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Back to July Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 258 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS JULY 2007

Referendum on Utah’s Vouchers

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After a series of misadventures, the Utah universal voucher program signed into law in the spring will now appear as a referendum on the Nov. 6, 2007 ballot.

The Utah legislature recently passed the nation's first universal voucher program (see Education Reporter, Mar. 2007). Under the program, Utah students who don't already attend private school could receive between $500 and $3,000 to attend the school of their choice, beginning in the fall of 2007.

When the first voucher bill passed (H.B. 148), Utahns for Public Schools, a group opposed to vouchers, started a petition drive in the hope that voters would then repeal the law by referendum. The petition drive did not address a second voucher bill, H.B. 174, which amended H.B. 148. Since the second bill passed with a two-thirds majority, it could not be repealed by referendum.

The petition drive obtained enough signatures to force a referendum on H.B. 148 onto the November ballot. However, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said he believed the second bill, H.B. 174, would be strong enough to stand alone and implement the universal voucher program even without H.B. 148. In that case, there would be no way for voters to repeal the program.

However, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that vouchers must appear on the November ballot as a straight yes-or-no question. After hearing testimony on both sides, the court took only three hours to rule that H.B. 174 could not stand alone without H.B. 148, if voters reject H.B. 148 in the November referendum.


 
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