If you’re a homeschooling parent, an exciting development in Utah offers your family an impressive benefit. Earlier this year, lawmakers in Salt Lake City created the Utah Fits All Scholarship, putting the Beehive State in the forefront of the Education Saving Account movement. What does that mean? Starting in the 2024-25 school year, all K-12 students who are residents of Utah will qualify to receive $8,000, designated for their parents to spend at private schools, hybrid schools or on their own home school.
For decades, much of the debate over voucher systems has focused on families considering private schools. But ESAs, first adopted in Arizona in 2011, uniquely assist parents who educate their kids under a traditional home school, microschool or hybrid model.
It’s about time. For too long, homeschoolers have been forced to bear a heavy fiscal burden – i.e., paying taxes for other children’s government education – while finding a way for one parent to opt out of the workforce to teach. According to the online-curriculum provider Time4Learning, it costs between $700 and $1,800 to homeschool a child annually. Starting in 2024, that expense will be directly covered by a Utah Fits All Scholarship. All kinds of expenditures will qualify, including desks, chairs, computers, textbooks, curriculum, supplemental materials, tutoring and after school or summer programs at government and private institutions.
Extracurricular activities will also be eligible for coverage. Paying for athletics or fine arts can become quite difficult for households with multiple children – and might be considered an unnecessary expense for those home-schooling on a tighter budget – but the ESA will include provisions for these activities as well, allowing for greater opportunities for students who would like to test and grow their athletic and creative gifts.
Utah’s ESAs will particularly benefit homeschool families with special-needs children. Hyper-personalized learning allows for greater flexibility regarding sensory input, individual modifications, doctor and therapist schedules, and more. ESA funds will secure many of these services, ranging from occupational, behavioral, physical, audiological, or speech-language therapies. In addition, parents will be able to contract out certain special-needs training to government schools, when and where appropriate.
For high-school students, ESAs offer even broader options. If a student is seeking vocational training in Utah, scholarship money will cover fees and instructional materials from technical colleges. For homeschooled students on the higher-education track, college-prep and advanced-placement courses could be allocated to them, as well as the fees for their standardized exams such as the ACT and SAT.
At this point, the regulations accompanying ESAs in the Beehive State are reasonable. To continue to use the program, parents either must submit a portfolio of each student’s work, which would remain private, or have the student take a “qualifying optional assessment.”
From LEGOs to lacrosse, Utah’s ESA program will greatly enrich the lives of homeschooled students. Parents can breathe easier knowing that they will have a base-line dollar amount for education funding that is likely to be well above what they could have afforded themselves. At the same time, the sum will not exceed the amount that taxpayers would have spent on that same student, had they attended a government school.
As the nonprofit Utah Education Fits All puts it, with the transformational reform enacted earlier this year, every “child will be able to find their unique fit in education through choice and a multitude of options, fulfilling Utah’s promise as a welcoming, opportunity-rich state.” Universal choice is a huge win for parental freedom in education across the board, but the homeschooling community is likely to benefit the most from the Beehive State’s bold embrace of the ESA revolution.
So, homeschoolers, what are you waiting for? Utah welcomes parents who want universal school choice with open arms. Whether you live in New Jersey or New Mexico, Washington or Wisconsin, California or Connecticut, seize the advantage being offered. Utah or bust!
Originally published at thecentersquare.com on August 25, 2023.