At Friday’s ceremonial signing, the Gold Room at the Utah State Capitol was filled with HB96’s greatest supporters: policy makers and political leaders, advocates and volunteers, and most important, children. As Governor Gary Herbert put his pen to paper, I was filled with the same overwhelming excitement and hope as the moment the final votes secured the fate of HB96 on the Senate floor. Though the bill has already been officially signed into law, this ceremonial signing was just another reminder of the ongoing work that has been poured into ensuring that all children in Utah are given a strong start.
Representative Greg Hughes, sponsor of the bill, thanked numerous individuals who contributed to the success of HB96. Without any one of them, Hughes said, the bill would not have made it to the Governor’s desk. The overwhelming support and work that was done on this bill is an amazing example of what we can accomplish when we work together and LIVE UNITED. Since I started working as United Way of Salt Lake’s Public Policy Intern this October, I have seen the dedication and sincerity of each person who worked on this bill. The team of legislators, advocates, volunteers, and many others, truly believed the programs in the bill could level the playing field for the most at-risk children in Utah in a powerful way. Though our eyes were set on passing the legislation, the ultimate goal of everyone involved has been, and continues to be, to truly change the odds for the children in our state who need it most.
I have been struck by the holistic approach this bill has in elevating early childhood education in Utah. Not only does it provide access to high quality programs, it allows families to choose program settings and styles that work well for their individual needs: one size just doesn’t fit all. In the grants portion of the bill, preschool providers are offered the support they need to move their programs from good to great, ultimately offering greater access to high quality programs for children across Utah. The unique elements of this bill are thoughtful, purposeful, and break out of the mold of typical legislation. It serves as a crowning example of collective work by many to ensure that the programs will work for many.
Although the legislation has passed, Governor Herbert reminded us that the work does not stop here. While we know how valuable the programs in this bill are, it is our job as its supporters to continue to spread the word about the valuable impact this legislation will have on the children in our state. I am excited to follow the journey this bill takes and to continue to be a part of such a dedicated and visionary team.