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Lawmakers revived and advanced a bill Wednesday that aims to expand online learning opportunities, partly by directing education dollars toward public and private providers.
The Senate voted 17-12 on Wednesday to advance SB65 to the House after the bill failed on the Senate floor Tuesday.
The bill aims to expand learning opportunities by allowing students to take online courses offered by public and private providers to be certified by the state school board. The funding would follow the students, instead of a local district getting all the cash for that student.
"Right now students are not able to take courses a la carte from anybody except the monopoly at the State Office of Education," said bill sponsor Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, referring to the state office's Electronic High School, which under his bill would compete with other providers for dollars. "I think that's wrong. ... I think it's time we move into the 21st century with this process."
Some bill opponents, however, have called SB65 a "school voucher bill" because it could take money now going to public schools and send it to private providers.
Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights, said she worried "with this bill there would be an unknown number of education dollars that would go out of the state, weakening our economy." She said she also worried school districts might discourage students from taking online classes because they would fear losing money.
But Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, said the bill would give parents "choices where there should be choices," such as allowing them to put their children in an online class to avoid a bad teacher at a school.
Said Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden: "It seems to me like this is a wonderful opportunity to explore yet another way to educate our children through the private sector."
The bill failed in the Senate on Tuesday after some lawmakers worried about its estimated first-year-only cost of more than $700,000.