It has been 33 years since Utahns last voted on a referendum, but on Nov. 6, their decision on Referendum 1 will settle one of Utah’s most heated controversies.
Referendum 1, Utah’s first since 1974, will decide the fate of H.B. 148, the bill that would create a school voucher program, and H.B. 174, that makes amendments to H.B. 148.
Known as the "Parent Choice in Education Program," the voucher plan would give scholarships from public funds to parents wanting to enroll their children in private school. The scholarships would range from $500 to $3,000, depending on income and the size of the student’s family.
The scholarships would increase each year by the same percent as public school funding.
Opponents of the bill say it could have a negative impact on Utah’s educational future. "There is little accountability, both economically and academically," said Marilyn Kofford, a member of Utahns for Public Schools, of the bill. "It will suck the education system of Utah for a long time to come."
Supporters of the bill disagree, saying it would help many Utah students, especially minorities.
"H.B. 148 is about helping these kids," said Paul Mero, head of the Sutherland Institute, during an Oct. 3 debate. "These kids need a new opportunity. They need a new start."
Kofford said the Utah Voter Information Pamphlet is the best source for a breakdown of H.B. 148 and arguments for and against the voucher program.
"We need to look at the voter registration booklet and derive more there than anything else," she said. The pamphlet is available at newsstands around UVSC.
H.B. 148 was passed in February by a vote of 19-10 in the State Senate, and 38-37 in the House of Representatives. Utah law gives the State Senate power to require the vote of Utah citizens on any law passed by less than a two-thirds majority of both the House and Senate. A petition was filed, and in May, Governor Jon M. Huntsman issued a call for a referendum, to be voted upon in a special election.
Because the special election is also a municipal election, voters will also be electing public officials. The election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 6, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at designated polling locations.
For more about the election, students can obtain voter information pamphlets on newsstands at UVSC, or visit www.elections.utah.gov