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Utah lawmakers weigh STEM craze against basic school needs

Education » STEM has been the “buzzword” for proposed projects this session, but lawmakers appear to be focusing on key bills.



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"Several of those are definite bills that would provide different vendors pretty decent business," Rogers said. "If we had all the money in the world, we would love to see everything funded for education, all the technology, all the different programs, but we don’t have that, so let’s start with the basics."

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‘Fund success’ » But the lawmakers behind some of those bills say Utah schools need bold changes to succeed.

"We can’t just keep going back and going after the same things we went after 10 to 15 years ago," Stevenson said.

Urquhart said an early grades software literacy program has proven successful, and it’s time to try a similar approach with math, through one of his bills.

"What I hear is people saying we need to fund the same things that have created and perpetuated the problems we have in math," Urquhart said. "The point shouldn’t be to fund a system. The point should be to fund success."

Urquhart and Stevenson said their bills are not written with specific companies in mind and would be subject to the state’s normal bidding process.

The governor, who has been a strong supporter of STEM education, agreed.

"We need to be careful about vendor bills," Herbert said. "I don’t support drafting legislation that says, in effect, ‘This is going to be who the vendor will be,’ without having an open and broad [request for proposals] process. That being said, I don’t want that to be confused with our STEM education, which is a need to, in fact, raise the bar when it comes to preparing our young people."

Still, some feel efforts this session have been scattershot.


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Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, said he’d like to see the board created under the STEM Action Center bill create an overall plan, rather than passing multiple STEM bills this year.

"It’s so nebulous right now," Last said, "that a lot of people, including me, are somewhat frustrated by it."



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