The Utah Legislature passed the “Utah Fits All Scholarship Program,” House Bill 215, increasing teachers’ salaries and benefits by $6,000 a year and establishing a school scholarship program.
Governor Spencer Cox signed the measure into effect on January 28, designating up to $42 million in state funds for the educational freedom plan.
The Sutherland Institute is a Utah-based, conservative policy and educational institution that “promotes the Constitutional values of faith, family and freedom.” The organization explained that H.B. 215 provides scholarships for about 5,000 students from state taxes.
“HB 215 is specifically designed to assist low- and middle-income families before other applicants,” the group said.
The Sutherland Institute gave reasons to support the policy, stating:
The focus of public education ought to be supporting the best option for the student’s learning, not upholding or filling seats in a particular program, school, online platform, etc. Public funds are meeting their purpose when they help educate any of Utah’s school-age children in the best way possible. We should consider these education choices as part of the mission of the public education system and support families in these decisions.
Utah was the second state this year to expand educational freedom for parents, following Iowa, whose governor signed the “Students First Act” just days earlier, on January 24.
The Iowa legislation established educational savings accounts (ESA) of almost $7,600 a year for students. The funds can be used for tuition at private and online schools, as well as textbooks, fees, tutoring, curriculum and other educational expenses.
Iowa’s Students First Act is being phased in, beginning with lower and middle income families, and expanding to universal eligibility in three years.
Arizona was the first state to enact educational freedom for all K-12 students in the state, expanding eligibility for its ESA program to every family in 2022.
Corey DeAngelis, a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children, told Fox News to watch “Arkansas, Florida, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas” to advance more school choice legislation.
The South Carolina Senate approved a bill earlier this week that would create ESAs for low- and middle-income families. A Columbia CBS News affiliate reported, “Under the proposal, up to 15,000 students would get $6,000 in state money for private school tuition and other costs like transportation, internet, and books.”
The bill now goes to the House for approval.
And Oklahoma has two bills that would increase educational freedom in the state, Senate Bill 822 and Senate Bill 943. Both measures allow parents to use a portion of their children’s per-pupil school spending to pay for different education services.
While some argue that school scholarship, voucher and ESA programs are harmful, that’s not what the research shows. As the American Federation for Children reports:
The vast majority of credible evidence shows that school choice programs improve academic outcomes for not only the program participants but also the students in public schools; save taxpayers money; and reduce racial segregation.
Given the social, moral, and political challenges the public school system presents for families with more traditional, conservative, or faith-based world views, legislation that expands educational freedom is more important than ever.
Parents have the right and responsibility to direct the educational upbringing of their children. They know their children’s interests and learning styles, and school choice allows parents to provide the education that’s best suited for their children.
As more school choice measures are considered and approved in different states, the Daily Citizen will continue to keep you apprised of this growing movement for educational freedom.
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