The two main Utah pro- and anti-voucher groups have together spent more than $5.5 million on their campaigns since Sept. 13.

According to political issue committee financial reports that were due Tuesday, pro-voucher Parents for Choice in Education has outspent Utahns for Public Schools (UTPS), the state's main anti-voucher group, by about $1.36 million in the past month and a half while collecting more than $1.2 million more than UTPS.

In both organizations the vast majority of the funding went to campaign strategy and advertising.

PCE leaders said that 82 percent of their funding came from in-state donations, including $2.71 million from the Byrne family. Patrick Byrne is a school voucher advocate and CEO of Overstock.com.

"Our donations come from people who are passionate about allowing all children to receive the best education possible. They could give their money to many causes but recognize a quality education is priceless," PCE board member Robyn Bagley said.

UTPS' funding contributions included 2,262 donors who contributed $100 or less — including hundreds of teachers and educators from both in and out of the state.

The Utah Education Association donated nearly $2 million to UTPS. And the National Education Association contributed more than $131,000 from more than 13 different states — the California Teacher's Association donated $50,000.

"Our donations show the breadth of support we have from Utahns who oppose the flawed voucher law," said Lisa Johnson, spokeswoman for UTPS. "Educators across the country share with us opposition to Utah's flawed voucher law — they recognize that vouchers will divert funds from Utah's public schools and schoolchildren."

Political action committees are required by state law to report any expenditures or contributions exceeding $750 in a calendar year. Those groups report in September and the week before election day. Financial reports for the last week of the campaigns will come out in January.

Joe Demma, spokesman for the Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office, said the intent of the law is to allow the public to know who is putting money toward candidates or issues.

The voucher program would allow Utah families to receive private school tuition vouchers ranging from $500 to $3,000 per student attending a private school, based on parents' income.

It also appropriates $9.2 million to offset any financial impact school districts may experience for five years after a student leaves and goes to a private school.

But critics of the law say the program shifts public money to private schools and last spring filed for a referendum to let voters either repeal or keep the voucher program.

Utahns will vote Tuesday whether to repeal the law.


E-mail: terickson@desnews.com

Contributing: Wendy Leonard