Legislative leaders thank educators at Public Education Day on Capitol Hill


Hundreds of teachers, classified school employees, parents, students and others packed the Capitol Rotunda March 11 in a show of support for public education. UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh presented Lt. Governor Greg Bell, Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, House Speaker Becky Lockhart and Senate Assistant Minority Whip Pat Jones with more than 6,000 petitions urging the legislature to support a public education funding increase (view the petition).

“If we were to put all of these petitions end to end, it would reach from the Capitol Building all the way down State Street to the City County Building,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “This demonstrates the public support for additional public education funding.”

The legislative leaders each took a few minutes to thank educators for their service to the state. “There is nothing more important to our future as a state for economic development and for our growth and becoming what we can be in the state of Utah than our children and the great teachers who teach them every day in our schools,” said Sen. Okerlund. “We thank you for all you do and we encourage you to keep up the great work because we know how important it is to our state.”

Also addressing those gathered at the Capitol were speakers representing teachers, parents, classified employees and the business community:

  • Nolan Karras – Co-Chair of Education First and former Utah Speaker of the House
  • Gay Beck – Teacher in Alpine School District and 2011 Utah Teacher of the Year
  • Jennifer Graviet – Teacher in Weber School District
  • Kristi Swett – President of the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education
  • Heather Bennett – Member of the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education
  • Deon Turley – Parent and Utah PTA Education Commissioner
  • Vickie Caldwell – Classified School Employee in Alpine School District
  • Mark Bouchard – Chairman of Prosperity 2020

“Teachers need the resources to best serve and meet the needs of every child,” said Beck. “We want to attract and retain excellent teachers to our meaningful profession. We want increased teacher morale.   We need the professional development to best implement our state core, paraprofessionals to assist with struggling students and budgets that allow us the needed classroom resources. We need time allotted for collaboration to develop, discuss and implement best teaching practices. It is time to put our resources into public education to support our greatest resource-our children.  We need a greater investment in public schools,” she said.

Turley applauded the “abilities of schools, districts, and the Utah State Office of Education to stretch every dollar so that the nation now recognizes Utah as the most efficient provider of education.” She then paid tribute to “the teachers who know how to get the most ‘bang for the buck’ and are poised, with greater funding, to turn that ‘bang’ into a “boom” of student success.”

“We are all here thanking the legislature, as we should, for what they’ve done with the WPU this year,” said Prosperity 2020 Chairman Mark Bouchard. “I would suggest to you however, that the work is just beginning. We need to set our sights higher. We need to bring people together in a way that breaks down barriers that have haunted us in the past and build trust. And take the discussion about the cost of education and turn it into a discussion about investing in education.”

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