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May 28,2016

"There need to be a heightened appreciation for our teachers, who are doing some really remarkable things in the classroom." Governor Herbert

ANNOUNCER: KUED presents the "Governor's Monthly News Conference," an exchange between Utah reporters and Governor Gary Herbert.

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Good morning. Great to be with you, and thank you very much for taking time. As part of my opening statement, I'd like to talk about education.

It's been kind of a top of mind issue for the last number of weeks, and I think there's some visioning that we need to do about education, and some explanation as far as what we've been doing. To put it in context, as you remember, 6 years ago when I came into office, we were at the depths of the great recession. And we set a goal to say, "Let's become the best preforming economy in America."  We had a lot of naysayers who said that couldn't happen, and yet, we've been able to, this last year, 2015, 9 out of 12 months, we've become the best performing, most diverse economy in America.

That's a laudable achievement, significant in its scope, and it happened because we all kind of came together and said, "In spite of the naysayers, we can do something remarkable. Let's make the economy the best in America here in Utah." Part of the component--part of that, though, was education, a skilled labor force that lines up with the demands of the marketplace.   And so, education, I think we are in a good place today with education.

But we need to, in fact, make that our next goal. Not just as a priority, let's become a top ten state, but let's make a goal of becoming number one in America when it comes to public education achievement.  And again, I know there will be naysayers out there who say we can't do it for a variety of reasons, but I think we can, and I think here are the three issues that really need to be addressed.

One, we've got to have parents engaged. It starts with parents and guardians who care about their kids, making sure they get to school, do their homework, that they're taking their tests appropriately and learning in school, and actually setting the bar for, in fact, participation. They need to be involved themselves, along with our students, parent-teacher associations, et cetera.   

Secondly, we've got to, in fact, provide the resources for the teachers. There need to be a heightened appreciation for our teachers, who are doing some really remarkable things in the classroom. I think we need to do better when it comes to teacher development, teacher preparation, some resources needful there.

I'm grateful that we've had a growing, expanding economy. It's allowed us to put $1.8 billion of new money into education. That will help us, certainly propel us going forward to make sure we have the issues necessary for the teacher to be successful. Recruiting, teacher salaries, all those kind of things, retaining them in the classroom. And last but not least, and it may be the most difficult one of all, and that is there needs to be a new spirit of collaboration and cooperation.

As we've seen in the past few weeks, the divisiveness say, for example, with Common Core tearing us apart and not allowing us to come together has got to stop. It's going to be a collaborative effort that's going to help us achieve success. And so, our challenge today, and one that I'm throwing down the gauntlet on, is let's not just be satisfied with the good performance we're having today. And I appreciate the successes we've had with increased graduation rates, tests scores, all the things we see happening. Let's now recalibrate and say, "The goal for Utah is to become number one when it comes to education in Utah." If we'll work together, if we'll collaborate and cooperate, I believe that goal can be achieved.

ERIK NEILSEN, KUED Nielsen: So, you've just recently come out, you've been a staunch supporter of Common Core and the Common Core principles, and you've recently said you're against it just because of all the controversy around it. What do you--what do you think needs to be changed to settle this controversy over Common Core?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well, I'm not a Johnny-come-lately to the issue, that's for sure. I mean, 4 years ago, we had the same kind of brouhaha going on with the education system, and about the negative aspects of what we call Common Core. And I thought in order to, you know, resolve that issue, let's do a couple of things. I called upon the Attorney General to review, to see if somehow we'd ceded authority to the Federal Government because of some entanglement with Common Core, the concern about curriculum, the concern about resources and textbooks, the concern about testing. And so, I had them do a review. He came back and said, "In the main, we are in charge of everything from top to bottom." He did have a little cautionary about the waiver. We had to ask for a waiver to get off No Child Left Behind. That's a statute we actually passed in Utah that the Federal Government might have some leverage on us.  But in the main, we got a good, clean bill of health there.

The second thing I did was to have an independent commission--committee headed up by President Matt Holland of Utah Valley University, and Rich Kendell, former Commissioner of Education, and say, "Can you bring in a group of people, stakeholders, and, say, look at their standards, review them. See if what the state school boards put in place, are they good standards, or bad standards?" And they came and said they're good, but they made some recommendations for improvement. I thought this would resolve the issue, and yet we find out through this campaign over these last few weeks and months that not only is it not put to bed, but the brushfire's grown even more intense. 

