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Opinion: One size doesn’t fit all — so why is our education system made for one size?

Children are unique, and their education options need to allow for learning opportunities that match their needs

SHARE Opinion: One size doesn’t fit all — so why is our education system made for one size?
Kindergarteners wait to change classrooms at Daniels Canyon Elementary School in Heber City.

Kindergarteners Daleyza Plancarte Castro, left, Aitana De La Cruz and Alexis Bernal wait to change classrooms to spend the second half of the day in Spanish language immersion kindergarten at Daniels Canyon Elementary School in Heber City on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

I’m a mom to four boys. Our house is crazy, chaotic, and unbelievably loud. But there’s beauty in the chaos and I’m embracing this season — a season of discovering who they are, uncovering their unique gifts and struggles, and watching their personalities unfold.

As my fellow parents know, what works with one child doesn’t always work with the other. 

The uniqueness between children becomes very apparent when they start school. What’s easy for your son is a hurdle for your daughter. A classroom setup that’s perfect for your oldest is disastrous for your youngest. My oldest son is on the autism spectrum and has multiple learning disabilities, while my second son is reading two grade levels ahead. What they need in their education is starkly different. Many parents know the frustration of having all their kids in the local public school and realizing it’s working great for all but one. So, what’s next? For many Utah families, there isn’t another option.

Why? We know one-size doesn’t fit all in education. And yet, too often, we’re trying to fit unique children into the same box. You know, the whole square-peg-in-round-hole analogy. 

What if, instead, we empowered families to use the education funding designated for their child to give them an education that fits their unique needs? Good news — we can!

It’s time for a universal education scholarship program for every student, regardless of ZIP code, income or learning style. By taking a percentage of every student’s per-pupil funding and giving it back to them in the form of a scholarship that travels to any education option, we can fulfill the promise of Utah’s education funding: to ensure that our children are prepared for a successful future.

Studies have shown that students experience greater safetysocial success and academic achievement when they have school options. And in our post-COVID-19 world, parents are clamoring for options like never before. 

Education shouldn’t be a competition of good schools versus bad schools, systems versus innovation, rich versus poor or religious versus nonreligious. It should be about putting children first and realizing that each student needs something different and every school has something to offer. It should be about breaking down barriers caused by location, income and learning style. 

Ultimately, a universal education scholarship program is the next step in fulfilling Utah’s promise as inclusive of all and the best state to raise a family. I chose to raise my family here for just that reason. Our state is alive with spirit, opportunities and freedom. Utah fits all — and everyone should fit Utah. It’s here that people from all walks of life make their home and where children come into their own and realize their potential. 

There’s nothing like watching a child’s eyes light up when they have that eureka moment. We have the opportunity to spark thousands of those moments across our beautiful state. We invite you to join our movement of optimism and inclusion. Let’s ensure that Utah fits all! After all, it’s the Utah way. 

Allison Sorensen is a mom to four and executive director of Education Opportunity 4 Every Child. She’s a former vice principal for a charter school and previously worked with dropout students at a private school. She and her family make their home in Davis County