After a year of growing popularity for charter schools and declining public school attendance, the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) is considering a policy change to make it easier for charter schools to reach new families.
The USBE Law and Licensing Committee is in discussions to amend Board Rule R277-487 to address a reported issue of public school districts blocking charter schools from obtaining the contact information for local families for advertisement purposes. An agenda document notes this issue is a recent development, as public school districts historically provided the information to local charters without complaint.
Though still in the preliminary stage, the amendment would resolve the data pipeline issue through one of a few proposed options, including the USBE directly providing the data to charter schools, or directing family contact data to be stored by a third-party mail house which would distribute advertisement materials on behalf of charter schools upon request.
Should such a policy be enacted, USBE Director of Privacy Katy Challis noted, families will have the opportunity to opt out of having their contact information shared with charters, in compliance with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Under the proposed policy change, only families who are open to receiving advertisements and information about charter schools would be impacted.
State board member Molly Hart spoke in support of the proposed change, pointing to the value of educational choice as a guidepost for the state.
“In a state that values choice, like we say we do, and the principle of choice, I think it’s disingenuous to not allow or facilitate that choice,” Hart said in November.
The state of Utah defines charter schools as “tuition-free public schools open to any Utah student.” Additionally, “Charter Schools are governed by independent boards and held accountable to a legally binding written contractual agreement with their authorizer.”
The USBE reported in November that public school enrollment decreased by 1,988 students in 2023, marking the first time on record that Utah public schools have seen enrollment decline outside of the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, charter school attendance in the state increased by 513 students, meaning that 12% of Utah students now attend a charter school.