That's not healthy for us as a state. It's not good for the education system. It's certainly not good for the students. So my intent is let's resolve the issue. We need to react. We've got school's going to start in next September. We cannot wait, so now's the time to act. And so, I've met with the state school board, I've sent them a letter, as you all know, asking them to say, "Look, take a look at the standards. Let's go beyond the Common Core standards. Let's see if we can have unique Utah standards. And let's make sure we have a process where everybody can come in and give their opinion, pro or con, on any aspects of the Common Core." And the definition of Common Core has gone beyond just the standards of math and reading language arts.

It's gone on to testing, and SAGE testing, computer adaptive testing, and data collection of our students. It's much broader now in the public's mind. And so, I think the state school board needs to assert themselves, as their rights under the constitution of Utah and the statutes, and have this review process. And it's going to take them some time, but I think that process will help at least calm the negativity that's out there, where everybody has a chance to weigh in and be considered. And again, it doesn't matter whether it's the teachers who say, "Nobody asked us about SAGE testing."

They want to have input. Whether it's the Moms Against Common Core, and everybody in between. Let's let everybody come in and be heard. I think if the state school board will do that, we can resolve this controversy hopefully going forward.

LISA RILEY ROCHE, DESERET NEWS: But Governor, you tried to take a piece of the Common Core issue, the SAGE testing, to a special session of the legislature. I know you were interested in doing that. You went to the school board with the intent they would support a resolution that you could get on yesterday's special session, last week's special session agenda. You pulled that in the wake of some pretty intense opposition from the house speaker and other legislative leaders, who felt like they were being drawn maybe unfairly into the political race that you find yourself in with the primary coming up. How do you bill collaboration when you tried to push something through that people weren't ready for?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well, as you pose the question, I reject the premise, respectfully. One, I had a meeting with President Niederhauser. The speaker was invited to come. He did not show up. He was supposed to be there; it didn't happen. So I'd had a conversation with him. What was reported in the press was not quite accurate. In talking to the state school board, we talked about, and that was clearly an issue that came up, the SAGE testing, over and over again, which really is a separate component part to the Common Core. And I suggested to President Niederhauser, I said, "You know, I think the state school board's going to want us to take a review of the SAGE testing." We've already passed legislation this past session to eliminate its mandatory requirement in grade 11, replaced with the ACT, and also that we cannot use it to evaluate teachers.

So we've already made some partial movement there. But there is at least some discussion about having it eliminated as a mandatory from the 9th through 12th grade. So, just put that on your radar screen. I don't know if it'll be ready for the special session, which happened yesterday, but at least be aware of that, and I'm going to see what happens. I'm going to speak to the school board. It got out somehow that I'm calling for it in the special session. That was not true. I was going to say to the state school board, "I've got some concerns. What are your thoughts on this? If, in fact, you've got some concerns, I will, in fact, put it on a special session."

Could be something into the future, recognizing that we need to make some decisions if we're going to make some decisions before September. So, that's yet to happen. I've not pulled it because of anything said other than practicality of what the state school board has suggested. And I do believe it needs to be vetted. I think the legislature does need to go through a process. I mean, what we're talking about, this whole thing is about a better process, where everybody has a chance to weigh in, ideas be considered, pro and con, and then make a deliberate decision.

So, I have no disagreement with the speaker on that issue. I was just going to say if he'd been in the meeting, I think he would have understood more clearly what we were trying to do.

ROD DECKER, KUTV2: Number one in public education achievement. Can you tell us how you're going to measure whether we're number one or number whatever?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well, part of our efforts, as you know, Rod, is we're trying to develop a 10-year education plan. I think it's been unproductive for the fact that, say, for example, a year ago, we had 150 plus pieces of legislation directed at education.

We were the second most prolific in presenting legislative ideas of any state in America. And we're only, you know, in the middle of the pack. So, we have a lot of different ideas going on. We need to focus, we need to unite, we need to come together. That's the first thing we need to do. And so, part of our 10-year plan is to do that very thing, similar to what we did with 66 by 2020. And again, it will be our graduation rates. We ought to have a goal to be at least 90% in our graduation rates. We've moved up about 9%, so we've had some significant progress made here these last 5 or 6 years, but if we can become 90% graduation rates, that's number 1 in the nation.

We ought to be not just a top ten state, and we're on the verge of that. We're about 12th when it comes to math. We're about tenth when it comes to reading language arts. And we're seventh in some--on science. So we are within shouting distance. So we just need to ratchet the bar up and say, "Hey, you know what? We can become number one." And the NAIT scores, the nation's report card, will help us in comparison, one state with another.

