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Governor stresses a love of lifelong learning

Dale Thompson Of the Record staff

Cooperation is learned early in school.

Saturday, Jan. 14, on the eve of this year’s legislative session, Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. reminded the Utah School Boards Association the value of getting along.

He began by congratulating the educators at their 83rd Annual Convention for their commitment to public service.

"Doers are few, and you are doers," Huntsman said.

The Governor continued by telling about a recent visit to Washington Elementary School where he explained his job to the students and asked them for advice.

One girl responded by saying, "I think we all need to get along."

Huntsman pointed out we need to understand that concept in the state. He noted Utah has ethnic and economic diversity along with geographic divisions that can separate us but all need to work together.

"Reflect on what it means to be one," he said.

A memorable lesson in working with differences came to Huntsman from Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. She met with the Governor in his office two years ago where despite political differences and racial barriers they had hours of engaging discussion.

When the meeting ended, Bernice King reportedly asked if she could pray for the governor. He stood in a prayer circle with her and members of both staffs. It was a circle formed by people with opposing political views and cultural differences, yet they stood together.

He said the moment is one he will never forget.

People often have opposing views but the Governor reminded us, "It doesn’t mean we can’t put human dignity first and foremost."

Part of achieving this includes listening to what other people have to say.

"Remain open to innovation and new ideas," the Governor said. "As school board members and participants remember to do all the homework and analysis."

A lot of educators focus on getting students through high school. Huntsman said he would like to focus not on K-12 but K-16 and give everyone in the state an opportunity to make it to higher education.

The Governor feels much of this can be accomplished by instilling a desire for lifelong learning in students. A teacher plays a vital role in this by engaging students.

"Teachers are magic in the classroom when they connect with kids," he said.

All of Huntsman’s children are currently enrolled in public institutions. He noted that each child of his learns differently.

"We’ve go to look at the whole student and recognize there are multiples of intelligences," he said, meaning people are intelligent in different ways.

Huntsman’s own brother is dyslexic and slipped through the cracks of the educational system, but is a successful businessman today.

"Why is it nobody could figure out his genius?" Huntsman asked.

He notes that every child has potential and the education system should recognize that.

"Each one of those kids has a genius inside," he said.

The Governor highlighted his 2006 recommendations for the education budget including a 5.5 percent increase in the money spent per child. Other budget proposals he brought up include: $71 million for enrollment growth $7 million for voluntary full-day kindergarten. Huntsman said students who attend full-day kindergarten have a head start over their peers. $10 million for the math program $2.5 million in ongoing money for the reading program $10 million to fund UPASS online testing $10 million to update computers $6.1 million for teaching supplies

"We have an economic foundation today that allows us to pay the bills," Huntsman said.

The Governor asked the audience to support his proposed $62 million for Utah Science, Technology and Research.

USTAR helps fun research at universities that will develop new technologies. Eventually those innovations become the foundation for private companies, and create jobs.

Huntsman noted that in 1972 the University of Utah’s Research Park was opened on a leap of faith. Today, economies that are tied to higher education are doing better than others in the country.

"It’s time to update and dust off our economic development plan," Huntsman said.

The goal of USTAR is to create more jobs that are also higher paying.

As Utah grows, adding 80,000 people to its population last year, the number of available jobs needs to grow too. In 2005 the state was second only to Nevada for the number of jobs that were created.

The Governor added that many once prosperous nations only have memories of their glory and no dreams for the future.

"My goal is to make sure that we are able to maintain more dreams than memories," he said.


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