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Guest opinion: Covering extracurriculars with the Utah Fits All Scholarship is a feature, not a bug

By Robyn Bagley - | Mar 29, 2024

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Robyn Bagley

Utah families have long understood that each of their children is unique and learns differently.

Rebecca, a Salt Lake City mom of a 7-year old, watched her son struggle in public school under a mountain of worksheets and requirements to sit still. So she brought him home, where he has since blossomed. Between the opportunity to learn advanced math and explore nature at his own pace, he went from not reading to achieving at grade level after only two months.

But until the Legislature passed the Utah Fits All Scholarship last year, choosing an education option based on their child’s unique needs was a privilege many Utahns simply couldn’t afford — or afforded only with great hardship. The scholarship stepped in to level the playing field by giving families the chance to direct their child’s education funding to an environment that fits them.

The response has been overwhelming. When the application portal went live on Feb. 28, applications came in for 10,617 students in just the first 24 hours. Applications have since climbed to 17,281 students and counting. Funding is limited to 10,000 scholarships for the first year.

How can families use this scholarship? Obvious answers include private and specialty school tuition, homeschooling, online academies and textbooks. But the Utah Fits All Scholarship empowers an incredible level of customization, allowing families to take learning beyond the textbook or traditional classroom. Learning can happen anywhere, and for many students, learning happens best away from a desk!

So when recent reporting raised eyebrows at the fact that extracurricular vendors were being approved for the program, including music lessons, field trips, competitive tumbling, swim lessons and gymnastics classes, we and many parents were baffled. The inclusion of extracurriculars is a feature, not a bug! And we’ll just note that physical education, music, field trips and other extracurriculars are being routinely offered in most or all Utah public schools, as they should be, which a quick search of my neighborhood high school’s course catalog demonstrates.

Our organization provides support and community to thousands of Utah families waiting for the scholarship. So we talked to some of these families to hear firsthand how they plan to use the scholarship for their children.

Rebecca, our Salt Lake City mom mentioned earlier, has applied for her son and plans to enroll him in a first robotics competition team that is coached by an experienced engineer.

Erin from Syracuse plans to use the funds for her 7-year-old son to take a martial arts class to help him with emotional regulation, growth mindset and coordination. “He’s a deeply feeling kid and has struggled with how to regulate feelings of anger, sadness and disappointment.” She also hopes to use the funds for a STEM subscription because her son is very interested in building and experimenting.

Paul, who lives in South Jordan, has applied for four of his children ages 14, 12, 8 and 5. Paul says he plans on using the scholarship “to expand our children’s opportunity to focus on the arts.”

Donna’s 10-year-old son with an individualized education program was falling desperately behind in his public school, so she brought him home — a story we hear often from parents of students with disabilities. Though they have made great progress over the last year, they’ve been unable to afford additional tutors, and the scholarship would make that possible. Donna says she’d also like to use the scholarship to access “some physical education resources like golf, skiing or parkour lessons to help address his constant fidgeting and maintain health.”

Sarah, a Morgan mom of a first and third grader, says the scholarship “would be so financially helpful to cover the costs for their curriculum, maps and other informational posters for our workroom; it could help cover the costs for museum trips, zoo days … and road trips to see national monuments and parks. As a young mother, these funds would help me provide a well-rounded and hands-on education for my children.”

Transforming education means trusting and empowering families to make choices that are best for their kids and their circumstances, and honoring parents as the primary educators of their children. Let’s celebrate the flexibility of the Utah Fits All Scholarship! This was the design and our students are better for it.

Robyn Bagley is the executive director of Utah Education Fits All, an advocacy organization committed to ensuring Utah families have the freedom and access to choose the best fit for their child’s education. She and her husband make their home in Sandy. Learn more at UtahEducationFitsAll.org.


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