we have an education system that ranks as low as it does in almost every aspect,” Gen. Cooke said, “it just doesn’t make sense how we can compete in a global economy.”
Utah ranks 42nd in the nation in education, according to Education Week’s annual 2012 Quality Counts report.
Responding to the U-PAC’s endorsement of Gov. Herbert in a May 23rd press release statement, candidate Gen. Cooke placed blame on the incumbent governor.
“We cannot allow this PAC’s endorsement to distract us from the real problem — Utah’s failing education system under the Herbert Administration,” Gen. Cooke said.
The Utah Education Association PAC met with both candidates individually for about an hour and, based on those meetings, Gov. Herbert won the endorsement, Mike Kelley, director of communications for U-PAC said.
“(U-PAC) endorses candidates that they believe are the most likely to have a positive impact on students and teachers in the state of Utah,” Kelly said.
Gov. Herbert’s administration expanded the online concurrent enrollment program in Utah. The program allows high school students to earn university-level general education credit before they graduate.
Utah’s education will most certainly be a top issue in the 2012 gubernatorial election, and with U-PAC having made its choice, it will all get sorted out this November.