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Leadership training for kids in Utah schools could improve academics, behavior and children's futures, said lawmakers who supported a bill Wednesday to implement such programs.

The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved SB122, which would put $240,000 a year for three years toward grants to help schools put student leadership programs in place. Up to 240 schools could receive $10,000 each — an amount they would then have to match as part of the pilot program. Schools serving low-income students or facing academic challenges would be given preference.

Bill sponsor Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, said schools that have adopted such programs, typically offered by various providers, have seen improved learning environments, student attitudes, enthusiasm and attendance.

Student programs focus on helping children develop skills such as communication, goal-setting and problem solving and teach them how to work with others, much as people must work together in the business world. Some Utah schools already have such programs.

"We hope to show to you evidence that when these skills are developed there is a significant benefit not only to the child but the school itself," Osmond said.

Principals from two Utah schools that already have such programs spoke in support of the bill Wednesday, saying they've made huge differences at their schools.

"It's not one more thing we do on Thursday at 1:30 p.m., it's who we are. It's our culture," said Jan Tanner, principal at Eastlake Elementary in South Jordan. "By far, this is the program I'm most proud of."

Many others also voiced support for the measure Thursday, though Joe Call who spoke as a citizen but said he's also a volunteer for the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, wondered why schools couldn't implement the programs themselves without the bill or extra money, if they wished.

"I know $240,000 up here on the hill is a small appropriation but to the taxpayers of Utah, that's an amount of money that could be used elsewhere," Call said.

The bill now moves to the Senate floor.

Twitter: @lschencker —


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