The Hope Scholarship Program Bill will be going through the House Taxation and Revenue committee TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, @ 8:00 am.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
HB331: The Hope Scholarship Program bill is a solution in search of a problem. We already have school choice in Utah. The big difference is that the bill would let some parents use public money to pay for their personal educational choices — the tradeoff is that with government money comes government strings. Always.
The power of the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) to interpret any aspect of this bill when it makes a rule on it is essentially unqualified. If this bill passes, for the first time in the history of the state of Utah, the legislature will open the door to private schools having their funding, curriculum, hiring practices, and operations to fall under the supervision of the USBE.
Somebody will profit from this arrangement, but it won’t be private schools that fall prey to the economic pressure to comply with state and federal regulation in order to compete for students worth $36 million. By subsidizing free markets you forever change their dynamic–they inevitably become less free.
About 20 years ago, charter schools were supposed to be the solution for parents who wanted their kids to have innovative, government-paid schooling. Can someone explain why charters aren’t enough to fill this need anymore? Why do we want to even risk having private schools fall under the same government oversight that hasn’t done public or charter schools any favors?
Parents sacrifice to send their kids to private schools to escape public education oversight, values, and politicized practices. Where will parents go if even private schools become de facto public schools through the accountability measures put in place by the USBE to ensure government funds are spent the way government agents think it should?
Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s out for good, and there’s no putting it back. This bill’s passage would set a watershed precedent for private schools and the private school market to be dictated by government subsidies and subjugated to government regulation. This should be unacceptable to anyone who believes in limited government, or that the government that governs best governs least.
A government large enough to give you anything you want is large enough to take away everything you have, including your freedom to educate your children free from outside interference.
FACTS ABOUT HB331
- Scholarship money will not be available to every Utah child. This bill offers $36 million of taxpayer money in the form of a “scholarship grant” to approximately .006 percent of Utah students (lines 1124-1139). This money would become available in 2023 and would currently fund the program for 2 years; future funding would be subject to budget constraints (lines 647-654). The maximum amount allotted to a student whose parents are at 200% or below the poverty level is approximately $8,000 (lines 135-187).
- Scholarship money is not guaranteed. Students would have to qualify for the money every year based on family size and income. and there is no guarantee of qualifying for the same amount year after year. (lines 148-178)
- Scholarship students cannot participate in public school activities through dual enrollment. Any student residing in Utah currently in a public school can qualify for the money, but cannot be enrolled in a public or charter school in any way if that student accepts that money (lines 80-89). A parent accepting scholarship money for a child gives up any opportunity for that child to participate in extracurricular sports, activities, or programs at local public schools.
- Scholarship students cannot use IDEA services. A parent relinquishes ALL right to Special Ed or 504 accommodation services for their child in accepting scholarship money (lines 188-198).
- Private schools and service providers taking scholarship money will be entirely subject to how the Federal government and the USBE decide to interpret and enforce Federal antidiscrimination law (lines 560 and 628).
- The Utah State Board of Education (USBE), through the Administrative Rulemaking Act, can make rules regarding any aspect governing how the Hope Scholarship bill is administered, including but not limited to:
- The administration of scholarship accounts (line 342)
- How the private schools are audited and the reports they submit to the Scholarship Granting Organization and the USBE (line 345)
- The type of yearly assessments (lines 289-291, 348-349, and 569-572) that a private school or service provider must administer in order to receive scholarship funds
- All of the following in section 53F-6-405:
- Schools that will be considered eligible (line 356)
- Service providers that will be considered eligible (line 357)
- The application process (line 359)
- Disbursement of funds (lines 352-448)