Utah senate passes bill that prioritizes in-person learning

The Utah Senate passed a bill on Thursday that would prioritize in-person learning in classrooms.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Salt Lake City, sponsored Senate Bill 107, which would allow a portion of state funding to move with students who leave a school district that does not allow in-person learning options to attend a district that does. Sen. Weiler says the bill aims to give more flexibility to parents.

“One of our school districts in the state, parents only have one choice. And that is to have their children stay home. That works for some children… but it doesn’t work for all students,” Weiler told fellow senators on Thursday.

Out of the 41 school districts in Utah, Salt Lake City School District is the only one that currently does not offer an in-person learning option for students. However, back in November, the district’s board voted to implement in-person learning for elementary students, which begins on January 25th. The school board also voted on Tuesday night to provide in-person learning for students grades 7 through 12, which will start on Feb. 8th.

Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, voted against the bill. She said during floor debate that she was worried the bill was punitive and would usurp the Salt Lake City School Board’s ability to make decisions they felt were best for their district.

“Every community is different. We talk a lot about local control and recognize that every community is different. I worry this is sending the wrong message.”

Sen. Weiler says the bill is not meant to punish districts that provide digital-only learning.

“If you pick up a coin, that coin has two sides, you can look at one coin and say we’re punishing one district. You can look at the other side of the coin and say we’re rewarding schools that allow an in-classroom option for parents to use.”

The bill passed out of the Senate with a vote of 22-to-6 and is now headed to the House of Representatives.

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