So we'll put together some benchmarks, we'll put together some data that will say, "If we do this, then we can declare number one." But those are the areas that I think are yet to be determined, but based on what I've just told you is something we ought to be doing to measure our success.

ROD DECKER, KUTV2: Your primary opponent has proposed something he calls Education Savings Accounts. And they have them in--they passed them in Nevada, I think they're in court. And they have them in Arizona. Have you looked into that? Do you have a comment on his idea of Education Savings Accounts?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well, I--he can comment on his own proposals out there. I think it sounds a lot like vouchers. It's an opportunity to set aside money. And whether you have a voucher and you get that redeemed, or you take your savings account and give them actual cash money, it ends up being the same thing. The concern I would have is we've tried that. I'm a big choice guy. That's why our charter schools I think have proliferated, because of additional choice. So I'm not opposed to having more options out there for our parents and for the students, but I think that our public has spoken very loudly about we do not want to have vouchers. So whether that saving account would work I think is questionable.

I think what I'd like to do is strengthen our public education system, and our charter school system, and make sure that we have that as healthy and as robust as we possibly can because

95% of all of our students are going to the public education system. And I expect that's not going to change.

Even when we had vouchers proposed under Governor Huntsman, we always knew that the vast majority of the people of Utah were going to be involved in the public education system. And we're getting good results. I applaud the teachers. You know, we sometimes talk about we're the lowest per pupil spending, we talk about the inputs.

We don't talk about the great outcomes we're getting. We're the best value for education in America today, not just by me saying it, but by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But we can do better, and we should do better. And particularly for our long-term economic success and quality of life, we will do better.

BEN WINSLOW: Governor, this morning, the DABC responded to the lawsuit filed over the "Deadpool" movie controversy, saying that Utah has the authority to protect, and I'm quoting here, "Public health, welfare, and morals." Are you guys fighting a losing battle when it comes to a First Amendment challenge?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well, I don't know that it's a First Amendment challenge, at least as I view the situation. This is about the laws regarding the selling of alcohol. And the laws are clear that if you want to have a liquor license and sell alcohol, you cannot have nudity at the same time. That's mostly been associated with strip clubs and those kinds of activities, so this is a little bit of a different situation.

It's been an on-curring I think problem with Brewvies, and they're challenging the issue, it's in court. We'll wait and see how that turns out. But this is not a First Amendment issue. This is the laws you have to comply with if you're going to, in fact, distribute alcohol.

MICHAEL ORTON, UTAHPOLITICALCAPITOL.COM: Concurrently, Governor, regarding education, you have at least two spots on the state charter school board which will be opening up in the next month or so. Given all this pay to place discussion and all of that, is it time to clean house there, or at least bring in some new blood to the state charter school board?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well, we want to have the best people we can possibly have on any boards, you know? And we're grateful that there's a lot of people willing to step up and volunteer. Our state is known for its volunteerism, and our willingness to step up and give service back to the community, and so, we want to make sure we have the best people we can have there possible.

That being said, the oversight responsibility under our constitution and statute is our elected state school board. And I expect that they need, in fact, take a stronger role there in oversight. That's been part of the problem with the Common Core controversy. We've not messaged well. That really--I mean, I have the bully pulpit, but I really have not much to do with public education under the current laws. But I'm more than happy to lend my voice with that of the state school board, where they assert themselves under their rights under the constitution, as elected by the people, in having oversight over our public education system, which includes the charter schools.

MICHAEL ORTON, UTAHPOLITICALCAPITOL.COM: So do you see them, the state school board, nominating and then you making the appointments at this point?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: You know, there could be different ways to do this under our legislation, maybe now or proposed. I think we want to have a system where we get the best people, the most capable people to serve on any boards, including charter, certainly those who get elected by the people. Again, a good selection of candidates that can go out and say, "This is my vision for Education Utah. Please elect me." That's what elections are about.

MICHELLE PRICE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Governor, on Monday, you were asked about the Obama Administration's new directive on bathrooms in public schools. And you said that you worried it could actually hurt the transgender community. Could you explain what you meant by that?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well, again, I'm sensitive to the issue, and we all ought to be sensitive to the issue that all children, and I emphasize all children, ought to be treated with respect, there ought to be a sense of dignity, a sense of safety, and privacy when it comes to using bathroom facilities or shower facilities, et cetera. And if people are feeling uncomfortable, we ought to make reasonable accommodations for that so that they don't feel uncomfortable. I think that is best addressed at the local level. And I defend the state right, and the local districts, and the local principals to make those adjustments as is necessary.

