SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Salt Lake City School District could lose state funding under a new bill passed by the Utah Senate Education Committee.
On Wednesday, the Committee passed S.B. 107, which “prioritizes students” and “addresses the use of allocated education funding to local education agencies that do not provide in-person learning options for K-12 students.”
According to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Todd Weiler (R-Woods Cross), the bill is intended to give parents the choice to have their kids in the classroom.
“We strongly advocate for in-person instruction and our hope is that with this bill, we will give all parents in our state the option to choose.”
The bill proposes that education funding may travel with students if parents decide to send their child to another public school that offers face-to-face instruction because their current district only provides online learning.
“We need to give parents the choice to have their children in the classroom,” says Senate President J. Stuart Adams. “K-12 is a critical time for students’ intellectual and emotional development, and it’s important parents and students have the option to be in the classroom. Students who don’t have the option to attend in-person are missing out on crucial learning opportunities, which may have detrimental effects on their overall education in the future.”
According to a Wednesday release, the bill will now be considered by the Senate.
The Salt Lake City School District is the only district in Utah to have started the school year entirely online.
Salt Lake junior high and high school students are slated to return to in-person learning on February 8 following a Tuesday vote by the School District Board of Education. School officials tell ABC4 that, by then, around 28% of employees will have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Nate Salazar, Vice President of the Board says returning students to the classroom is not a task taken lightly.
“When you couple everything that we have available to us and the investments that we made, we are still making data-based decisions and still working forward with an abundance of caution of safety for our teachers and our students,” says Salazar.
Salazar recognized students are falling behind in the district and they learn best and retain information better through in-person instruction.
The district has received pressure from the legislature before after learning its educators wouldn’t receive bonus checks from the state unless it returned to in-person learning.
During a January 18 press conference in Sandy, Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson said Salt Lake teachers would not lose those checks.