ASUU Civic Engagement Conference
Mark Bouchard received the ASUU Advocate of Higher Education Award for his work with as chairman of Prosperity 2020, a group of Utah business leaders who want to improve education in the state.
Michael Merrill, associate director of the ASUU Government Relations Board, presented the award to Bouchard at a dinner Friday, as part of the Civic Engagement Conference put on by the board.
Bouchard discussed changes that need to be made in the state education system, including the way the state funds education. He said money should be distributed based on the circumstances and needs of students, not solely on the number of students.
“The idea that one size fits all in education is ludicrous,” Bouchard said.
Utah is a changing place, and in order to be successful, the state needs to embrace the change of demographics in the state, he said.
“This is not 1950. It’s not 1960. It’s not just [about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] community any more. It’s diversified. It’s changing,” he said.
In the early 2000s the state Legislature started to focus more on tax cuts that took money away from public schools and higher education, said Sheryl Allen, a member of the board of directors of the U Alumni Association and former state legislator.
Allen said this began when a few passionate people took over poorly attended caucus meetings, which also led to former Gov. Olene Walker — a strong advocate of education — losing her seat.
“We have pulled back our financial commitment in the interest of balancing budgets,” Bouchard said.
Bouchard said it is important for educators and the Legislature to work together because the educators need to decide how to run education in Utah.
“You cannot have a 45-day legislature define how you run education,” Bouchard said.
Those in attendance at the dinner included members of ASUU, state representatives, members of Prosperity 2020 and student government representatives from BYU and Westminster College, said Ali Sadler, director of ASUU Government Relations.
Dave Buhler, commissioner of the State Board of Regents, discussed one of the founding goals of Prosperity 2020 to increase the percentage of Utahns with a post-high school education. The goal came about because the increase of college-educated workers is not enough to meet the demand in the workforce.
“We have employers, particularly in health professions, and in computer science, and in engineering, that have hundreds of jobs at high salaries that they cannot fill,” Buhler said.
A study at Georgetown University found that Utah needs to have 66 percent of the population with a post-high school education by 2018 to meet the demand. Buhler said this study led Regents to choose the goal of 66 percent by 2020.
College presidents, chambers of commerce and business people have embraced this goal. Buhler said he will present the plan to the governor.
Regents will ask the state Legislature for $40 million of additional funding including $30 million to increase capacity by 4,500 students and $10 million in scholarships to help students finish college, Buhler said.
Higher education will put in $20 million of the $40 million. Colleges will increase funding through innovation, increased efficiency and through the increase of students in the higher education system. The initiative will not increase tuition.
“This is a seven-year plan and each year the budget will increase by $40 until 2020,” Buhler said.
“Over time we build tremendous capacity in higher capacity in Utah if the Legislature feels like they can do this,” Buhler said.
Other speakers from the event included Jim Dabakis, chairman of the state Democratic party, and Thomas Wright, chairman of the state Republican party, who spoke together about bipartisanship. Jennifer Napier-Pearce, a reporter at public radio station KCPW, also spoke about citizen involvement in politics.