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Lawmakers gave an early nod on Wednesday to a bill that would set aside $75 million in one-time and ongoing funding for school technology.
Sponsoring Sen. Howard Stephenson, a Draper Republican, said the investment is necessary to modernize education and improve student outcomes. He said over time, the money spent on technology would make public education more efficient and cut costs for traditional materials like textbooks.
"The amounts that we spend in this area are not a nice to have, they're a must have," he said. "When we deploy it correctly, we will get those benefits back and it will pay for itself, largely."
Under the terms of the bill, schools and school districts would need to commit matching funds and present a technology plan in order to get a portion of the funding.
Stephenson said the bill was the product of many collaborators after several years of similar proposals.
"Students in today's world shouldn't have to power down to enter the classroom and be in a dreary 19th-Century world," he said.
Members of the committee questioned the bill's price tag, and the burden it would place on other areas of the education budget.
"I would be much more favorable toward it if this came from an entirely different funding source," said Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City.
But State Superintendent Brad Smith said the bill, and the $75 million appropriation, are in line with the state school board's funding priorities.
"This would be in the top three or four priorities for the state board," he said.
Senate Education Committee members signed off on the bill. It will now be heard by the full Senate.