Utah Fits All Scholarship application announcement brings celebration – but also heartbreak – for Utah families

Robyn Bagley, Executive Director of UEFA

Republished May 31, 2024 from DeseretNews

May 3rd was a day of both celebration and disappointment for the anxious families of over 27,000 students across the state of Utah. In the scholarship’s inaugural year, 98% of awardees have qualified to receive it under the “tier one” low-income category. Only 10,000 applicants would receive the good news that they had been awarded the Utah Fits All Scholarship. For those fortunate children, the coming school year is bright with new hope and opportunity. 

Meanwhile, over 17,000 children were waitlisted – nearly two-thirds of applicants. These families are left unable to access this “universal” school choice program. They face another year without the freedom and access to choose the best fit for their child’s education. Here are their personal and compelling stories. 

Mendi from Payson has a family of nine. Seven of her children were adopted from the foster care system. Five are neurodivergent. She says that’s one of the reasons the scholarship was so important to them. “The public school system is meant to meet the needs of the masses, but not to help those that can’t conform to the rigidity of their expectations.” 

Heather of West Valley City says they fell into “tier two.” But her daughter Kara is fighting cancer and wasn’t receiving proper accommodations for her education from her district school. “We cannot afford to send either kid to our chosen school without the scholarship. Cancer treatments and ABA Therapy take up the majority of our income and we will not be able to give our kids the education we desire for them without help from the Utah Fits All Scholarship.” 

Tyson, a dad of four in Alpine, says the Utah Fits All Scholarship would have been “a Godsend” for their family. With it, all of their kids would have been able to go to their private school of choice and receive the best education for them. “We must expand this program to all families and attach education dollars to children,” says Tyson. 

Beth of Eagle Mountain has three children who, like all these families, were waitlisted. Describing their varied interests and giftings, she said “there is no way I would be able to let them really dive into their passions without the funding they could get from the Utah Fits All Scholarship. The funds would allow them to chase their dreams and grow exponentially faster than they ever could without it.” 

Donna in Layton says “we left public school because it was not meeting my son’s needs and his IEP was not being honored,” she says. “I pay a lot into the system through my tax dollars for education and it is frustrating to then not have access to any of the money that I pay to educate my own child. No matter someone’s finances I don’t feel like I should have to pay twice for my son’s education.”