Utah House passes school technology bill in shadow of larger proposal

Published: Friday, Feb. 21 2014 3:59 p.m. MST

Jordan Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House approved a bill Friday that would provide grants to schools making a transition to the use of digital textbooks.

HB249, sponsored by Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, would allocate $1 million for a grant program through which schools could purchase digital textbooks, personal devices or laptop and desktop computers for use in classrooms.

But Friday's debate on HB249 frequently drifted away from Anderegg's bill to another, considerably larger, proposal by House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, that calls for a technological overhaul of the state's public schools.

Lockhart's proposal, which is being sponsored by Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, calls for $200 million in one-time and ongoing funding, but it is expected to cost even more throughout a multiyear implementation. Those funds would go toward upgrades of the state's educational infrastructure, teacher training on learning devices and, ultimately, the purchase of enough learning devices to provide access to every public school student in Utah.

During debate of HB249, Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake City, suggested that Anderegg's bill is a "piecemeal" component of a larger package that lawmakers have not yet had an opportunity to debate.

Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, similarly referred to Lockhart's proposal as complicating consideration of HB249.

"It seems to me that everything you want to do in this bill is being subsumed in a much larger, more comprehensive proposal," Briscoe said.

Anderegg acknowledged the overlap between his and Gibson's bills, but he added that it is unknown what action will be taken on either bill during the 2014 legislative session.

"I did not want this bill to be stopped based upon what might or might not happen with other legislation," he said. "I felt it necessary to continue this process and move it forward."

The House ultimately approved Anderegg's bill with a 55-14 vote. It will now go before the Senate for consideration.

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