HB 215: Utah Fits All Scholarship
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In 2021, Utah’s Opportunity Scholarship came online, providing an education spending account for families of students with special needs.
However, we can do more. Providing a universal education spending account (ESA) through House Bill 215 is the next logical step to empowering parents in education.
The shockwaves created by COVID-19 shutdowns continue to be felt throughout the education system. During school closures, parents were able to view firsthand the quality and content of their child’s education as it happened. Many walked away disappointed. Parents began searching for viable alternatives to what they were witnessing. Withdrawal numbers skyrocketed. Homeschool pods and microschools increased in popularity.
Parents were able to creatively find and provide these educational opportunities, but as Utah returned to normal, parents have found this more difficult. Rising inflation, coupled with an already high cost of living and skyrocketing housing prices in Utah, has put a strain on every family’s budget and limited the educational opportunities of most families.
The UT-Fits Scholarship is a universal ESA. This means that all of Utah’s students would qualify to participate in the program. The program will be able to provide for a perfectly fit education for approximately 5,000 to 7,000 students in its first year. Scholarships will be awarded at $8,000 per student.
Education spending accounts are not limited to private school tuition, like a voucher, but allow for a whole host of options like online learning programs, tutoring, microschools, early higher education expenses, and other approved customizable learning services and materials. Parents can mix and match curricula and tutors, experts and experiences, to create a unique education program that is as unique as the student.
The UT-Fits Scholarship couples education choice with an increase in teacher pay. Each teacher will receive $6,000 in additional salary and benefits.
Last year, Governor Cox said, “When teachers are making $60,000 a year to start, I will fully support vouchers. I’m all in on vouchers.”
And he confirmed that conviction in December, “We have the ability to do all of these things, to help families wherever they are, to help families who want to take a different path.”
We want to prioritize funding for our most precious resource: our kids. For the vast majority who attend public schools, that means doing what we can to retain and attract the best teachers through increased pay. For other students, that may mean funding to pursue education options that meet their unique needs.
By increasing teacher pay and funding choice in education, the governor and legislature acknowledge the dedication and effort of Utah’s public school teachers and recognize that the public education model is not the best fit for every child.
The UT-Fits Scholarship provides money to the people who have the biggest impact on education for the children of Utah: parents and teachers.