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How to pay? » House budget chairman Mel Brown, R-Coalville, was blunt when asked about where the money for Lockhart’s initiative would come from: "We have no idea."
He said that lawmakers are still waiting for new revenue projections before they know how much they have to spend.
"The biggest issue is the funding, and I don’t think we really know what the funding elements are yet," said Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton. "The concept, I think, is extremely sound."
He said it’s well known that Utah has the lowest per-pupil spending in the nation. "One of the solutions is technology," he said. "It’s not the only solution, but it’s one of them."
On Thursday, the Legislature’s public education budget committee recommended allocating a total of $100 million for Lockhart’s initiative — essentially a placeholder until legislative leaders settle on a final number.
The committee debated recommending less, possibly using some of that money instead for a 2 percent boost to per-pupil spending.
But members quickly backed off that idea after the co-chairman, Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, urged the committee to be "realistic" and show support for the proposal.
He said trying to take money from the technology proposal could create confusion and potentially "backfire on us."
"Just look at the landscape and see this is going to happen," Last said of the speaker’s proposal. The committee instead decided to still recommend a 2.5 percent per-pupil spending increase but without tying it to money for Lockhart’s proposal.
School districts could apply to the state board for grants they could use for wireless infrastructure, training or devices, choosing any of the state-certified technology providers.
"If we’re wanting to achieve a certain vision and go to a certain place, it’s going to take a real effort," said Gibson. "I’m asking my colleagues to buy into a vision of where we’re going to be in 10 years from now, where we’re going to be 15-20 years from now."
State school board members also expressed support for the proposal Thursday.
In fact, it’s one of the board’s priorities for the year, though board chairman David Crandall noted that the board wants to see ongoing money for the proposal come from new revenue for education.
Vice chairman Dave Thomas said board members were involved in the drafting of the bill.
"The possibility to transform the classroom — truly transform it with teachers if they have the appropriate professional development — is amazing," Thomas said Thursday.
He said giving each student a device has been a board priority for the past four years. He said the speaker’s bill includes all the principles needed to make such a program successful.
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