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Utah Senate committee passes controversial school voucher bill

Posted at 4:47 PM, Jan 23, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — The bill creating a school voucher program that could end up publicly funding private schooling passed in a Utah Senate committee on Monday by a 7-2 vote.

READ: Utah State Board of Education votes against supporting school voucher bill

House Bill 215 will give scholarship money to parents who choose to take their children out of public schools. It would also give Utah teachers an additional $6,000 raise every year.

The bill passed in the Utah House last week.

Before Monday's vote, the committee heard public comment from those supporting and opposing the bill.

Many of those against the bill are members of the Utah Education Association, or teachers unions who feel students and teachers in the state's public school system deserve more. They are worried about the scholarship numbers being nearly double the current weighted pupil amount for children in the public education system

Those opposed to HB215 add that teacher pay should not come with strings attached.

"It's also extremely unprofessional as a state government to dangle a salary increase with many strings attached knowing the state of the economy and the impact of inflation right now, especially on educators who don't make that much," said Anne Day, who opposes the bill.

The bill's sponsors say they understand a lot of opposition comes from funding, but they say the scholarships will not take away from the public education budget and that it is a priority of the legislature to continue to fund and support public education and Utah's teachers

"If we stay with what we have we know, what we will get? Many children are educationally supported with the current systems, but not all. The status quo does not fit every student," said bill supporter Nicole Mason. "I understand creating a new category of student can be tricky, and I'm grateful for those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and work to make it happen."

After Monday's committee vote, the bill now advances to the full Senate.