Friday, January 27, 2023

UT: Vouchers Pass With Serious Shenanigans

Utah has joined the ranks of school voucher states with a flurry of fast-track shenanigans that managed to bypass anything resembling a democratic process.

HB 215 was distributed to Utah's House on Monday, January 16. They had a fiscal analysis by Wednesday, got it in and out of the education committee in one day. They had their second reading on Friday morning at 11:09, third reading at 11:14, and passed it at 12:25 and sent it to the Senate.

The bill took the weekend off, then on Monday, it was all aboard the Senate railroad. The Senate education committee had it back to the full Senate later that same day. It was back on the floor on Tuesday, a couple of amendments were quickly brushed aside, and on Thursday, January 23 at 12:09 PM, HB 215 passed the Senate.

And they say legislatures can't get anything done. This was clearly a well-orchestrated and effectively stage-managed piece of legislative force-feeding.

Say what you like about this shifty manner of getting the bill passed quickly before ordinary folks could raise much noise. After all, they've let the voters speak to this issue before and they didn't like how that turned out, what with the defeat and all. Democracy is so inconvenient. Well, at least the bill is--nope, there is no at least. It's a terrible bill.

It provides zero accountability, both in terms of how parents spent the money and in terms of what vendors can sidle up to the voucher trough to grab some of that sweet, sweet taxpayer money. 

As always, the real choice will be up to the "service providers." Students with special needs waive their rights under IDEA. And the bill contains the usual language declaring that the state can't require private schools to alter "creed, practices, admission policies, hiring practices, or curricula."

The education savings accounts will be about $8,000--double the support the state provides per student in the public school system. And because these are universal vouchers, students who have never set foot in a public school, as well as the children of wealthy families who can well afford pricey private schools, will all get their $8K, and public schools will lose a mountain of money before they lose a single student. 

If you're thinking that it sounds as if Utah's GOP wants to gut public schools, you don't have to guess. One of the consultants helping to push this steaming heap of legislation said so. Allison Sorenson was caught on tape 

“I can’t say this is a recall of public education. Even though I want to destroy public education, I can’t say that,” said Sorensen. “The legislators can’t say that because they’ll be just reamed over the coals.”

The bill even includes language that sure looks like it's there to forestall lawsuits arguing that the whole business is just Utah trying to weasel out of any obligation to provide a free and appropriate public education:

The creation of the program or establishment of a scholarship account on behalf of
a student does not:
(i) imply that a public school did not provide a free and appropriate public education
for a student; or
(ii) constitute a waiver or admission by the state.

However, the bill also requires the department of education to hire an outfit to run the program--in other words, outsource a function of the state government by both developing and enforcing the nots and bolts policies that will guide this giant boondoggle.

And the very worst part-- this was passed with a super-majority, making it pretty much impervious to any actions taken to undo this thing. 

It's very bad news for Utah, and for all the state that are about to be hammered by the well-financed traveling circus that pushing these bills. Taxpayers get to throw their education dollars down a black hole, while public education is defunded and dismantled. 


  1. This sounds very much like what Iowa just did. :(

  2. Thank you for publishing what is happening out here. Today the same legislators passed a bill forbidding any gender reassignment surgery or any medical interventions for transgender minors. But parental.choice is soooo important.