Understanding how the teacher pay increase will work and what the Utah Fits All Scholarship program is.
The past two weeks have been historic for the Utah State Legislature with the final passage of HB 215. Today the bill was signed into law by Governor Spencer Cox.
I firmly believe that supporting education means supporting the best approach for educating each individual child in our state. Supporting teachers as the frontline of education, and supporting students, who should be absolute focus of our efforts in education, do not have to be mutually exclusive. The Utah Fits All Scholarship is for every child, from every background, with every learning style. This scholarship will empower families to make the best decisions for their kiddos in providing opportunities to learn in a way that makes sense for them.
I wanted to clarify a few things and answer questions I've received about the bill.
This bill does two important things:
Gives $6,000 directly to teachers in a compensation increase
Empowers parents with more options for their child’s educational experience by creating the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program. This program is prioritized for students based on need, but is available to all Utah students.
We are focusing on the most important components of education: our teachers, students and parents.
How much will the Utah Fits program and teacher pay increase cost?
The scholarship program has a set appropriated amount of $42 million dollars. We anticipate that roughly 5,000 students will able to get a scholarship through this program. Broken down that is less than 4 students/school across the state.
The bill also doubles the amount of money the state puts into teacher pay through the educator salary adjustment program, in total this is an ongoing $6,000 increase in compensation for teachers ($200 million in total.) Teachers will start to see this pay increase fall of 2023.
Which teachers will receive a pay increase?
Library or media specialist
Psychologist social worker
What is Utah’s public education budget?
Last year we spent a total of $7.3 Billion for public education, of that amount, $4.7 Billion came directly from state funds. The Utah Fits All program is less than 1% of the entire state budget for education, and less than half a percent of the total education spending, based off last year’s numbers. I am sure we will be just as generous this year, in funding our public education system and ensuring our students receive a quality education.
What can the scholarship be used for?
micro schoolteacher salaries
private school tuition
and additional educational expenses
Who can qualify to receive the scholarship?
Utah students who are not recipients of the Opportunity Scholarship are all eligible and able to apply. Scholarship applications are prioritized on need, focusing first on students in a low income bracket (200% or less of the federal poverty level) and then students whose family income falls in the middle class bracket (200-555% of the federal poverty level). After those applicants have been awarded the scholarship, and if there are still funds available, any student can qualify for the scholarship.
How did we arrive at the scholarship amount?
The scholarship amount is $8,000. We arrived at this amount by taking the average local per-pupil funding amount and adding it with the WPU amount. The scholarship amount needed to be meaningful enough to make an impact and truly empower alternative options for our low-income and middle-class families.
What accountability measures are in place?
The program managing entity will be audited annually and required to report back to the Education Interim Committee annually. Additionally, the program managing entity and scholarship program will be audited regularly by the Utah State Auditor. The program managing entity has clear guidelines as to what is an approved educational expense and how to ensure the scholarship goes to approved educational expenses.
Scholarship recipients are required to submit a portfolio at the end of the academic year to demonstrate their growth and learning throughout the year. If a parent requests their child take an assessment, that test can replace the portfolio requirement.
What protections are in place to maintain the autonomy of private schools and homeschool families?
The bill language specifically prohibits the program managing entity from mandating curriculum standards. Additionally the bill makes it clear that nothing in the bill expands the regulatory authority of the state to impose any additional regulations on private schools or home school families.
This bill as an important step in refocusing our efforts to prioritize student learning and empowering families.
You can read the bill in its entirety here.
You can watch the House Education Committee hearing here.
You can watch the House Floor debate here.
You can watch the Senate Committee hearing here.
You can watch the Senate Floor debate here.