NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 12, 2007

One hundred eleven years ago, in 1896, the state of Utah joined the Union. Today its Legislature is focused on enacting sound policies that will help improve its education system.  Its citizens, though, have a different view, for in last Tuesday's referendum they voted down a very strong parental school choice bill, says Pete du Pont, a former governor of Delaware and the current chairman of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

  • Last February the Utah Legislature enacted the Parent Choice in Education Act, giving parents the option of a $500 to $3,000 scholarship, depending upon their household income, to send their child to the private school of their choice instead of the public school they are attending.
  • Since there are 120 private schools in Utah, with an average tuition of about $4,000, the scholarships would help low-income families get the best education for their children and give Utah parents substantial educational choice.

School choice is not a new idea -- there are voucher programs operating in about a dozen states -- but the Utah program reflected some fresh thinking:

  • The average cost of the scholarships would be about $2,000 a student, so lawmakers decided to increase support of the state's public schools by allowing them to keep the difference between the cost of educating each of their students -- about $7,500 per child -- and the scholarships when a child left their school.
  • For each student who chose to move to a private school, his former public school would get the $5,500 difference for five years, after which it would go back to the state's education budget.
  • Utah State University estimated this would give the public schools about $1 billion in additional funding over 13 years.

Source: Pete du Pont, "Unions 2, Children 1: School choice goes down to defeat in Utah,", November 12, 2007.

For text:


Browse more articles on Education Issues