The Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship Program was enacted and launched in 2005. Under this program, students with special needs are eligible to receive private school vouchers of variable amounts. Learn more about this program’s funding, eligibility, and regulations here.
One of 15 private school choice programs exclusively serving students with special needs
700 students participating (2015–15)
13 percent of students eligible statewide
43 schools participating (2014–15)
Average scholarship value: $5,342 (2014–15)
Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 81 percent
Utah students who have disabilities are eligible to receive vouchers to attend private schools chosen by their parents.
Vouchers are based on the state’s weighted pupil unit, an element of its school financing formula. Students who receive more than three hours of special education services per day get vouchers worth 2.5 times the weighted pupil unit, whereas students receiving fewer than three hours per day get vouchers worth 1.5 times the weighted pupil unit. In 2014-15, those values worked out to $7,430 and $4,458, respectively. The voucher may not exceed the private school’s actual tuition and fees.
Public school students between ages five and 21 identified as disabled under federal disability rights law are eligible to receive vouchers, as well as students with special needs in private schools that served students with disabilities prior to participating in the program. Participation is limited by the amount of money appropriated each year to the nearly $4 million program fund, with applications subject to random lottery.
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.