Utah Considers Bill That Funds Students, Not Schools

Lawmakers in the state of Utah have asked for more time to work on a bill that would see education funding to students instead of schools.

HB123, in its current form, would require the state to put most of the money it now sends to high schools into education savings accounts for students in grades 9-12, writes Lisa Schencker at the Salt Lake Tribune.

Bill sponsor Rep. John Dougall said that this funding would work out at around $6,400 per student per year. Students would be able to choose between public, online or charter schools and districts would set the fee, which would then be deducted from student accounts.

Dougall said:

"Today, what we have is top down funding and we know many of the challenges that come with top down funding.

"HB123 is what I call grassroots funding where we fund the student rather than institutions."

The bill would put the power directly into parents' hands, and Dougall believes that it would force schools to better serve their pupils.

However, lawmakers were kept in committee this week, having asked for more time to work on the bill, with the potential of the program being much smaller and implemented initially on a test run rather than a statewide change.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss said that not all parents are able to be that directly involved in their children's education, and they may not have enough knowledge of the school system to help kids make the best choices.

Doubts were also being voiced by Rep. Steve Eliason, who was concerned about whether schools would fit 50 or 60 kids in classes in order to cut costs, or if schools would cancel highly specialized classes if not enough students enrolled.

Dougall admitted that while there are certain issues left to be ironed out, he believes that giving the parents the power on how to spend the money is the best thing to do because schools will respond to their needs.

Rep. Kenneth Sumsion said:

"It makes [schools] look a little more like a business, and businesses in America have done pretty good."

However, Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, noted that "in the free market system you see a lot of people bailing out or going bankrupt."

Rep. Merlynn Newbold, called it a "novel approach."

Newbold said:

"It certainly is a fresh new look, and I think it meets some of the needs that we've talked about in public education as far as allowing flexibility to students to move at their own pace to create their own program."

02 21, 2012
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