I think they're doing it now. What we don't need is to have somebody from Washington D.C. kind of mandate to us a one size fits all. I think sometimes, one size fits all works for the few, but not for the many. And I think it can become counterproductive if we try to pigeonhole people into this one size fits all approach. So that's the concern I've got. I trust the local people to understand the issues and make rational, reasonable accommodations in protecting all the students. And I think that's taking place. I don't think this is where the president needs to weigh in, or his administration. And, as I understand it right now, there is, in fact--we don't have to do it 

The only thing that's--I guess the leverage out there is, "Well, if you don't do it, then we'll maybe withhold federal funds." Well, I would think that would be--you know, first, it was wrong for him to weigh in. Second, it would be even wrong-er for him to say, "We're going to take away the money. 

MICHELLE PRICE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: But how would it hurt transgender students by allowing them to use the bathroom that they feel most comfortable in?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: I don't understand bullying at all, but we know bullying goes on. And it's not just with transgender, it's a lot of different issues out there bullying.

What I would want and want to have happen is, in fact, if somebody's forced to use a bathroom that is not private, and ends up exacerbating the bullying problem that they have that they're trying to get away from anyway. Again, that's why I expect that the local communities will have a better handle, a better grasp for what's in the best interests of their students when it comes to privacy, dignity, safety for all the students. And we need to remember it is for all students, not just the one sector versus another. It's for everybody.

ROD DECKER, KUTV2: Data is in on Utah's Medicaid expansion plan, the legislature's plan. And instead of covering 16,000, they've only got money there for 10,000. Would you comment on that. Are you concerned? Do you plan to do anything?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well, I'm disappointed, I guess, because the estimates were higher, and now they're lower, and that's probably not good, but it is a starting place. We've always said that this principle here is let's find a place to start, and start covering more people as we can afford to do it.

That's the principle that the legislature's being guided with. And, you all know I had a proposal out there that was different. I couldn't get the votes, passed the Senate but not the House. So we're back to a starting point. And I guess the good news is we are starting. And whatever it is, it is. And hopefully, this starting point will allow us to gather more data. Let's try it for a year and see if we can find ways to expand and improve. I expect the legislature will want to do that, but we'll have good, solid data to build a case and see what we can afford going forward.

ROD DECKER, KUTV2: You started--you fought hard for 3 years or so, didn't get the votes, as you said. And since then, they've sort of taken the leadership, and you've cheered them on. Do you still see that relationship going, where expansion is going to have to be a legislative initiative, or are you going to have some proposals?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: I will continue to have dialogue and discussion. That's the way it works. The executive branch has dialogue and discussion with the legislative branch. We sometimes agree, in fact most times agree, but we sometimes don't. That's what we call the healthy tension between the executive branch and the legislative branch. We have different roles to play, but we all are beholden to the people of Utah. We want to, in fact, respect their wishes, and hopefully reflect their desires when it comes to policy, and provide the outcomes that they expect us to deliver. And in the main, we're doing a very good job.

Utah would not be at the top of virtually every list if we were not performing well. So, rather than the tit for tat, and we won one and they lost one, or vice versa, it really needs to be more of a collaborative spirit. I just talked about, you know, our success economically is because we've come together. I've talked about the success we'll have educationally is if we come together. My role, and I think where I'm maybe fairly successful, is I am a uniter. I do bring people together. I do bring collaboration. And as we work together, we're getting good outcomes in this state.

BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: Governor, yesterday the legislature approved a resolution opposing any creation of Bears Ears National Monument. First, are you going to sign it? Secondly, Representative Mike Noel has said that he has information Utah could get as many as three national monuments. Have you heard the same thing? Do you have any evidence of that?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well, there's always rumors going on out there, as you know, Ben. And I don't want to comment on all the rumors out there, we'd need a much longer program. But, you know, I just know what my conversations have been with the president, the vice president, Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, Neil Kornze the BLM director, and others in the Obama Administration. And I know what our congressional delegation is working on. 

There is really a desire to, in fact, find resolution to this public lands conflict. And the Bears Ears is just one part of it. The Bears Ears Butte, I think our Native American brothers and sisters would agree there needs to be some conservation, some protection there. The question really is, what's the best vehicle to do that? And there's division in that, even amongst the Indians. Most of the Navajos that live in Utah would say having a national monument is not going to be the best way. Having a national conservation area is probably a better way because it allows them to have more access, hunting and gathering aspects of their culture, and some of their Native American ceremonies will be able to be addressed better under that format.

