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Committee passes controversial school voucher bill for Utah

Posted at 11:06 AM, Feb 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 15:28:55-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah House committee narrowly passed a controversial bill Tuesday that would provide school vouchers for children to attend private schools in the state.

Before a passionate crowd that showed up for public comment and were seemingly split on the topic, the House Revenue and Taxation Standing Committee voted 6-to-5, allowing the bill, which creates the Hope Scholarship Program, to now head to the full Utah House.

"This bill is not saying our public education system is broken, it is saying that more parents would like to see more options," said State Rep. Candace Pierucci.

The new bill comes over a decade after voters defeated a similar school voucher bill in 2007, with educators still opposed to the idea of taking public money for private schooling.

"Our education system has gone through so much this last year. and really we have persevered through the pandemic. Now is the time to invest more in public education and not divert those funds to private schools," said Angie Stallings, the Deputy Superintendent of Policy with the Utah State Board of Education.

Those for the bill say it will allow parents to customize their child's education based on their needs.

Sen. Kirk Cullimore (R-Sandy), one of the sponsors of the bill, previously said that times have changed and parents may now be open to new options for their child's education.

"We’ve seen parents who have not typically looked outside public education options that have found other avenues and explored other options and there’s been a public push and a public will to say 'Hey, there’s other options out there,'" said Cullimore.

The legislation also requests $36 million from the Hope Scholarship Fun to support public education.