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Huntsman Says Increasing Teacher Pay is Top Priority

Huntsman Says Increasing Teacher Pay is Top Priority



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TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (AP) -- Gov. Jon Huntsman said raising teacher pay 6 percent to 8 percent a year over the next several years will be his top priority as he works on his 2008 budget priorities.

"I don't want to sound like a one-string banjo and I do know I do," Huntsman said, "but I ain't going to rest until I get this one right."

Average pay for teachers lags $5,000 to $7,000 behind teachers in comparable states, the governor said.

The election defeat last week of private school tuition vouchers raises a question, some wonder if state lawmakers will boost education and teacher spending.

House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, and Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said they expect no backlash from the Republican-dominated Legislature, even though they fought the state's largest teacher's union over the voucher issue.

Vik Arnold, director of government relations for the Utah Education Association, said he expects lawmakers "to be as magnanimous and gracious as they would have expected us to be" if vouchers had passed.

"I'm hopeful with a continued strong economy, we'll see another great year for public education funding for sustained increases," Arnold said. "I think the public made it clear they, too, want to see the Legislature ... invest in our public schools."

Other education priorities for the governor include linking K-12 public education to colleges and universities and testing reforms.

Beyond education, Huntsman said he'll try to close the gap on the number of Utahns who lack health insurance and improving air quality.

Huntsman will make public his budget in early December. He says his education priorities were derived from his visits with 37 of Utah's 40 school districts.

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Information from: Deseret Morning News

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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