Education • Lawmakers say skipped public hearing left questions unanswered.
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A bill to create a pilot program for schools to blend online learning into year-round schedules got slapped down in the House on Wednesday, amid concerns that it didn't get enough public discussion and that it would mainly fund a consultant.
Rep. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, said SB79 would help students learn and better prepare them for college and jobs. The bill would have allowed schools to apply for grants to blend online and classroom learning; extend the school year and teacher pay accordingly; use data to make decisions about instruction; and use competency-based education, in which students move to the next level by showing proficiency rather than just by putting in time.
"The question is not, 'Is this the way of the future?'" McCay said. "Everyone knows it is. The question is, 'How do we implement this?' … This is the first step in that bridge."
Other lawmakers, however, criticized the bill for bypassing the House Education Committee. Typically once an education bill sponsored by a senator passes the Senate it moves to the House Education Committee, where the public can weigh in, before it goes to the House floor. SB79, however, was one of a number of bills that never made it to that committee, instead going straight to the floor. It failed on the House floor Wednesday by 19-52.
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, said she would have liked to ask questions in that committee, but never got the chance, leaving many issues unanswered.
And Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Salt Lake City, said she was uncomfortable with the bill's price tag of $75,000, which would mainly go toward paying a consultant to help implement the program. She said that's much more than she ever made as a teacher.
"I'm always concerned when I see us just chipping away at the education fund for something the state [school] board has not requested that they could do without our supervision," Poulson said.
McCay responded that a consultant was needed to help with what could be a complex implementation process, and he said many within the education community had already met with the bill's sponsor to talk about the program and give input.