Voucher Law Consequences
Supporters of Utah's voucher law wanted voters to think there are no real consequences if universal vouchers are provided to students to attend unaccountable, private voucher schools.
But the consequences would be very real - both for Utah children and for Utah's public schools.
- Vouchers would cost at least $429 million over the next 13 years - funds that could be used in public schools to reduce class size, provide textbooks and supplies, and enhance teacher quality for the 96% of children who attend Utah public schools.
- Unaccountable private, voucher schools would not have to hire teachers with college degrees or a license to teach. This puts our children at risk of being exposed to individuals who are not qualified to teach. Additionally, these unaccountable schools could hire teachers who even have criminal records.
- Parents and students don't choose private schools; private schools choose their students. Parents could find their children rejected by voucher schools because the children were not learning at grade level, didn't speak English, or had special needs.
- Only half of Utah counties even have private schools. For children and parents in rural areas, vouchers are meaningless.
- Vouchers create an entitlement program that would drain state funds that could be used for issues related to growth, such as health care, transportation, higher education, and helping meet the needs of senior citizens.
What the voucher law did:
- Utah's voucher proposal would have established an entitlement program for parents to secure taxpayer funded vouchers to send their children to private school.
- Voucher amounts would be based on income, with low-income families receiving up to $3,000 annually for a voucher. Vouchers would scale down to $500 annually.
- Even families with incomes in excess of $101,000 could qualify for a $500 voucher.
- Eligible children would be those currently in public school (initially), pre-kindergarten children who would be entering kindergarten in the first year, and children who moved to Utah with their parents after January 1, 2007.
- Private schools eligible to receive the vouchers would need to have an enrollment of more than 40 students, be based in a physical location in Utah, provide a statement of financial solvency, and meet only basic health and safety requirements.
- Private schools would need to disclose - to parents only - the qualifications of its teachers.
- Parents of special needs children seeking a voucher would have to acknowledge that they waive their rights to the education required under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and that they understand private schools are not required to provide the same services for special needs children as public schools.
- Public schools would receive some funds, although not the full amount, for students who transfer from public to private schools. This provision, however, would expire after five years and public schools would lose funds.
What the voucher law did NOT do:
- The proposal would not ask private schools to admit all students who want to attend. Private schools still could choose students based on academic ability, ability to speak English, and ability to read at grade level. Additionally, private schools could reject special needs students.
- Unaccountable private voucher schools would NOT have to hire teachers who have a college degree or teachers who meet state licensing standards.
- Voucher schools would NOT have to report to the public the results of any annual tests of students, nor would the schools have to meet the standards established for public schools for student progress toward basic and higher level skills.
- Private voucher schools would not have to submit annual budgets or report how the funds they receive from taxpayers are being spent.
- As passed by the legislature, the law did not limit vouchers for those students who NEVER WOULD have attended public school. The law included children of the age to enter kindergarten in the first year. That means that parents who NEVER planned to send their children to public school would qualify for a voucher. Eventually, those parents who always planned to send their children to private school would be the main vouchers recipients.