Utah Gov. Gary Herbert suggested ways to improve education in the state during the Governor’s Monthly News Conference on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
Herbert began his remarks by thanking the state’s teachers and acknowledging their impact in Utah’s students’ lives.
“With the exception of parents, teachers have the most impact on the outcome of our students, our children, in the classroom. I don’t think we can overemphasize the significant role they play,” Herbert said. “We can’t thank them enough for the good work that they’re doing.”
Herbert emphasized a need to both attract and retain teachers.
“Clearly what we’ve got to do is, in fact, make sure that we pay starting salaries that will attract people into the teaching profession and then pay them commensurate so that they’ll stay in the teaching profession,” Herbert said.
While Herbert expressed gratitude for recent education successes in Utah, he acknowledged potential challenges, such as funding a growing student population.
Herbert expressed a desire to keep funding decisions for schools at the local level—specifically by increasing the weighted pupil unit (WPU). The WPU is used to determine how much funding to distribute to education agencies in Utah.
“If we believe in local control, if we believe teachers need to have higher salaries, we need to increase the WPU,” Herbert said.
In response to a question of whether Herbert would favor or oppose a personal income tax increase to fund education, Herbert said there are three ways to fund education: re-prioritizing the current revenue stream, growing the economy and increasing taxes.
“I don’t see any tax increases being proposed in my budget,” Herbert said. “In order to make the economic engine hum, it’s really a matter of having the right balance, the right mixture here, to make sure that we have a growing, expanding economy, which produces more revenue.”
Last month, Herbert said he will vote for Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential election. When asked about his response to his fellow Republicans who won’t support Trump, Herbert said Democrats have an equally hard time supporting Hillary Clinton.
“People have a difficult decision to make,” Herbert said. “I’m a practical guy. I really do believe in Mike Pence. I believe he brings some stability and vision and certainly lines up well with Utah.”
In response to a reporter’s question about why Herbert didn’t officially endorse Trump as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Herbert declined to discuss Trump further.
“What the people of Utah want me to concentrate on is not the presidential race,” Herbert said. “They want me to concentrate on being governor. It doesn’t matter who I vote for or who my opponent votes for; it matters about our vision for the state of Utah and our future and what policies we’re going to implement as governor.”