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Equity Equals Opportunity at Pinyon

By Donda Hartsfield

Carol1 flourishes in school settings that are in alignment with her needs.  She needs teachers that can take time to explain things to her with patience and kindness, while also taking the time to listen to her ideas and input. Sometimes she also needs help sorting out her social interactions with friends in times of conflict or misunderstandings.  And, like many fourth grade students, Carol needs time and room to explore new concepts and lessons creatively in order for understanding and comprehension to be optimal.  However, Carol’s fourth grade year at a Utah public school failed to meet her needs and she struggled daily to get through it.  After a great deal of frustration and stress, Carol’s family started looking for other options that might be more supportive to her needs.  

When they discovered Pinyon’s Montessori approach, coupled with the peace education as well as the student to teacher ratio, they became hopeful about an uplifting learning environment that could be better suited to Carol.  As Carol’s family explored the possibilities of enrolling, it became clear that with Pinyon’s tiered tuition scale, along with the Utah Fits All scholarship, they might be able to make a fresh start for the 2024-25 school year!  

Carol’s family applied for the scholarship on February 28th, the day that the portal opened on the Utah Fits All website. By May 3rd it was confirmed that Carol had indeed received the scholarship!  Carol’s family felt so fortunate and relieved to have the option to send their child to a school that they thought would be a good fit. They said that the overall process of applying for the scholarship was very easy and they would definitely recommend that other people apply.  

Carol’s family is anticipating that there may be some extra funds left over after the tuition for the year is covered with the scholarship.  They are planning on using any extra funds towards summer camp or possibly after school activities. Carol’s family attended a webinar which educated them on the ease of utilizing the funds from the scholarship.  It was described similarly to a market place platform where you can select where to use your funds. Qualifying schools and programs will be part of this market place, which is how you can select who to send the funds to.  

The Utah Fits All scholarship and Pinyon’s tiered tuition scale played a significant role in Carol’s ability to attend the school of her choice.  As Carol’s mother explained, “We don’t want her to end up at just any random school, which would have been the case without the scholarship and the tiered tuition scale.  We know that we can trust Pinyon with helping her love school again!”

Pinyon’s tiered tuition scale provides diverse families of varying economic backgrounds opportunities for enrollment. This will inevitably increase the richness of culture within the learning environment which will contribute to student’s social tapestry creating a resilient school community.  

Tiered Tuition is an accessibility-centered tuition approach where a family’s financial investment in the school is in equitable proportion to its economic resources. The tiered tuition scale is figured by approximately 7-10 % of people’s income for each tier using the HUD income limits.  Then, the family size is factored in.  Throughout the application process, Pinyon asks for families to self report.  The admissions department understands that gross income does not always reflect the entire financial picture of a family so they encourage them to make a decision that suits their unique needs.  

As stated on the Admissions page, Pinyon Montessori is “committed to equity and inclusion. To ensure socio-economic diversity at Pinyon, we will reserve spots for children of all income levels.”   K-12 families are encouraged to apply for the Utah Fits All Scholarship.  

For the 2024-25 school year, the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program will provide up to $8,000 to about 5,000 Utah K-12 students through an education savings account (ESA). Scholarship accounts may be used for education expenses and services, including private school tuition and fees, tutoring services, testing fees, materials and curriculum costs, contracted services, and more.

To access the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program, students must be residents of the State of Utah, and they must be eligible to participate in public school in kindergarten through grade 12. While the applications will be prioritized and awarded based on income and previous participation, the program is universal for those who meet eligibility requirements, and all are welcome to apply. 

Students may receive a partial scholarship while also enrolled part-time in a school district or charter school. Home-based ESA students are also eligible. Students may not receive funds from the program while also receiving funding from either the Carson Smith Scholarship Program or the Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship Program.

The Utah Fits All Scholarship Program came to be through HB215 during the 2023 General Legislative Session. The bill was sponsored by Representative Candice Pierucci and Senator Kirk Cullimore, and was signed into law by Governor Spencer Cox on January 28th, 2023 after passing the House and Senate by votes of 54-20 and 20-8 respectively. The Utah legislature has provided $42.5 million in annual appropriations for the program.

The Utah Fits All Scholarship Program is administered by ACE Scholarships, a non-profit organization founded in 2000 to provide K-12 students from lower income families with scholarship funds to attend private schools. ACE is proud to have been serving Utah families since 2022 by partnering with 26 private schools and administering more than 160 scholarships totaling over $500,000. ACE Scholarships is contracted with the Utah State Board of Education for the administration of the Program.

Utah Fits All offers scholarship families a list of qualified providers from all over Utah and virtually from other locations. UFA’s provider list will continue to grow throughout the year. 

Pinyon Montessori is one of many providers that has qualified to accept the Utah Fits All scholarship! 

Like the Pinyon pine of the desert ecosystem that provides sustenance and protection to many forms of wildlife, Pinyon Montessori is continuously reaching out to include the surrounding community so as to share their offering of an abundant learning environment where children can grow and thrive with joy.  Pinyon is jubilant to hear from all prospective families at this time regarding the upcoming school year!  

      Feel free to reach out with any questions at

 1 Carol is a fictitious name to protect the privacy and anonymity of families at Pinyon Montessori.

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