Utah House and Senate leaders have finally come to an agreement on the state budget following a week’s-long impasse. The sticking point was primarily House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart’s proposed $200 million technological upgrade for public education. But that bill is now off the table.
House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart says the technology initiative would have required up to $50 million in ongoing revenue to make it worthwhile. But Senate leaders were unwilling to spend more than $26 million.
“I’ve long said that there is only one thing worse than not doing it and that’s doing it wrong or doing it with not enough to do it right,” Lockhart says.
The initiative would have provided every public student in the state with a digital learning device like an iPad and money to train teachers on the devices. Lockhart says the Senate was offering too little money, and on the condition that the House accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid, which she couldn’t accept.
“It became apparent that the House was trying to make history,” Lockhart says. “The Senate was trying to make a deal. And we were unwilling to take the deal that they presented and so we chose to back away from the initiative.”
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser says the initiative will remain a priority in the interim.
“As far as we’re concerned this is not a dead issue,” Niederhauser says. “We’re very supportive of the initiative of digital learning and we want to come back next session with more people on board with that. We know exactly what we’re doing.”
House and Senate leaders did agree to fully fund student growth this year, increase per pupil spending by 2.5 percent and fund enrollment growth in Utah’s fastest growing colleges and universities like Weber State, Dixie State and Utah Valley University.