Utah Bill to Recognize Microschools As Businesses With No Location Restrictions

Some lawmakers opposed bill in the Senate because microschools could be located next to liquor stores.

Help fund stories like this. Donate now!

They are not day cares, nor private or public schools, but businesses that provide K-12 education to less than 100 students. Microschools are a growing trend in Utah, lawmakers say, and the Legislature approved guidelines to recognize them.

South Jordan Republican Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, who has introduced various education-related bills, said his bill SB13, titled Education Entity Amendments, is not one of them. He asked lawmakers to look at it as land use plan and not as a change in Utah’s education policy,

House representatives voted 63-6 for final passage of the bill on Thursday. It now goes to Gov. Spencer Cox for a final nod.

“Microschool is new and emerging and right now it’s an unofficial education center type setup comprised of groups of homeschool kids. As these have been growing in popularity, we needed to have some guidance for cities on how to regulate those,” Rep. Stephanie Gricius, R-Eagle Mountain, the bill’s co-sponsor, told the House.

Microschools in commercial buildings would be considered and regulated as a business with the International Building Code standards, which includes professional offices. They would also be permitted in all zones.

Fillmore said that these schools won’t have the same safety standards as regular schools because of their size and because children are not there the whole day.

“With these, what you have are a couple of dozen students, who get together for a couple of hours, maybe a couple of days a week, and they can be more transient. In that way they are much more like a tutoring center,” Fillmore said to the House Education Committee on Tuesday.

The bill underwent a heated debate in the Senate, after senators said they worried about removing location restrictions from these schools.

Senate Minority Whip Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, said earlier this month that microschools should be able to comply with Community Center standards, which require establishments that sell liquor and tobacco products to be away from schools, recreation centers, sports complexes or libraries.

“That we are actually tying ourselves into knots to change a law to allow schools next to places that sell beer and alcohol and tobacco for homeschoolers, but we can’t do that for school is a little disingenuous to me,” Riebe said during the Senate debate.

The bill also states that microschool students, as well as homeschool students, would be placed in the “grade levels, classes, or courses that the student’s parent and the school administrator determine are appropriate.”

House Majority Whip Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, called the bill “a really important policy” during the committee hearing. She added that those who run co-op or commonwealth schools would be able to continue operating as usual.

“I think it’s at a place where there shouldn’t be any ambiguity or questions. This is a benefit to people, this is not a requirement,” she said in the hearing. “And so an individual who might be concerned that they might be drawn into the code, (It) isn’t a requirement that you seek this benefit.”

Utah News Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Utah News Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor McKenzie Romero for questions: info@utahnewsdispatch.com. Follow Utah News Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

Help fund stories like this. Donate now!

Republish This Article

We want our stories to be shared as widely as possible — for free.

Please view The 74's republishing terms.

On The 74 Today