Lawmakers advanced a bill Tuesday to undo a change made last legislative session that some say could hurt students hoping to take technical education classes during the school day.
HB258 would reverse a decision last year to no longer fund schools for the time their students spend on Utah College of Applied Technology campuses (ATCs), which are also funded with state dollars. Some lawmakers argued last year that the state was paying twice for those students' classes.
Education leaders, however, have said the change will result in already-strapped, mainly rural and small school districts and charter schools losing money about $5 million when their students attend ATCs, meaning schools might not want to send as many students to them.
Bill sponsor Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, said saving $5 million is not worth damaging partnerships between rural school districts and ATCs or risking students' opportunities to take such classes, which benefit them and their local economies.
"Students are actually receiving education they can immediately use in the workforce," Powell said.
The state school board, Utah School Superintendents Association and Utah School Boards Association, among others, also support the bill. State Superintendent Larry Shumway and UCAT President Robert Brems presented alternate proposals to address the problem last month, but Shumway said Tuesday he favors Powell's bill.
Others, however, spoke against HB258. Rep. Merlynn Newbold, R-South Jordan, who sponsored the bill that made the change last year, called it a "blanket" concept.
"I think we're creating a solution for literally a handful of high schools to the detriment of the other hundreds of high schools on this list because we're going to be moving funding from one area to another," Newbold said, adding that the funding change freed up money for districts to offer other classes.
It was a point Powell contested, saying: "The change we made last year did not free up money so schools could perform luxuries. No school in this state performs luxuries."
Peter Cannon, a Davis School Board member who spoke as an individual, also criticized the bill, saying it would fund systems over students and that competition between entities is needed.
Ultimately, the House Education Committee passed the bill with four members voting against it. It now moves to the House floor.