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Utah bill targets free schooling for out-of-state kids

SHARE Utah bill targets free schooling for out-of-state kids

Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, will sponsor a bill in the 1998 legislative session that would make it more difficult for nonresidents to attend Utah's public schools free.

Many out-of-state or foreign students are now enrolled in the state's public schools and don't pay tuition as the law requires."Utah has been a place people send their kids for languages or lifestyle," said Doug Bates, coordinator of law and legislation at the Utah State Office of Education. "The result is a yearly $4,000 bill to Utah taxpayers for each of these students."

The state's basic per-student funding formula, known as the weighted pupil unit (WPU), is $3,334, although federal and other funds boost per-student spending well above that figure.

Utah has residency laws requiring students to reside with their parents in the state. But would-be students may skirt that requirement by having residents appointed their legal guardians by foreign courts.

Bates has drafted legislation, sponsored by Allen, requiring Utah courts to approve out-of-state or foreign guardianships.

"We have a large influx of students from Mexico and Brazil with guardianships awarded to residents here," Bates said. "It is expensive to taxpayers and, as many students do not know English, they flood English as Second Language courses."

Typically, he said, residents are recruited for guardianships while they are traveling abroad or when they meet foreign students while serving religious missions in other countries.

There are no figures on how many out-of-state or foreign students use guardianships to get a free Utah education, Bates said, but past estimates put the figure near 6,000 and the bill to taxpayers at millions of dollars.

Meantime, Utah plays host to nearly 600 foreign and out-of-district students attending Utah schools who pay $4,000 tuition a year, State Office of Education officials said. The new law would not affect them.