SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers in the House gave unanimous approval to a bill to provide additional dollars to the state's small schools.

HB373, sponsored by Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, would appropriate an additional $3 million to the Necessarily Existent Small Schools program.

Because schools are funded largely on a per-pupil basis, many of the state's smallest schools struggle to finance educational opportunities such as foreign language, Advanced Placement or concurrent enrollment courses, McIff said.

Because of that lack of opportunity, he said, students from smaller schools are less likely to pursue higher education after completing college and are not given the same educational experience as their peers along the Wasatch Front.

Several lawmakers stood to speak in support of the bill, including Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, who represents a district with many small schools.

"It's not that students don't have the ability. It's that students don't have the opportunity," Noel said. "That's all we're asking in this bill. Give them equality of opportunity to succeed."

House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, also spoke in favor of the bill. He said the extra funding helps offer classes to students that would otherwise not be available to them due to the size of their school.

"We have small schools, representatives, and this is a way to offer them an opportunity to take a Spanish class, to take an AP course," Gibson said.

The bill passed the House in a 70-0 vote. It will now go before the Senate for debate and consideration.

Benjamin Wood