Utah Education Association Opposes House Bill 215
Utah Education Association opposes House Bill 215. It is a voucher bill sponsored by Rep. Candice B. Pierucci (R-Herriman) and Sen. Kirk A. Cullimore (R-Sandy) during the first week of the 2023 Utah Legislative Session.
H.B. 215 will be introduced in the House Education Standing Committee on Thursday, January 19 at 2:00 p.m. It is second on the agenda. Members are invited to tell their lawmakers to vote “NO” on H.B. 215.
UEA’s Position on HB 215
- Educator salary increases should not come with strings attached in order to pass a voucher bill, but should be based on the important and valuable work educators do every day.
- We need solutions to the most urgent needs in our schools, including large class sizes, increased student behavior issues as a result of the pandemic and severe staffing shortages. The voucher bill does nothing to address critical education issues.
- Every student, in every school, in every community across Utah deserves the same opportunity for an excellent education. Diverting public money to private schools does nothing to ensure strong public schools in every community that support student success.
UEA’s Issue Brief on HB215:
- Educator salary increases are tied to the passage of a private school voucher (lines 223-226).
- The “enrollment preference” for lower-income families to receive a scholarship does not exclude higher-income families from qualifying. All recipients could be high-income families subsidizing their child’s private education with public tax dollars (lines 414-418).
- The $8,000 scholarship is nearly double the current weighted pupil unit (WPU) value of $4,038 public school students receive (line 374).
- Parents are required to waive federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) rights for special education services (lines 388-399).
- Approved scholarship expenses are extremely broad and include everything from private school tuition to extracurricular fees, transportation, afterschool programs, tutoring, and “any other expense for a good or service…the program manager approves” (lines 315-348).
- Private schools with at least 150 students must require employees to submit to a fingerprint-based criminal background check and ongoing monitoring (lines 857-866). However, this essential safety requirement is not required for schools with fewer than 150 students or an “eligible service provider” working with students.
- Scholarship students reentering public school must return the balance of the scholarship funds to the scholarship program rather than having the money follow the student into the public school (lines 989-993).
- There are no provisions to require private schools or eligible service providers to be:
- Use curricula aligned to Utah core standards
- Use statewide standardized assessments
- Employ professionally licensed teachers and administrators
- Private schools and private educational service providers are not subject to the same professional and ethical standards as public school educators and cannot be disciplined by the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission for professional misconduct.