EDUCATION

Cox would veto school voucher bill, if passed

Feb 17, 2022, 11:46 AM | Updated: 2:52 pm
Cox Utah state of the state school voucher...
Gov. Spencer Cox delivers his 2022 State of the State address to all Utahns, House and Senate members, Utah Supreme Court Justices, State Auditor, State Treasurer and Utah Attorney General at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. Photo credcit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said he would veto a bill some say brings back the school voucher debate if it reaches his desk. 

The bill, H.B. 331, creates the Hope Scholarship program, but opponents say it amounts to a thinly-veiled attempt to provide parents with vouchers to opt into private rather than public school. 

In his monthly news conference, Cox said he supports the idea of a school voucher program in theory, but not under the current circumstances of public education in Utah. 

 

He noted education funding falls far short of the need in the state.

“When teachers are making $60,000 a year to start, I will fully support vouchers,” Cox said Thursday. “I’m all in on vouchers, but we have a long way to go before we get there.” 

Earlier this week, a House committee voted to advance the bill to the full House of Representatives.  

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Salt Lake City, responded to the Governor’s comments about H.B. 331 by saying that the legislative process is not yet finished.

“I hope (Gov. Cox) will keep an open mind in reviewing the final policy proposal in this bill.” 

Bill sponsor Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Salt Lake City, argues the Hope Scholarship does not equate to a voucher for private school attendance. She told KSL NewsRadio earlier this month that while a voucher goes straight from the state to a private school to cover tuition costs for low-income students, her bill sets up a scholarship program, allowing parents more flexibility over how to use the funds. 

“Parents can actually use the student funds for different expenses which include private school tuition, but it isn’t limited to that,” she said. 

Tuesday, opponents of her bill disputed that claim, saying it clearly amounts to a school voucher movement. 

“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.

This story will be updated. 

Contributing: Lindsay Aerts, Kira Hoffelmeyer and Paul Nelson

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Cox would veto school voucher bill, if passed