Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service

Project Prologue

New Century Scholarships

Conceptualization Governor Leavitt’s service on the Utah State Board of Regents helped him to understand the higher education system in Utah and its critical role with respect to economic development. The governor saw the power of new technology as a means to provide greater access to higher education for Utah’s citizens (Headfirst into High Tech https://spcoll.li.suu.edu/eadfiles/Xe1kcH8BnM5_0W5sJ69V/ms122NW20031207.pdf). In addition to broadening access to higher education, the governor believed there were ways to accelerate completion of a university degree for qualified high school students. Concurrent enrollment had been very successful in Utah, just as the Advanced Placement courses had been (NACEP http://nacep.org/). Governor Leavitt believed that qualified high school students, through concurrent enrollment and informed advisement, could simultaneously earn their high school diploma and an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school. Governor Leavitt envisioned offering a state funded scholarship for the last two years at a state institution of higher education as an incentive to high performing high school students. The Governor proposed the New Century Scholarship for all program participants that would cover 75% of the students’ tuition to earn a bachelor’s degree at a state funded institution of higher education (Governor Seeks 6.9% Boost For Higher Ed (more…)


Reading Initiative

Need for a Reading Initiative It was generally recognized that student reading achievement was not as high as it should be in Utah and needed to be addressed.  Governor Leavitt and Lt. Governor Walker established the improvement of student reading achievement as a top priority for the 1999 legislative session.  National reports that reading levels were declining in America were emerging and most people agreed that student success in reading was an essential priority (National Endowment For The Arts Announces New Reading Study https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/ToRead.pdf, Address Utah’s Reading Woes https://spcoll.li.suu.edu/eadfiles/Xe1kcH8BnM5_0W5sJ69V/ms122NW19981120b.pdf). The state responded with reading initiatives.  Other states, like Texas, had moved aggressively with reading programs and had seen some improvement in reading levels, so public education officials were confident that reading initiatives would be successful in Utah as well.  Governor Leavitt proposed eight million dollars to fund reading improvement in elementary schools in Utah.  Schools receiving this additional state funding would be required to develop a school wide reading improvement plan and specify how they would utilize this additional state funding to improve reading achievement in their school. Early Negotiations Lieutenant Governor Walker was extremely supportive and involved in the reading initiative.  The reading initiative became the centerpiece for the (more…)


Charter Schools

Legislation Although charter schools had not yet been introduced in Utah, Governor Leavitt was very interested in supporting their implementation. He believed that school choice for parents and some competition for regular public schools was important. During the summer of 1997, a task force was organized by the legislature to study the possibility of creating charter schools in Utah. This task force consisted of legislators, Governor Leavitt’s deputy of education, public education officials, parents, and citizens. Although the task force met throughout the summer of 1997 and examined charter school models, concepts, and potential legislation, they did not reached a consensus regarding the details of a legislative proposal when the 1998 legislative session began. Governor Leavitt was generally perceived by the public education community as a strong supporter of public education. However, the Governor was also well known for being forward thinking about education, and it was not unexpected when the Governor proposed the creation of charter schools even though most of the public education community did not support them. The Governor’s position created an interesting dichotomy; because the public education community generally recognized the Governor as a proponent of a strong public education system, they did not want to (more…)


Engineer Initiative and Public Job Enhancement Program

Like many governors Governor Leavitt was interested in economic development and he tried to do a number of things to put Utah in a favorable position for a 21st century economy (Leavitt Hints at Big Plan). He saw that the new economy would be more based on higher educational and workforce qualifications as well as require more people with a technical background such as science, engineering and mathematics (Greenspan Urges States to Educate). He was concerned that Utah was not training enough people to meet the future demand. To correct this idea was very simple: Provide money to the colleges of engineering so they can increase their capacity to train students. About 10 million dollars of permanent money was infused into higher education institutions so that the colleges could increase their capacity to train engineers. What that means is they hired additional faculty, they opened up more enrollment, and they created additional classroom and research space. Theoretically, if they were accepting 100 students, they could now have an increment and go to 120, 130, etc. The initial focus was on the two research universities, Utah State University and the University of Utah. That’s where the engineers were being trained. Everyone (more…)


Early College High Schools

Early College High Schools The early college high school initiative was an integral part of Governor Leavitt’s plan for trying to advance a more technologically based economy. Part of this was improving and increasing the number of engineers in the state; he set some ambitious goals: First he wanted to double the number of engineers graduating from Utah colleges and then to triple it later on.  Leavitt wanted to infuse money into colleges of engineering, giving them greater capacity, so they could admit and train more students, and get them out into the Utah economy.  As of 2009 there is still a big gap between what the schools are producing and what is needed in the market place, engineering has a very optimistic employment outlook. The original questions were: How do you get something like this started in the high schools and what do you do to prime the pump? One idea was to start some high tech high schools (Headfirst into High Tech https://spcoll.li.suu.edu/eadfiles/Xe1kcH8BnM5_0W5sJ69V/ms122NW20031207.pdf). Utah was to start some high schools that would attract students who were interested in math, science, engineering or technical fields and these schools would become a natural pipeline into the colleges and universities of (more…)


Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service