Utah Teachers Union Sues to Mandate Educational Conformity


| June 7, 2024


Seeking to litigate a difference in opinion, Utah’s largest teachers union, the Utah Education Association, filed a lawsuit, Lebresh v. Cox, asking the court to enjoin the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program, arguing that the Scholarship Program violates the Utah Constitution and injures a variety of individual plaintiffs who simply don’t agree with it. The problem: they have not identified a legally cognizable injury. Instead, the alleged injury appears to be the possibility that other people may decide for themselves which type of education to pursue. But enforced educational conformity is just what the Scholarship Program was designed to cure.

Take for example the plaintiff parents who assert they chose public school for their children because their schools provide the services their children need. These students are happy and well-served where they are. The Scholarship Program does not change that—and plaintiffs don’t claim otherwise. The program has not harmed them.

Instead, they argue that some school they don’t attend, which is not identified, that does not provide the services they need, which are not identified, may not admit some other student, who is not identified, for some reason, which is also not identified. This imaginary chain of events in which a hypothetical student is rejected by a hypothetical school makes no sense in a world in which students and schools are seeking to make a match. But even if it were based on an actual person and an actual school, it would fall well into none-of-your-business territory because it merely complains that some child—who is not the plaintiff—chooses an education program for reasons that matter to him instead of conforming to the worldview approved by the plaintiff.

Notwithstanding allegations of mass rejections, plaintiffs also claim that children who otherwise would be compelled to attend school with the plaintiffs, will be rushing for the exits and taking their school funds with them, leaving plaintiffs’ schools underfunded. To be clear, they do not argue that their schools have lost funding, or that their schools are losing funding, or that their children have lost any services. Nothing bad has happened at all.

Nor do they explain why it would matter if a child left a school to attend a program with a better fit, versus moving away or aging out—the types of family decisions and demographic changes that regularly affect student headcount without triggering litigation. 

Instead, they rely on opinion as the basis for their alleged injury because they “believe” in certain policy positions or “object” to other policy positions. Such differences in opinion are the basis for political debate—not litigation.

The injuries claimed by the teacher plaintiffs, board member, and Teachers’ Union are equally speculative and opinion-based. One might expect the Union to present some form of direct injury to itself or its members. But it does not. Instead it merely argues for the superior “promise of public education”—but also that students will flee if the Scholarship Program allows them to do so. If the “promise of public education” is met for all students, then why would they leave? Clearly some students don’t agree that the promise is fulfilled in their own case even if it is met for other students. This is a difference in opinion in which the only meaningful question is “who decides”? The Scholarship Program allows families to decide. The Teachers Union has sued to take that decision away from families and impose its own viewpoint on students regardless of what is best for them.