Education technology plan dies in the Utah legislature

Posted at 9:08 PM, Mar 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-10 23:46:45-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- House Speaker Becky Lockhart's ambitious plan to put iPads and other tablet computers in the hands of every student in Utah died, after House and Senate leaders failed to reach agreement on funding it in budget talks.

"In the end, what they were offering was frankly change out of the couch cushions," Lockhart, R-Provo, told reporters on Monday. "It became very apparent they were unwilling to invest the kind of money that was needed to do it proper, so we'll be back another day."

Lockhart said that during negotiations, it became apparent to her that the House was trying to make history, while the Senate was more interested in cutting a deal. The Speaker insisted she was not willing to take on a tax hike or accept full Medicaid expansion to fund her education tech initiative.

Still, Lockhart said the bill will return -- with or without her.

"This will happen, because it has to happen," she said. "Our children are ready for it. They deserve it, and eventually the legislature and the governor will see that, and we'll do it, because we have to."

Lockhart's supported alternative to Medicaid expansion also was not going through -- but neither is the Senate's proposal. House Majority Leader Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, said a bill by Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Salt Lake City, did not have a House sponsor and would not likely be considered on the floor.

On Monday afternoon, the legislature's Executive Appropriations Committee approved the bulk of Utah's $13 billion budget. Some highlights:

  • Education would see a 2.5% increase in per-pupil spending, and student growth would be fully funded;
  • Higher education would also see an increase in funding;
  • Air quality initiatives were funded, but less than anticipated by their supporters;
  • The legislature is also spending $4 million to pay for an investigation into former Utah Attorney General John Swallow;
  • $500,000 will be spent in defense of Utah's ban on same-sex marriage;
  • Millions will be spent to expand the Central Utah Correctional Facility at Gunnison and money will be spent to relocate the Utah State Prison at Draper.

Here's a copy of the Utah State Legislature's preliminary budget.

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