Utah Legislature Passes (Near-)Universal School Choice,

though with a scholarship amount that is likely to pay only for part of the tuition, and an amount that declines dramatically with the parents' income. The governor is apparently expected to sign it; here's a summary of the bill:

Student Eligibility:

All Utah students are eligible if they meet any one of the following criteria: 1) they are in public school, 2) they are entering kindergarten, 3) they have moved into the state in the previous year, or 4) they have family incomes at or below the eligibility level for free and reduced lunch programs. In effect, this means that the only Utah students not eligible are those from high-income families who are already in private schools. Students cannot receive vouchers under both this program and the Carson Smith voucher program for disabled students at the same time; students who qualify for both may choose which voucher to receive.

Voucher Value:

The dollar value of the voucher runs on a sliding scale from $500 per student (for high-income families) to $3,000 (for low-income families). This graphic from the Salt Lake Tribune shows the income scale.


Participating private schools must be located in Utah; must have a CPA review its finances upon entering the program and every four years thereafter; must comply with health, safety, and antidiscrimination laws; must administer a norm-referenced test and make results available to parents; must make aggregate test results for participants publicly available (consistent with student confidentiality); must employ teachers with college degrees or equivalent specialized training; and must have at least 40 students and not be located in a residence or state treatment facility.

Public School Funds:

When a student uses a voucher, that student's public school district will continue to be funded as though that student were still attending school in that district until five years after the student left or when the student would have graduated, whichever comes first. During that time, a portion of the funding designated for that student will be returned to the state's Uniform School Fund, and the remainder will be retained by the school district.

I generally — though tentatively, given that my view is based mostly on general principles rather than serious review of the research — support school choice, so I think this is a good plan, even if less ambitious than I would have liked. But more importantly it should prove an important experiment that may give some guidance for future plans (though I recognize that the results of such experiments are often hard to measure).

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Education Week Online Survey on Utah School Choice Plan:
  2. Utah Legislature Passes (Near-)Universal School Choice,