Vouchers are back! Program would send public money to private schools – February 7

In 2007, the public resoundingly defeated public school vouchers at the polls thanks in large part to educators.

Late Friday evening, the anticipated voucher bill became public…House Bill 331 creates the “Hope Scholarship Program,” opening the door to siphon dollars that could be used for public schools to private, for-profit companies without taxpayer accountability. The House Education Committee heard just one UEA-tracked bill today. A UEA Policy Ambassador discovered there are ‘Legislators Who Care.’

Public School Vouchers: Late Friday evening, the anticipated voucher bill became public…House Bill 331 creates the “Hope Scholarship Program.” The bill:

  • Allows families of all income levels to subsidize their child’s private education with public tax dollars;
  • Requires parents to waive federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) rights because private schools do not have the same obligations to comply;
  • Provides scholarship expenses to include everything from private school tuition to extracurricular fees, afterschool programs, tutoring and AP exam; and
  • Gives an automatic annual increase of 25% to the scholarship program if 90% of funds are expended in any given year.

The bill DOES NOT:

  • Provide accountability to actually improve student achievement or demonstrate the overall effectiveness of the scholarship program based on academic outcomes for students participating;
  • Include provisions requiring private schools, online schools or home school pods to be accredited, use curricula aligned to Utah core standards, use statewide standardized assessments or employ professionally licensed teachers and administrators.
  • Set professional and ethical standards for private school, online school and home school pod educators or allow them to be disciplined by the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission for professional misconduct like their public school counterparts.
  • Provide accountability for the taxpayer funds expended, to audit scholarship-receiving entities or hold them to the same financial standards as public schools.

UEA President Heidi Matthews issued the following statement: “Here they go again…this legislative session has already seen attempts to target our overburdened educators with bills calling into question their professional integrity and adding to their workload. Our educators are drowning and quickly losing hope in the profession they once loved. Now, we have a school voucher bill giving backhanded criticism to the work of our public school educators by saying parents need other ‘choices.’ Our teacher and students need hope, NOT private school scholarships.”

House Education Committee (reported by Jay Blain): HB270: Parent Access to School Data Comparison requires the Utah State Board of Education to provide an online school comparison tool to facilitate parent access to compare school performance. Many people spoke in favor of the bill, including UEA Legislative Team member Jay Blain. Blain said that when he taught, many of the students who came to his high school came from outside of the boundaries. It was because of the options they offered. This tool will be another way to inform parents of the public school options in their areas. Bill passed unanimously and now goes to the full House.


Policy Ambassador Messages

In 2022, 15 educators were selected as UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and agree to engage with legislators and share their experiences with UEA members. Here is an excerpt from a new submission:

Legislators Who Care

Submitted by UEA Advanced Policy Ambassador Lori Buhr, multi-language learner specialist at Northlake Elementary School in Tooele School District

My motives for coming to Educator Day on the Hill vary from year to year. I have asked myself, why should I bother? Nobody ‘up there’ cares about me, personally. Once again, I am pleased to say I was wrong…It is encouraging to know there ARE those ‘up there’ on the Hill who truly care about the well-being of educators.