“[N]o public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or for the support of any ecclesiastical establishment.” Utah Const. Art. I, § 4.
“Neither the state of Utah nor its political subdivisions may make any appropriation for the direct support of any school or educational institution controlled by any religious organization.” Utah Const. Art. X, § 9.
“The Legislature shall provide for the establishment and maintenance of the state’s educational system, including: (a) a public education system, which shall be open to all children of the state; and (b) a higher education system. Both systems shall be free from sectarian control.” Utah Const. Art. X, § 1.
“The public education system shall include all public elementary and secondary schools and such other schools and programs as the Legislature may designate .…” Utah Const. Art. X, § 2.
“(1) There is established a permanent State School Fund which shall consist of
revenue from the following sources:
(a) proceeds from the sales of all lands granted by the United States to this
state for the support of the public elementary and secondary schools;
(b) 5% of the net proceeds from the sales of United States public lands lying
within this state;
(c) all revenues derived from nonrenewable resources on state lands, other
than sovereign lands and lands granted for other specific purposes;
(d) all revenues derived from the use of school trust lands;
(e) revenues appropriated by the Legislature; and
(f) other revenues and assets received by the fund under any other
provision of law or by bequest or donation.
(2) (a) The State School Fund principal shall be safely invested and held by the
state in perpetuity.
(b) Only the interest and dividends received from investment of the State
School Fund may be expended for the support of the public education
system as defined in Article X, Section 2 of this constitution …
(3) There is established a Uniform School Fund which shall consist of revenue
from the following sources:
(a) interest and dividends from the State School Fund;
(b) revenues appropriated by the Legislature; and
(c) other revenues received by the fund under any other provision of law or
(4) The Uniform School Fund shall be maintained and used for the support of
the state’s public education system as defined in Article X, Section 2 of this
constitution and apportioned as the Legislature shall provide.” Utah Const.
Art. X, § 5.
“All revenue from taxes on intangible property or from a tax on income shall be used to support the systems of public education and higher education as defined in Article X, Section 2.” Utah Const. Art. XIII, § 5.
Carson Smith Scholarships for Special Needs Students
Utah Code Annotated Sections 53A-1a-701 to -710
Society of Separationists, Inc. v. Whitehead, 870 P.2d 916 (Utah 1993)
The Utah Supreme Court held that the Salt Lake City Council’s policy of opening meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer does not offend the first Blaine Amendment (Article I, Section 4) of the Utah Constitution because public funds are not used to directly aid any particular religion.
Both tax credits and voucher programs are school choice options for Utah. They are completely consistent with the Utah Constitution and relevant Utah state court decisions.
In its most thorough analysis of the more general of the Utah Constitution’s Blaine Amendments (Article I, Section 4) to date, the Utah Supreme Court held in Society of Separationists, Inc. v. Whitehead that if public “money or property are provided on a nondiscriminatory basis” and they are “equally accessible to all,” the government program at issue complies with the Utah Constitution. A voucher program in which students use publicly funded scholarships to attend private, religious or public schools of their choice undoubtedly satisfies those requirements.
Legislators should stress that the purpose of the voucher program is to expand educational opportunities on a non-discriminatory basis and that the public funds used for vouchers are not for the benefit of the schools children decide to attend, but for the children themselves. In addition, if funds derived from the income tax are used, the Legislature should be sure to state that publicly financed scholarship programs are a part of the public education system under the education article (Article X, Section 2).
Model Legislation: Education Savings Account, Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Universal Eligibility), Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Means-Tested Eligibility), Special Needs Scholarship Program, Foster Child Scholarship Program, Autism Scholarship, Great Schools Tax Credit Program, Family Education Tax Credit Program