Parents voice concern at protest against school choice bill

Jan 24, 2023, 10:00 AM | Updated: Feb 23, 2023, 1:07 pm

More than one hundred people protested at the Utah Capitol on Monday night against H.B. 215 Funding...

Lena Foster, a Salt Lake City School District teacher, attends a rally against school vouchers at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — More than one hundred people protested at the Utah Capitol on Monday night against H.B. 215 Funding for Teacher Salaries and Optional Education Opportunities. The bill would give up to $8,000 to help pay for school options other than public school. It also offers a raise to public school teachers.

The first floor of the Capitol was packed with parents, students and teachers protesting the bill that was approved by the House Education Committee last week and the Senate Education Committee this week. Jacob Olson told KSL NewsRadio his concern was for public school funding.

“We’re not necessarily against school choice,” Olson said. “We just feel like this bill isn’t handling the issue properly… setting up a situation that drains away so much money from public schools. It’s just going to cause problems for so many children.”

Jen Kilpatrick is a fifth-grade teacher in the Salt Lake City School District, who was also there to protest H.B.215, even though it includes a $6,000 pay rise for teachers.

“I don’t think public funding should be given for students to go to private schools. They’re private for a reason.”

“Having the pay increase would be really nice,” another teacher told KSL NewsRadio. “However, where’s this money coming from? They’re taking money, if the legislature decides to pass this, and takes money away from public education.”

The President of the Utah Education Association, Rene Pickney, wondered how the public education system could benefit from the money lawmakers wanted to provide for school choice. 

“Oh my gosh, we would be able to hire more educators. So then you have a manageable class size, we would be able to have parent educators who are our classroom aides. We could have one in every single class all day every day,” Pickney said.

Those in favor of the bill say parents should be able to choose the schooling option that works best for their children, and that any money set aside by the state to educate kids should follow the kids wherever they go to school.

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Parents voice concern at protest against school choice bill