Special Education

Special-Needs Vouchers Pass Utah House, Senate

By Michelle R. Davis — March 08, 2005 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The school voucher proposal that helped topple the career of Utah’s previous governor last year has gotten a thumbs-up from the state legislature and is expected to be signed into law by the new governor.

The Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarships legislation would provide $1.4 million in voucher money to help parents of students with disabilities send their children to private schools, both secular and religious, that place particular emphasis on helping such students. The bill passed 21-6 in the Senate on Feb. 25, just a few days after it was passed by the House on a vote of 58-17.

Champions of school choice rejoiced over passage of the bill, though they were frustrated by the failure of a broader tuition-tax-credit bill that died Feb. 25 in the House on a vote of 40-34.

“We’re overjoyed, … but this is a very limited amount [of money],” said Elisa Clements Peterson, the executive director of the Utah’s Parents for Choice in Education Political Action Committee. “There are only a few hundred children who can benefit from this. Our goal is to see that every Utah child has an equal opportunity for the best possible education.”

About 50,000 students in the state would qualify for the scholarships, Ms. Peterson said, but only a few hundred would be able to receive the funding under the current amount of money allotted for the program. Students with disabilities that range from brain injury to speech or language impairments would be able to apply for the scholarships, which could pay out nearly $5,500 per student annually.

If the bill is signed into law, Utah would become the second state with a voucher program for students with disabilities. In 2001, Florida adopted the John M. McKay Scholarships, which are similar to Utah’s plan.

Signature Pledged

A similar Utah bill passed the House and the Senate last year , but was vetoed by then-Gov. Olene S. Walker, a Republican, who said she was worried that the bill was unconstitutional.

Supporters of the legislation, who included the parents of Carson Smith, a young boy with autism for whom the bill is named, vowed to block the governor’s efforts to win election to a full term. Their objections to the former governor’s veto helped unhinge her election bid, which ended in May during the state’s Republican caucus. Gov. Walker came in fourth in an eight-way competition for her party’s nomination. Only the top two candidates are permitted to advance to the primary.

See Also

Carson Smith, who was 5 years old when the scholarship in his name was proposed last year, attends the Carmen B. Pingree School for Children with Autism, located in Salt Lake City. The school costs $23,000 a year.

Utah’s new governor, Jon Huntsman Jr., a Republican who was elected in November, isn’t making the same mistake as Ms. Walker.

During his campaign for the top political spot, he said he would sign the legislation if it came across his desk.

But others in the state, including the Utah Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, said they were concerned that the program would set a precedent and lay the groundwork for other such measures to promote private school choice, such as tuition tax credits. They argue that such programs could drain funds from the public school system and its students.

The union worked to defeat the tax-credit bill that failed in the House.

A version of this article appeared in the March 09, 2005 edition of Education Week as Special-Needs Vouchers Pass Utah House, Senate

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Assessment Webinar
The State of Assessment in K-12 Education
What is the impact of assessment on K-12 education? What does that mean for administrators, teachers and most importantly—students?
Content provided by Instructure
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Proven Strategies to Improve Reading Scores
In this webinar, education and reading expert Stacy Hurst will provide a look at some of the biggest issues facing curriculum coordinators, administrators, and teachers working in reading education today. You will: Learn how schools
Content provided by Reading Horizons

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Special Education Whitepaper
When is it Dyslexia? Assessing Early Indicators.
Download your copy of this white paper to learn how early assessments can help improve student outcomes.
Content provided by Voyager Sopris Learning
Special Education Florida Changed Rules for Special Education Students. Why Many Say It’s Wrong
The new rule contains a more specific definition of what it means to have a “most significant cognitive disability.”
Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
7 min read
Richard Corcoran, the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education sits next to Florida Department of Education Board Chair Andy Tuck as they listen to speakers during Thursday morning's Florida Department of Education meeting. The board members of the Florida Department of Education met Thursday, June 10, 2021 at the Florida State College at Jacksonville's Advanced Technology Center in Jacksonville, Fla. to take care of routine business but then held public comments before a vote to remove critical race theory from Florida classrooms.
Richard Corcoran, Florida’s education commissioner, and Andy Tuck, the chair of the state’s board of education, listen to speakers at a meeting  in June.
Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP
Special Education 6 Ways to Communicate Better With Parents of Students With Learning Differences
For students who learn or think differently, a strong network of support is key. Here are 6 tips for bridging the communication gap between families and schools.
Marina Whiteleather
3 min read
network of quote bubbles
cagkansayin/iStock/Getty
Special Education New York City Will Phase Out Controversial Gifted and Talented Program
The massive change is aimed at addressing racial disparities in the biggest school system in the country.
Michael Elsen-Rooney, New York Daily News
4 min read
Students write and draw positive affirmations on poster board at P.S. 5 Port Morris, an elementary school in The Bronx borough of New York on Aug. 17, 2021. New York City will phase out its program for gifted and talented students that critics say favors whites and Asian American students, while enrolling disproportionately few Black and Latino children, in the nation's largest and arguably most segregated school system.
Students write and draw positive affirmations on poster board at P.S. 5 Port Morris, an elementary school in The Bronx borough of New York on Aug. 17, 2021. New York City will phase out its program for gifted and talented students that critics say favors whites and Asian American students, while enrolling disproportionately few Black and Latino children, in the nation's largest and arguably most segregated school system.
Brittainy Newman/AP