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School voucher bill passes in Utah Legislature

LA Johnson

A bill that would raise teacher pay and establish a school voucher program has passed in the Utah Legislature.

House Bill 215 creates a $42 million taxpayer-funded voucher program, which would allow people to receive up to $8,000 per student for private and home schools.

Republican elected officials who represent parts of Summit and Wasatch counties, including Rep. Mike Kohler, Rep. Kera Birkeland, Sen. Curtis Bramble, Sen. Ron Winterton, and Sen. John Johnson, all voted in favor of the bill.

Democratic Rep. Brian King, who represents Summit and Salt Lake counties, voted against the bill.

Money to create the voucher program will come directly from public school funds, which public school supporters say will financially decimate public education. Utah already ranks second to last in the country for the amount it spends on public education.

In a hot mic moment for which she later apologized, voucher bill lobbyist Allison Sorensen said earlier this week that she wanted to QUOTE “destroy public education” with vouchers.

The legislation would also grant public school teachers a $6,000 bump in pay and benefits.

The Utah State Board of Education, the statewide teachers and school employees unions and the association of school administrators have all vocally opposed the bill.

In a rare move, the heavily Republican state board of education also weighed in, voting 10-5 to oppose the bill. Hundreds of members of those groups met with legislators and launched a campaign to defeat the bill.

HB 215, which was sponsored by Rep. Candice Pierucci (R - Herriman) passed in the House 54-20 on Friday. It was approved in a 20-8 vote by the Senate on Thursday afternoon.

HB 215 will now head to the desk of Gov. Spencer Cox, who has come out in support of it.