I left public education.
That sounds crazy, I know, but I did it. I left after eight years because public education wasn’t serving my needs. The teachers were kind and did their best, but my grades and, more importantly, my intellect were failing. I was not learning from the curriculum and distracted myself, and even others, from learning.
While public school serves many parents and kids well, I’m not the only kid in Utah suffering from a similar dilemma or other circumstances such as learning and social disabilities, mental health struggles, simply not fitting the mold, and so much more. One size doesn’t fit all, and it doesn’t need to. Alternative education choice becomes available to everyone in Utah with HB331, the Hope Scholarship Program.
I am so lucky to be home-schooled. I am more confident in myself, I am creating experiences that public school could never give me, and I am learning things I never knew sitting in a classroom.
Home schooling seems a bit taboo — I thought so, too. It took my mom three years to convince me to leave my comfort zone to try alternative learning. I hope to give everyone the opportunity to find their confidence, follow their interests, learn at their own pace and how they feel comfortable and give parents that option for their kids, because lots of students aren’t as fortunate as I am.
Many people interested in alternative schooling can’t afford it, and some parents have no choice but to continue through the public education option. HB331 gives that hope and opportunity to parents looking for alternative solutions by making money scholarships available with state education funds.
I have found that parents are entitled to the responsibility of ensuring their child receives the education they desire, not the state. In the Utah Constitution, the state recognizes the “right, obligation, responsibility, and authority to raise, manage, train, (and) educate (their children)” (Utah Code § 62A-4a-201).
Parents have the claim to direct the education of their children, whether that takes place through public, home or alternative schooling. That is the choice protected by the Utah Constitution. HB331 is a benefit to parents and their students in aiding their educational decisions.
I had the opportunity to attend the House Revenue and Taxation Committee hearing, listening to arguments from both sides. Not one individual who opposed the bill spoke about either the students’ or parents’ needs.
The fact is, the opposition has become more focused on, and concerned about, the funding than the students.
Administrators continue expressing the need for the money to nurture the system, even conveying that the already nearly $6 billion funding isn’t enough. In doing so, the opposition strongly objected to the $36 million appropriated in the scholarship HB331 proposes. That $36 million is only 0.6% of the $6 billion state education budget. Yet opponents are claiming that it is threatening the education system’s money.
In reality, advocating for alternative learning reduces students in the classroom but doesn’t change the budget, meaning there is more per-pupil spending. That money can be used to increase teacher pay, for example. This bill uses a very, very small fund to provide optional government resources to promote stronger opportunities for both parents and students to find education that fits the child’s needs.
Utah is seeing more home-schoolers than ever before. Parent choice is becoming even more relevant and necessary. Students need more options for education. The “one size fits all” approach isn’t working.
HB331 focuses on the individual students to manage their own education. The focus on our students is diminishing, and we need to consider all views and resources. There are so many wonderful and useful education options, but not everyone can afford them.
Passing HB331 gives everyone that opportunity to thrive in education. I hope to see this pass the Legislature and show support to parental choice and student focus.
Take it from a homeschooler.
Dalton Brown is a junior in high school and is home-schooled, living in South Jordan, Utah