School voucher bill moves to House for full vote

Feb 15, 2022, 11:26 AM | Updated: 11:42 am
The state board of eduation meets about COVID-19 protocols....
Dr. Leisha Nolan, state epidemiologist, presents data on COVID-19 and recommendations for schools during a Utah State Board of Education meeting in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would give Utah families money allowing them to pay for private school education will now be considered in the Utah House of Representatives.

In its most basic sense, the bill allows parents to choose to direct money marked for their child’s education, to private schools or service providers.

The bill passed narrowly out of committee, with just a 6 to 5 vote.

Where people fall on the issue

Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, voted against it.

“The clear intent of the law if passed is clear,” said Briscoe. “The money going into this program will double every year.”

The bill is also referred to as the Hope Scholarship, but opponents say it’s not quite that.

“This voucher bill, masquerading as a scholarship, takes public taxpayer money and sends it to private institutions,” said Rita Heagren, vice president of the American Federation of Teachers Utah.

The state’s biggest teachers association, the Utah Education Association, has already come out against the bill.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Candice Perrucci, R-Salt Lake City, says there’s a limit on the money, and it’s meant to grow with inflation.

Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, argued this program is about unique student needs.

Talk of school vouchers isn’t new

Nearly 15 years ago, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. called for a special election on a referendum regarding school vouchers.

That program would have allowed families to put between $500-3,000 to pay for tuition at private schools.

The voters shot the initiative down.

The Senate sponsor, Kirk Cullimore, R-District 9, told KSL NewsRadio previously, he thinks things could be different. 

“I think a number of factors have changed things over the past couple of years,” Cullimore told KSL NewsRadio.  “I think the way this bill is being drawn up is a little bit different than some school choice bills in the past.”

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School voucher bill moves to House for full vote