State lawmakers in Montana have endorsed a measure to create a new distance-learning program that would give students in every school district virtual access to both basic and advanced classes, reports the Billings Gazette. House Bill 459 was supported on a 63-34 vote March 7. The measure, introduced by Democratic Rep. Wanda Grinde of Billings, would allocate about $4.2 million to establish a virtual academy for Montana schoolkids. One-time startup costs account for about $2.2 million of that amount. "The outcome of this bill is to put high-quality education into every home in this state, no matter where that home is," said Rep. Brady Wiseman, D-Bozeman. Democrats voted as a party in favor of the teacher-endorsed measure, which also picked up 13 Republican votes. "This program is set up basically for one thing, and that’s to comply with the constitution," said Republican Rep. William Glaser of Huntley. "The [state] constitution says that there will be equal opportunity to education for every child in Montana." Under the measure, distance-learning classes would be available in core subjects and advanced areas. The classes, taught by licensed instructors, would be offered for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee, where its cost will have to be approved. If it passes that test, it would move to the state Senate…

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