Last month, the future of Utah’s young people got a lot brighter after the governor enshrined school choice into state law.
Governor Spencer Cox became the third governor to enact universal school choice, following in the footsteps of Arizona and Iowa when he signed H.B. 215, Funding for Teacher Salaries and Optional Education Opportunities, into law on January 28. The law establishes the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program, a program that gives participants $8,000 to use towards education-related expenses such as private school tuition, textbooks, tutors, fees associated with after-school and summer programs, and more.
The law not only creates school choice options for families but also increases public school teacher salaries by $6,000.
Governor Cox praised the bill:
This bill strikes a good balance. More than 90% of parents support Utah schools and so do we. Our top priority this session has been a significant increase in teacher compensation and education funding. We commend the Legislature for supporting our teacher pay proposal which will help address the state’s teacher shortage and give Utah teachers the much-needed pay raise they deserve. We also appreciate that HB 215 gives Utah parents additional options to meet the needs of their families. School choice works best when we adequately fund public education and we remove unnecessary regulations that burden our public schools and make it difficult for them to succeed.
Utah’s news comes shortly after Iowa’s governor established universal school choice in her state. Kim Reynolds’ comprehensive Students First package offers education savings accounts for each child in Iowa totaling $7,598 per child, matching what the state pays per pupil for public school students. The legislation creating the new Iowa program also supports teacher salaries, by allowing schools to redirect unspent categorical funds toward teacher compensation. To participate in Iowa’s new program, parents must enroll their children in an accredited private school. The program will phase in over three years, with families already enrolled in private schools only eligible to participate in the first two years if their household income falls under thresholds established in the legislation. Eligible families can apply for education savings accounts (ESA) that can be used for private school tuition and fees, as well as additional eligible education expenses.
Utah’s school choice expansion is fantastic news for families in the state seeking better educational options for their children. Hopefully, other state legislatures will realize that education is not a one-size-fits-all system and enact similar school choice programs that advance educational opportunities for their youngest citizens.