Education Empowerment

The Utah Fits All Scholarship Will Stand Strong in the Courts

This article was authored by Alesandro Demarchi, a research intern at Libertas Institute.

On May 29th, the Utah Education Association (UEA), filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Utah Fits All Scholarship, Utah’s education choice program greenlighted nearly a year and a half ago.

They are trying to disrupt both the implementation of the program and the reimbursements to the families taking part in the scholarship program.

However, given the Supreme Court’s repeated rulings in favor of school choice initiatives and failed challenges to similar programs in other states, this lawsuit is unlikely to go anywhere.

In the filing the UEA says the program isn’t free, open to all students, or religiously neutral. The truth is all K-12 students in Utah were free to apply. Legal precedent is on the side of the scholarship and the Legislature.

The program is entirely free for families taking part in it, no matter which educational option they may choose. The $8,000 scholarship it grants allows for a wide range of schooling expenditures, from effectively full private school tuition to any materials or resources that support children in their learning process. This is consistent with the requirements set out in Article X, Section 2 and Article XIII, Section 5 of the Utah Constitution.

Universal Eligibility

House Bill 215, which created the scholarship, includes universal statewide eligibility for K-12 students in its first lines. The program instituted by the Legislature is open to all K-12 students, regardless of the enrollment requirements that families’ specific educational choices may imply.

The way parents can choose how to use the funds in the Utah Fits All program is entirely up to them, consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Pierce v. Society of Sisters. Furthermore, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris the Supreme Court found that a family’s “genuine and independent private choice” eliminates any “government endorsement” of the educational option chosen.

Individual parental choices combined with the “secular purpose of providing educational assistance” established in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, dismiss the notion that the program may advance any sectarian interests.

The Utah Fits All Scholarship is perfectly neutral when it comes to families’ educational choices. Having said this, the Supreme Court has ruled that religious schools cannot be discriminated against solely because of their sectarian character (Trinity Lutheran v. Comer) or be excluded from the pool of viable education providers in school choice programs (Espinoza v. Montana). 

Oversight and Implementation

The UEA then claims the State Board of Education does not retain its oversight authority under the Utah Constitution. However, in Utah School Boards Association v. Utah State Board of Education, the Utah Supreme Court found it would be unreasonable for it to supervise different types of schools and programs identically, allowing it instead to diversify its oversight means.

In this case, the Legislature has provided for the hiring of a program manager, who is accountable to the State Board of Education, and chosen to partner with the non-profit organization ACE Scholarships in the program implementation. 


It’s clear the timing and substance of this lawsuit simply aim to derail the roll out of the Utah Fits All Scholarship.

Given the Plaintiffs have so far only asked for permanent injunction in the case (ending the program through a final judgment), significant delays are unlikely while the judicial process is ongoing. This could change should they also file for preliminary injunction (which would block its implementation while the judicial process plays out). 

The legal precedents set by the Supreme Court and countless state-level rulings suggest parents in Utah will remain free to choose what is best for their children’s education after all.