About Children First Education Fund

Our Mission

Children First Education Fund (CFEF) was created as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit scholarship granting organization (SGO) with a mission to provide school choice options for students with disabilities. The birth of CFEF came about because of decades of passionate education and school choice advocacy by the organization’s founders Jordan Clements, Kim Coleman and Doug Holmes.

CFEF’s efforts are guided by Utah state legislation originally passed in 2019 and updated in 2024 called the Carson Smith Opportunity Scholarship. The Utah Code §53E-7-4 outlines the unique program to help special needs children get the education they deserve. This legislation provides for a unique special benefit to individuals and businesses who support the program. A 100% Utah state income tax credit is available to donors.

Utah joins 21 other states across the country with similar programs offering school choice options for families. CFEF is the first SGO in Utah, and the only nonprofit in the state allowed to offer a state tax credit benefit to donors.

Our Activities

The efforts of CFEF are focused on four primary areas: 1) Raising funds for scholarships; 2) Dispersing and managing scholarship funds to qualified students with disabilities; 3) Strengthening and securing partnerships with qualified private schools; and 4) Building a robust group of providers of educational services and products to support our scholarship recipients.

Our Donors

Donors to CFEF enjoy unique benefits that are not available for donations to other nonprofit organizations. The Utah Code §59-10-1041 allows donors that contribute to CFEF a 100% nonrefundable state income tax credit.

Utah’s 1-1 tax credit is especially appealing as it does not compete with other charitable giving, since a gift to CFEF is simply redirecting funds that would otherwise be sent to the state.

Donations may be made by individuals or businesses, and there is no limit on the amount of the donation. The state law caps the total number of tax credits given by CFEF in a given year. The current cap is $5.94 million.

Once a gift is received, donors receive a tax credit certificate to validate the gift and for filing their Utah tax return. Tax credits may be taken in the current year, carried back to the previous year (an amended return must be filed), or carried forward up to three years.

About CFE Fund Scholarships

Scholarships are available for children in preschool, kindergarten and grades 1-12, and may be used for private school tuition, books, supplies, and education related therapies or treatments. Homeschool students are also eligible for scholarships. Scholarships are generally awarded for a term of three years and may be renewed in 3-year increments, so long as the student continues to demonstrate eligibility.

Scholarships are awarded based on family size and income. For the 2024-25 school year, an approved student whose family falls below 185% of the federal poverty level will receive a scholarship of $11.107.50. Approved students whose family is above 185% of the federal poverty level will receive a scholarship of $8,886.00. Approved preschool students may receive a scholarship of $4,443.00. Siblings of approved scholarship students who attend the same private school may also qualify for a partial scholarship of $2,221.50 pending the availability of funds after all special needs students have been served.

Over 80,000 Utah special needs students are eligible to participate in the program. As with other school choice programs, tax credit scholarships benefit the regular public school education system through savings on public investment as much as 3 to 1.

In the 2024 legislative session, a bill was passed merging the legacy Carson Smith Scholarship program with the previous Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship program. Children First Education Fund will administer the new combined program. This bill allows students who were enrolled in a private school and who were awarded the legacy Carson Smith scholarship to stay in that program if they choose. All the terms and conditions of the program will remain the same, and the legacy program will continue to be administered by USBE. The legacy Carson Smith program is not allowed to enroll new students.

Legacy Carson Smith students may switch to the new Carson Smith Opportunity Scholarship (CSOS) program, and will be automatically approved for the 2024-25 school year as long as eligibility standards continue to be met. Legacy Carson Smith students only need to complete the CFEF application by clicking the button below.

The recent legislation now allows CFEF to receive funding from two different sources. We will continue to receive funds from donations from individuals and businesses. All donations are eligible for a 100% Utah State income tax credit. Anyone who pays Utah state income taxes is able to donate and receive the tax credit. Please consider redirecting your state tax dollars to CFEF. Click here to make a donation.

CFEF will also receive an appropriation from the state of Utah. Funds not used for the legacy Carson Smith program will be transferred to CFEF for the new Carson Smith Opportunity Scholarship program. All excess funding not allocated in the current year legacy program, will be transferred to CFEF, which will allow additional funds for students on our waiting list.”

CFEF Partner Schools

CFEF partners with eligible private schools to provide scholarships to their students and to serve as a resource for families seeking school choice. While each private school partner must be approved to participate, CFEF will provide assistance to schools to receive and maintain state approval to participate in the program.

CFEF promotes partner schools by highlighting them on our website and in our marketing materials. CFEF leadership have decades of experience in education administration, choice and innovation, and possess a variety of skills and experience to make the program a success.

