Utah governor promises to veto school choice bill despite public support

Despite growing calls for school choice across the nation, the Republican governor of Utah has promised to veto a school voucher bill, notably after a reported $75,000 campaign donation from the teachers’ union.

Nearly 70% of adults in Utah support school vouchers.

Gov. Spencer Cox said he won’t support the proposed HB 331 until the state’s teachers get higher pay. The Daily Caller reported the National Education Association contributed $75,000 to Cox’s 2020 gubernatorial campaign.

The “Hope Scholarship” bill, which would provide means-tested vouchers for private schooling and even homeschooling, narrowly passed a Utah House committee Tuesday 6-5. But national school choice advocate Corey A. DeAngelis tells The Lion he believes a governor’s veto could easily be overridden by the state legislature.

“The legislature shouldn’t have any problem at all if everyone with an ‘R’ next to their name is actually a Republican,” says DeAngelis, director of research at the American Federation for Children. “Over three-quarters of both the Utah House and the Senate identify as Republicans, which is well over the two-thirds needed to override a veto.”

Bill sponsor Rep. Candice Pierucci told the Deseret News that the governor’s remarks “do not change the legislative process or change my commitment to fine tuning this policy and finding better ways to empower parents and better meet the education needs of Utah’s students. I hope he will keep an open mind in reviewing the final policy proposal in this bill.”

The bill’s Senate sponsor, Majority Assistant Whip Kirk Cullimore, told the Deseret News, “Education begins in the home. And we see the most success with students in any education setting, public or otherwise, where there is support at home. So the point of this bill is saying, ‘We’ve had to recognize that over the past two years, let’s shift our focus to their parents and let them make the call for what’s best for their child.’”

Meanwhile, school choice proposals were spreading like a western fire this past week. The Arizona Senate approved an expansion of that state’s school voucher program, and Idaho lawmakers weighed in with a bill of their own Friday creating new education savings accounts to cover private school tuition and fees.