Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News Archives
The Utah State Senate meet during the legislature at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers approved a major push for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in the state Thursday with the appropriation of $20 million to the STEM Action Center.

HB150, sponsored by Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem, and co-sponsored by more than 40 representatives, directs funding toward the professional development and endorsement of educators in STEM education under the direction of the STEM Action Center, which coordinates STEM education in the state.

Calling it "a giant step," Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, expressed his appreciation to the bill's sponsor and urged the support of his Senate colleagues.

"This is a major, major piece of legislation," Hillyard said.

STEM education has been a key priority of lawmakers and Gov. Gary Herbert as the state moves forward on a goal to increase degree attainment among Utah's working adults.

Utah's business community also launched a media campaign in January aimed at encouraging students to consider STEM careers.

Martell Menlove, state superintendent of public instruction, said the State School Board had taken a position of support on the bill. Menlove said he believes it would contribute to the board's goal of improving math proficiency among middle and high school students.

"I appreciate the efforts of all involved in writing this bill so it includes professional development," he said.

The bill will now go before Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.

— Benjamin Wood