Parents should have to document the cost of their children’s education. – Salt Lake Tribune

To no one’s surprise, Utah HB 215 has passed and been signed into law. But the “Utah Fits All Scholarship Program” will be visited again before implementation in 2024.

Research results on private schools and online/home school options for Utah parents yields many points that should be considered before and in its ultimate implementation.

First, parents who home-school their children have no reasonable claim to need $8,000 to educate their children at home. Of course, they could take advantage of Utah’s Virtual Academy or K12 Online, which are free programs.

But if parents do not want to use Utah’s approved public curriculum, they have many free online home-schooling options, such as: Easy Peasy Homeschool, Ambleside Online, Old Fashion Education, Freedom Homeschool Curriculum, and Khan Academy, which offers AP courses, SAT and ACT prep.

Additionally, there is Power Home School, which provides Acellus Academy courses for $300 per year. Another choice is IXL, which offers all core subjects for $360 a year. Discovery K12 offers texts, assessments, transcripts, and a HS diploma for $99 per year per family.

Add a good laptop for $300 per child and, at most, $600 per child would cover any of these home schooling options.

Therefore, to redirect $8,000 of taxpayer funds to home-schooling parents, and especially without any accountability, is virtually stealing from the public and giving away their money to those who do not need it for the stated reasons of HB 215.

As for private schooling in Utah, most private schools are in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. Most are also church-based schools, for which tuition ranges from $2,200 to $64,800. Ten private schools are in the $4,000 to $6,000 range. There are 15 elite private schools with tuition of $8,000 or more, including Rowland Hall, Waterford School, Park City Day School and Wasatch Academy.

There are six major private schools in the St. George area, with tuition ranging from $5,500 to $10,300. Ascent Advantage Academy, with a curriculum based on the teaching of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offers live online courses, recorded courses or pdf printable courses for $3,000.

Clearly, with HB 215, Republican legislators intend to subsidize LDS/Christian education with public money as a way to fight against what they deem a “woke” public education.

This program removes public money from voter oversight and accountability and additionally effectually violates the separation of church and state in redirecting public money to religious schools.

As predetermined, HB 215 has passed, and so, at the very least, before parents are able to draw public money from the $42 million fund, they should be required to submit tuition receipts from the private school their children are attending. It would be wrong to throw free money at parents for a private school that costs them $4,000 or less per child. There is also no reason to give parents $8,000 for free online home schooling

As a retired senior living on a fixed income, it galls me to realize that money I could use for monthly essentials but save for taxes will be given to those who do not actually need it to educate their children, and without meaningful accountability or transparency about how they spend this windfall of taxpayer money.

This bill reeks of unfairness. And those of us opposed to the bill have no voice among the gerrymandered, veto-proof supermajority who have pre-decided to pass this bill. However, although the bill has passed, there is still time to try to make the program fairer for taxpayers.

I urge you to contact your member of the Utah House and Senate and demand that implementation of HB 215 not include a giveaway to home-schooling parents and that only documented actual private school costs qualify for reimbursement.

Sharon May

Sharon May, St. George, retired from teaching in 2019 and has little money to waste on unnecessary expenses and tax burdens.

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