CFEF understands the importance of working closely with our partner schools, our families, and our generous donors to achieve our shared mission of providing a quality education choice for students with disabilities. CFEF will support partner schools who receive scholarship funds under the Carson Smith Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Elementary students and teachers celebrate 145 years of education at CFEF partner school St. Joseph Catholic School in Ogden, Utah. 

Make a Donation

Ready to make a donation? Join other Utahns in supporting educational choice across our state and receive a 100% tax credit. 

Board of Directors

Jordan Clements

Board Chair

Jordan is a partner at Rock Creek Capital, LLC, and director at Clements Midway Partners. He has been active in the school choice movement in Utah for many years and has served on the CFEF board for nearly 3 years. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University J. Ruben Clark Law School.

Bill Aho


Bill is the CEO of VidAngel Entertainment.  His professional career includes executive positions with Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo and Darden Restaurants. He has served on non-profit boards and, with his wife Rebecca, volunteered for over a decade serving and mentoring youth in correctional and rehabilitation facilities.

Elisa Clements Linde


Elisa is the Chief Operating Officer for the American Federation for Children, a national school choice advocacy organization. Prior to joining AFC in 2012, she served as Academic Partner Manager at Career Step, an online career training school. She also spent six years at Parents for Choice in Education, an organization dedicated to expanding school choice in Utah. Elisa has a bachelor’s degree with honors in English and a master’s in Business Administration, both from Brigham Young University.

Kim Coleman


Kim has been a voice for school choice for decades. She served as a member of the Utah House of Representatives, where she was ranking member of the House Public Education Committee and member of the Higher Education Appropriations Committee. She is a founder and past director of one of Utah’s first and most successful charter schools, where she pioneered novel capital financing that leaves more dollars for classrooms and has become a common model for capital acquisition. Kim is one of the founders of Children First Education Fund and served as its first executive director. She is a member of the American Enterprise Institute’s Leadership Network and a Conservative Education Reform Network Policy and Advocacy expert. She is a graduate of the University of Utah, with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Criminology. She continues to be involved in public policy and advocacy work locally and nationally. 

Don Mantyla


Don and his wife, Sue, are parents to five children, including a daughter with special needs. She has been their greatest teacher. He joined the board of CFEF in 2024. Professionally, Don had a career as a CPA in public accounting before retiring in 2017. After graduating from the University of Utah in 1978, he worked for a regional accounting firm before beginning his own firm, with a trusted partner, in 1989. The firm grew to be one of the largest and most trusted local firms in Utah, before being acquired by the international accounting and consulting firm, BDO Global, in 2016. Since then, Don and Sue have served together in various church and community capacities, primarily working with young people.

Community Advisor

Greg Hughes

Board Advisor

Greg served 16 years in the Utah House of Representatives, the last 4 years his colleagues elected him as Speaker of the House. He also served as Chairman of the House Education Committee. He has been a leader in education reform and created a public private partnership early childhood education program that has become a model across the country. Greg started a successful business in real estate development and property management, that he continues to manage today. He has served on many board positions including Chairman of UTA, Summit Academy Charter School, the United Way of Salt Lake, the Pioneer Park Coalition and the Lone Peak Hospital. Greg is married to his wife, Krista, and together they have three children. 

Our Staff

Ronnie Daniel

Executive Director

Ronnie brings a vast nonprofit leadership experience to his role as executive director He began his nonprofit career working for the Boy Scouts of America for 16 years in California, Colorado, and Indiana. He worked as the development director for the Natural History Museum of Utah and the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. He served as the executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Utah and the director of philanthropy for WHOlives. His passion for choice in education stems from being the father of a deaf son and he works diligently to help children with disabilities in Utah to have the best education opportunities available. Ronnie is married to Heidi and together they have four children and seven grandchildren.

Bridget Wintle

Operations Assistant

Bridget has been with Children First Education Fund since its first year of operation. She enjoys working with and talking to the parents of our scholarship students and our partner schools. She believes that if we work together, we can find the best learning environment for each student – that it’s the responsibility of parents, educators, and policymakers to ask, “what is best for the child”, and create programs and opportunities that enable students to thrive. Bridget enjoys hiking and has seen the peak of Mount Timpanogos and Grand Canyon’s Rim to Rim. She loves to travel and is always trying to convince her husband to go on a new adventure. Bridget is married to Jared and together they have 6 children.

Jessica Bennett

Finance Assistant

Jessica brings her years of expertise in accounting to the CFEF team, where she manages all financial operations including disbursements to families and schools. Her enthusiasm for joining the team is rooted in her strong belief that every individual, regardless of special needs or disability, deserves the best possible education tailored to their needs. Apart from her professional commitments, Jessica finds joy in traveling, embracing the outdoors, and spending quality time at home with her family., As a devoted wife and mother of two children, one of whom has special needs, she intimately understands the intricacies involved in ensuring a child receives the optimal education.