The Utah Senate passed more than $15 million worth of school technology-related bills on Monday, despite concerns that some of them are geared toward specific vendors and the money might be better spent on other needs.
Senators unanimously passed SB279, a $5 million bill to purchase and implement a web-based math program for kids in grades K-6. They passed SB209, a $3 million bill expanding a State Office of Education program to give schools more tablet computers for students. They also passed SB257, a $70,000 bill to buy educator evaluation software, by a vote of 18-8; SB284, a $2.4 million bill to expand a smart schools technology program with a unanimous vote; and SB260, a $4.7 million bill to expand a software literacy program in schools, by 19-8.
With the exception of SB260, most passed with little debate despite opposition in recent weeks. Critics have complained that some of those bills are geared toward rewarding specific vendors and would take money from strapped schools, which could use the cash for other purposes. Some lawmakers have also criticized what they see as an overflow of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math-related) bills seeking funding this session.