The idea of “school choice” has a certain lure to it. Who doesn’t want more choice in where and how our kids become educated? Utah’s public school performance is in a free fall, and the writing is on the wall: public education has been co-opted by third-parties and outside interests and our children have become a means to somebody else’s ends, not an end in and of themselves.
But as has been mentioned before, Utah already has real school choice. Parents can choose to send their kids to:
A) Government-controlled and regulated schools (public or charter), or to
B) Non-government-controlled and regulated schools (private or home-based).
Choice B involves a trade-off — government doesn’t pay for these options, but parents have the freedom to choose exactly how and what they want their children to learn. Private and home school options offer parents true autonomy from government intervention, regulation, and interference because they don’t in any way, shape, or form fall under the general control and supervision of the Utah State Board of Education (USBE), which has broad constitutional powers to shape and influence K-12 public and charter schools in Utah.
But now HB331, the HOPE Scholarship Program bill, threatens to erase those boundaries for the approximately 150 private schools in Utah. How? By making public money available in the form of tuition and other educational expenses up for grabs by these private schools. And all they have to do is give private information and control of various aspects of their operations over to the USBE and to the Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO) hand-picked by the USBE.
What could possibly go wrong? Well, that depends on how much you trust the USBE to not politicize the governance and regulation of these schools. Given its track record over the past few years, parents shouldn’t hold their breath — the USBE’s reputation for weaving woke policies into everything it touches is aggressive and unabated.
Let’s examine a few of the specifics of this Faustian bargain that one group is claiming runs virtually “no chance of government taking control of the content of education.” The devil’s in the details, as the saying goes….