SALT LAKE CITY — An individual student's state education funding can be split up and sent to both online and brick and mortar high schools under a bill passed by the Legislature on Thursday.
SB65 will divide the per-student funding that is sent to public schools into equal parts so students can take "a la carte" classes. The funding will follow the students.
"It allows students to take an online course no matter where they're located," said Rep. Bradley Daw, R-Orem. "Online education takes away the tyranny of the clock. … Online education takes away the tyranny of location."
Opponents originally decried the legislation calling it a voucher bill since it originally allowed students to take classes from private and out-of-state online providers. But amendments in the House responded to those concerns.
The new bill will only allow in-state online charter schools and online programs created by Utah school districts to be eligible.
"It has changed significantly and we like, generally speaking, the (latest) version," said Patti Harrington with the State School Boards Association.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said he's happy with the changes.
"This is a huge beginning, (it) puts us ahead of any other state," he said. "It does give them a lot broader choices than they have now."
The funding works out to be about $700 per class, a figure some lawmakers questioned.
"If we were paying $700, we could send that student to UVU," said Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland.
The State Office of Education has its own online program called the Utah Electronic High School, which is funded through an annual state lump sum and free to all high school students. It will be funded the same way it has been for the next year so it will have time to adjust to the changes, Stephenson said.
It passed 27-0 in the Senate and will be sent to the governor.
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