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School choice: Utah taxpayers helping students with disabilities

One of four new electric school buses waits for students at Parkview Elementary School in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 12, 2021. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — After a year of remote learning and off-again on-again in- person instruction, parents in Utah and nationwide are reviving their interest in school choice, particularly when it comes to children with disabilities.

Former Utah state Republican Rep. Kim Coleman, left, joined Inside Sources host Boyd Matheson to explain why school choice initiatives are gaining popularity and what options are available for parents in Utah.

‘Kids want to go to school’

“[Last year has] really been a shuffling of the deck. All the things that we thought we knew perfectly or we were so settled on or so certain about as it relates to remote learning and various forms of alternative learning, have all been kind of turned on their head,” Boyd said. “One thing we realize is kids are pretty resilient.”

“We also learned that kids really want to go to school,” Coleman said. “What I’m here to share with you, Boyd, is that Utah has created the newest school choice program.

“If you’ve got a student that may be eligible,” Colemans said, “or if you want to donate and support this kind of program” find out more here childrenfirsteducationfund.org

Support up for school choice

Fully 65% of K-12 parents back school choice, including 66% of public-school parents. Support is even higher among K-12 parents who work full-time and among middle school and high school parents (both 72%), according to the American Federation for Children from a report published Jan. 21, 2021.

“In our state, we have what’s called a tax credit scholarship. What this does is provide tax credit-based scholarships for students with disabilities to attend a private school of their choice,” Coleman said. 

“It’s so important, especially with our families here in the state of Utah who do have students who have special needs or disabilities of any kind, to recognize that they have some choices because I think of all the people who feel most trapped in system, it’s often those who have children with some educational challenges,” Boyd said.

School choice and children with disabilities

According to childrenfirsteducationfund.org:

  • 15% of students in Utah qualify for this scholarship program.
  • Eligible students can receive between $3,745 and $9,362, depending on family income.
  • Students with disabilities may qualify for tuition assistance to attend an approved private school or for other educational expenses, and
  • 100% of individual or corporate income tax credit for donations through the Utah Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship Program, which awards scholarships to qualified students with disabilities to provide financial assistance for approved private school tuition and other educational expenses.

“People are able to direct their state income taxes, which currently go to support the regular public school system. But if they donate to this fund, then they’re directing their money to support this school choice,” Coleman said.

Read more:

Support for School Choice Remains Strong During Volatile Year

Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app. 

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