Utah Voucher Program Exceeds Spending Limit by Thousands
The Utah State Auditor, John Dougall found that the Utah Voucher Program is overspending on scholarships by quite a lot.
A review released on Aug. 16 detailed how this overspending occurred in the 2022-2023 school year. The Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship (SNOS) and Carson Smith Scholarship (CSS) program were included in this review.
The Salt Lake Tribune said it best, “...administrators overspent significantly — well beyond what the law permits — to market and run the program.”
One issue noted in the review was that homeschooled students who might have been ineligible were granted funds. The state's definition of “eligible students” is fairly broad, allowing this discrepancy. However, the state statute also says that a home school ISN’T eligible for enrollment of scholarship funds.
Some reasons that have been used to cover the expenses of homeschooling with scholarship funds are tutoring costs, educational software, and applications. The SNOS and CSS are supposed to go to institutions and should “relate to goods or a service that a qualifying school provides or facilitates”.
The review states that this wording can be interpreted in different ways.
Another huge issue the review found is that during the first 18 months, the SGO did NOT comply with set expense standards. This unofficial audit sampled two scholarships that spent too much by $4,083 more than should have been awarded.
Each scholarship should have had a max of $8,076 but instead was $10,095.
- No less than 92% of donation revenue must be spent on scholarships
- No more than 5% of donation revenue can be spent on program administration
- No more than 3% of donation revenue can be spent on marketing and fundraising
The review recommends that the Utah State Board of Education
- Ensures that all approved schools meet eligibility requirements.
- Exercises greater scrutiny to ensure application documentation is sufficient.