Access roads in and out a little better for the Native Americans. So rather than have a national monument that's going to attract--you know, the hope is millions of people, which the people are proponent, and go into a very kind of a sacred area for the Native Americans, that could be counterproductive. Plus, we've got such an opportunity here legislatively to create resolution to 18 million acres. That's a significant amount of, I think, benefit.

We're putting another 301 miles of stream bed and river access, putting about 20,000 acres of buffer around Arches, just to mention 2 things that helps us with conservation. And saying, "Here's where you can develop your natural resources, and here's where you can't." Again, we've worked 3 years with our congressional delegation. Let's see what happens there. I think it would be a mistake for those who want to conserve the Bears Ears to not see if we can't get something even bigger and better when it comes to conservation and resolution to public lands with this legislative approach. I think that's how it should happen, and that's what I hope happens.

That's why I will sign the resolution because I think it addresses the Native Americans' issues better. And the rest--you know, another 16 million acres is better addressed also. So it should be, at the end of the day, win, win, win for everybody.

BRIAN GRIMMETT, KUER 90.1: Governor Herbert, one of the criticisms of this process with the national monument is that the Obama Administration, you don't want them to act without listening to you guys. Is that an accurate way to put it? I mean, is President Obama not taking your phone calls? Do you not know how to get in contact with him? Or is that just because he disagrees with the plans that you guys have presented?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well, we're certainly trying to force the issue, and be proactive, and say, "Listen to us." And the president has said, and I've heard it from Sally Jewell, Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, and others saying, "We have no intent to do what the Clinton Administration did," that process where our governor was blindsided. We were told up until the day it happened, "We are not going to do this, we're not going to do this," and then they did it. And Governor Leavitt found out through the press that that had actually happened. That's a bad way to do it. And at least I appreciate, and I expect that President Obama and his team are not going to do that.

I've talked to Secretary Jewell here not too long ago, and I know she does plan to come out and visit us here in the summer. I think we'll have an opportunity to have continued discussion. I know he has an advisory board, the President has an advisory board that's reviewing this, that our congressional delegation's has an opportunity to make presentations to, and I think that helps us. I think we're getting closer and closer.

When you think about it, it's 1.8 or 1.9 million acres on a national monument, and the PLI is 1.2 million acres. We're not that far apart. And I just think that the vehicle is better to give the Native Americans, particularly Navajos in Utah, what they want is through this legislation. So, it's not a matter of we're not talking. We just want to make sure that we don't get blindsided, and they need to come out and visit. We've invited the president to come and visit the state and see our national parks, to see what we're already doing, and what we've done with our state parks. We clearly in the state of Utah have been very good at conservation and our public lands management. You know, we've been very responsible, I think, in what we've done and how we've developed our natural resources. So come and see what we're doing.

LISA RILEY ROCHE, DESERET NEWS: But Governor, does the resolution passed yesterday further that dialogue, or does it do the very thing you've talked about before, put the president in a position where, "Fine, I'll go ahead and do this national monument. Utah is clearly gearing up for a legal battle. That's going to put us in that position."

GOVERNOR HERBERT: I don't think it's going to jeopardize anything that we're doing in discussion with the President and his administration. We've had ongoing dialogue, at least I have, and I know our congressional delegation. The legislature is wanting to weigh in on behalf of the people and saying, "Here the people particularly of Utah," and we saw the Dan Jones Poll that came out yesterday, "don't want a national monument." And it would seem to be a helpful piece of information for the president, who says, "I have the ability under the Antiquities Act to put a--declare a national monument, but I ought to listen to the people of Utah."  So that's an ongoing discussion and dialogue. I don't this resolution jeopardizes that one bit.

MICHELLE PRICE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Governor, why do we think that a national monument would prevent tribes from using that area? I mean, there's a tribe that lives in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. That's a national park. 

GOVERNOR HERBERT: We can only go with history, and we've seen that the water rights sometimes are taken away at national monuments, they restrict the roads, they close off roads access, and those kinds of things. There's always the promise that we'll make things better, we'll make an allowance, but it's an uncertain--it's an uncertainty that I think Native Americans would just as soon not have.

ERIK NEILSEN, KUED: Governor, thank you very much, it's been a good news conference, but we're out of time, so thank you for joining us this morning.

ANNOUNCER: This has been "The Governor's Monthly News Conference." An archive of transcripts, video, and audio is available online. Please visit Thanks for joining us.   

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