A bill to increase base per pupil spending by 2 percent and fund 13,500 new students expected in Utah schools in the fall took a big step toward becoming law Wednesday morning.
The House passed HB2 unanimously, and it now moves to the Senate.
The bill would put an additional $160 million toward Utah schools next school year. It would boost base per pupil spending, known as the weighted pupil unit, from $2,842 to $2,899 in most cases.
It would also put money toward a number of other programs, including $10 million toward optional extended-day kindergarten and technology for early learning; $1 million toward dual language immersion; $4 million toward the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program; and $6.6 million toward computer adaptive testing.
"I think we can be proud of what we've done this year," said bill sponsor Rep. Melvin Brown, R-Coalville. "We can always do more, but in light of the circumstances I think we've done well."
Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, also praised the bill, saying it's the most he's seen go toward education in the five years he's served as a lawmaker.
He did note, however, that many education bills with costs attached are not included in HB2. Brown said those programs may be in a later budget bill.
Gibson said a number of those bills have bypassed his House Education Committee. He said the committee even cancelled meetings throughout the session because of a lack of enough bills to consider, despite the many appearing now. He said his committee heard only seven bills that originated in the Senate.
Typically, once a bill created by a senator passes the Senate, it then goes to a House Education Committee hearing, where the public has a chance to weigh in, before it hits the House floor.
"I'm not going to make any accusations as to why those bills were not heard," Gibson told fellow lawmakers Wednesday. "I'm just going to say there are bills out there and you need to understand what they do."