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Trump, DeVos embolden Utah school voucher supporters

May 15, 2017 by

Emboldened by the new White House administration, the money man behind Utah’s ambitious voucher proposal that was crushed by voters a decade ago says there is a renewed appetite to expand school choice in the state.

Overstock founder Patrick Byrne said the school vouchers movement has been rekindled in his home state now that his longtime acquaintance and fellow school vouchers advocate Betsy DeVos has been appointed education secretary by President Donald Trump.

DeVos was in Utah on Tuesday at an annual education technology conference, where she compared school choice to being able to switch between phone service providers.

“There’s all kinds of things I disagree with from the Trump administration, but I love that they appointed Betsy,” Byrne said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The time to strike is when the iron is hot, and the iron is hot right now.”

In 2007, Utah lawmakers created what would have been the nation’s first statewide school voucher program. But opponents led by the Utah Education Association gathered enough signatures to take it to a referendum to repeal the bill.

The teachers union was armed with millions of dollars for the effort. Yet it was still considered an uphill battle given that the Byrne family alone contributed more than $4 million to ensure vouchers would be available to any student’s family who wanted to take their tax dollars to a private school.

On Election Day, 62 percent of the voters spoke out against vouchers.

And after some immediate political backlash, the issue largely disappeared from the spotlight.

Lisa Nentl-Bloom, the Utah Education Association’s executive director, said lawmakers have stayed silent on this issue because every county in the state rejected the school choice program.

Source: Trump, DeVos embolden Utah school voucher supporters | The Salt Lake Tribune

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