Utah Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Cooke promised to decrease classroom sizes and increase funding for public education by making it a budget priority.
"We must reduce class sizes in the state," he said. "That will be the number one education priority as governor."
During a press conference outside Highland High, Cooke was introduced by Thomas Dale, a recent Highland graduate and former student body president. Dale described his educational and professional goals — a degree in business administration from Utah State's Huntsman School before one day becoming president of a company — and said that, like many Utahns, he is a product of the Utah public education system.
"I want to get the best public education I can get," Dale said. "I know General Cooke will put education on the right track."
Cooke then addressed a small crowd of supporters, which included a handful of school-age children who sat on blankets near his podium. His comments focused on education spending and his plan to reverse a trend that has seen Utah take its place among the lowest states for per-pupil funding.
"The simple truth is that our public education system is underfunded," Cooke said. "It has been for years and the problem is getting worse."
Cooke mostly avoided commenting directly on the leadership of his opponent, Gov. Gary Herbert. He instead categorized his criticisms as a reaction to nearly two decades of state leadership that has inadequately addressed the concerns of education in Utah.