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Electronic student data 'backpack' bill clears Legislature after close House vote

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to create a one-stop shop online for all of a student's available performance data cleared the Utah Legislature on Wednesday after a narrow victory in the House.

Voting in the House swung back and forth on SB82 before coming to a tentative stop on a 37-35 split, with three votes uncast. A call of the House was then initiated, with House Speaker Becky Lockhart casting the 38th vote in favor of the bill.

SB82 requires the State Board of Education to create and establish an electronic repository of individual student data, referred to as a Student Achievement Backpack. A parent, student, teacher or other authorized individual would be able to access the backpack from any location using cloud-based software and receive real-time updates as well as historical data on a student's educational progress.

"I don't see the downside in having it be a one-stop shop," said Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, the bill's House sponsor. "It's a good move forward and one that I think is inevitable, one that technology allows us to do and we are now taking advantage of."

Immediately prior to the debate of SB82, House members rejected another public education bill from the Senate, SB79, which would have incentivized schools to adopt competency-based learning models, extended-year class schedules and blended learning innovations.

During House debate Wednesday, Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, and chairman of the House Education Committee, said only seven Senate education bills had been heard by the committee and four of its meetings had to be canceled due to a lack of bills to consider.

"There is a whole host of bills that we have not heard as an education committee," he said.

Following the votes of SB82 and SB79, Gibson said there were many Senate bills, not just regarding education, that failed to receive House committee hearings.

"If House members had been more educated, they may have voted differently," he said.