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Letter: Refuting claims about Utah’s school voucher program

Sep 22, 2023

I’m writing to address the recent guest commentary on the Utah Fits All school voucher program.

The author claims that the $8,000 vouchers will greatly benefit qualifying families. However, they neglect to mention that every family in Utah, regardless of income, is eligible for these vouchers. Unfortunately, this means that the majority of scholarships will end up in the hands of wealthier families. Similar voucher programs in Wisconsin, Arizona, and New Hampshire primarily benefited families already sending their children to private schools. That means the subsidies mostly went to kids whose families could already afford the tuition. Utah will likely experience the same outcome.

Moreover, the author fails to acknowledge that private schools and homeschooling lack the accountability that public schools provide. A recent New York Times report revealed that publicly funded private Jewish schools in New York City focus solely on the Hebrew language and ancient scripture, neglecting basic math and English skills. Additionally, taxpayer-funded religious homeschool curricula in Virginia teach bizarre concepts like dinosaurs joining Noah aboard the ark. Without proper oversight, we will soon be reading similar stories in Utah.

The author praises the flexibility of Utah’s voucher program, but in reality, it is frivolous. Under this new program, taxpayer money can be used for “field trips,” essentially subsidizing vacations for middle-class families.

Two glaring falsehoods in the commentary need correcting. Firstly, public education in Utah already offers a wide range of choices and programs, disproving the claim that it’s a “one-size-fits-all” system. Secondly, the notion that competition among schools enhances educational performance is misleading. Collaboration, not competition, fosters better education. As a public high school teacher, I frequently collaborate with colleagues from other schools, but this spirit of cooperation may wane if teachers are forced to sign non-disclosure agreements and treat lesson plans as copyrighted intellectual property.

Representative Ryan Wilcox admitted that the legislature didn’t get the voucher program right. I couldn’t agree more. I urge the legislature to address the most problematic aspects of Utah’s voucher program in the upcoming session.

Isaac Thomas



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