Utah’s Republican-majority state school board votes to oppose vouchers – Salt Lake Tribune
In a significant move, the state school board voted early Monday to stand against the voucher bill currently rushing through the Utah Legislature that would allow students to use public funding to attend private schools.
The state’s top elected education leaders on the Utah State Board of Education now join a growing list of stakeholders who have announced their opposition to the controversial measure — including the largest teachers union in the state and the Utah PTA.
“Overwhelmingly, the education community has spoken out against this bill,” said Sarah Reale, a newly elected Democratic member of the board and educator at Salt Lake Community College. “It just simply isn’t good governing.”
The board, which oversees all of public K-12 education in the state, voted 10-5 in a bipartisan tally to oppose HB215. The position came in an emergency meeting held shortly ahead of the scheduled Senate Education Committee hearing for the bill, where it was later passed on a 7-2 vote.
Reale and Carol Lear, the two Democrats on the 15-member board, were joined by eight Republicans who also voted to not support the measure. The remaining five Republicans — James Moss, Matt Hymas, Joseph Kerry, Emily Green and Jennie Earl — were in favor of the bill or of the board taking a neutral position on it.
“This bill cannot be amended into good policy,” noted member Christina Boggess, a Republican who was also elected this November.
The board’s majority opinion was sent in a statement to all state lawmakers Monday.
HB215 looks to create a $42 million program called the “Utah Fits All Scholarship” that would allow students to use public money to attend private schools or be home-schooled. It is touted as a way to give parents and kids more choice in education.
The proposal from Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman, also includes an ongoing $6,000 salary and benefits raise for teachers across the state — made contingent on approving the vouchers.
Concerns from the state board
Members of the state school board repeated many of the concerns that have been expressed by educators about the bill, including that teachers feel devalued by having their paycheck tied to a voucher program many don’t support and that many worry will further hobble Utah’s public schools.
Kristan Norton, a Republican board member who is also a teacher of 25 years, said the raise being proposed is “something I’ve never seen in my lifetime.” But, she added, she cannot support the bill in good conscience when she sees it as “siphoning $42 million off of public education to put into private businesses.”
She also is concerned that it only offers choices to those in the Wasatch Front, where …….