SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would cap class sizes in early grades passed out of the Senate Wednesday. 

Sponsored by Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Salt Lake, SB31 places caps on class sizes in kindergarten through third grade or requires a teacher's aide to be hired to work alongside teachers if schools can't reach the caps.

Under the proposal, over the next four years kindergarten classes would max out at 20 students, first- and second-grade classes would max out at 22, and third-grade classes would max out at 24.

The state already has a substantial class-size reduction effort in place — allocating more than $103 million to that end this fiscal year alone — but some lawmakers have argued that money isn't always used for its intended purpose.

That's why Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, suggested an amendment to Morgan's bill that would extend the caps to all districts and schools that receive any state class-size reduction dollars. 

"This says, 'if you're going to get the money, you've got to meet the threshold,'" he told his colleagues. "To continue to label it as class-size reduction money and not have standards to receive the money is subterfuge."

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley, said the bill will hurt schools that have already prioritized small class sizes as well as small, rural schools.

"As of right now, this will be too harmful to education," Thatcher said. 

The bill passed 19-9-1. It now goes to the House. 

Molly Farmer

Twitter: mollyfarmer