1. What would a voucher program mean for Utah families?
For most Utah families, vouchers are a false choice because most low- and middle-income families will not be able to afford the high cost of tuition at private schools, even with a voucher. The average annual tuition at a private school is $8,000.1 For a family with four children, the $24,000 in additional tuition makes private schools unaffordable.2
2. Is it true that private voucher schools would have to meet the same requirements as public schools?
No. Unaccountable voucher schools do not have to meet the same standards as public schools. This is true in the areas of teacher licensing, financial accountability, coursework requirements and even student attendance requirements.3
|UTAH PUBLIC SCHOOLS||UTAH VOUCHER SCHOOLS|
|Teachers must have college education, teaching license, and be highly qualified according to federal and state law||No requirement of college education, teaching license, or highly qualified status as defined by law|
|Must meet performance standards on achievement tests; requirements for accreditation||No coursework requirements or performance standards; no requirements for accreditation|
|Must ensure that classes meet at least 180 days yearly and ensure children attend school||No attendance requirements|
|Must accept any child in Utah, regardless of family income, or religion, and provide them with an education||May discriminate against students based on religion, ability to pay, disabilities, and English proficiency|
|Must accept special needs children and take steps to accomodate their special needs||No requirement to accept special needs children; can charge higher tuition for special needs children|
|Must submit yearly detailed budgets and make records of school expenses publicly available||No accountability for public funds received|
3. Will public schools lose money if vouchers are approved by voters?
Yes. While there is limited funding for public schools for the students who leave, that funding is cut off after five years.4 And, fiscal analysts estimate the voucher program - because it is an entitlement program - could cost the state $429 million over the next 13 years.5 That is money that would not be available to public schools or any other state program.
4. I heard that Utah ranks lowest in the nation on student spending and has the highest class sizes in the country. Is that true?
Yes. The U.S. Department of Education reports that Utah is last in the nation in the amount we spend per pupil. And, the Utah Foundation also reports that the state has the largest class sizes in the nation.6
5. How many children attend Utah schools?
Ninety-six percent (96%) of Utah's children attend public school.7 We should be investing in our public schools to reduce class size, provide textbooks and supplies, and increase teacher quality. These are research-based reforms that we know work.
6. Do children achieve more in private school than in public school?
No. This is a myth that is not supported by research. In fact, the U.S. General Accounting Office in a 2006 report indicated that there is no empirical evidence that students attending private school do better academically than children in public school. Further, studies of voucher programs in place in Milwaukee,8 Cleveland,9 and Washington, D.C.10 demonstrate the same thing: Students do as well, or better, in public schools as they do in private schools.
7. Won't the voucher program actually save the state money?
No. This is also a myth. Public school enrollment is expected to increase to more than 600,000 students by the year 2012.11 This will occur whether a few students choose unaccountable voucher schools or not. With 96% of Utah students attending public school, and enrollment projected to increase substantially, the costs of public schools will increase based solely on enrollment.
8. Who supports and opposes vouchers?
Supporters of Utah vouchers include parents whose children are already in private schools, the private school community, and out-of-state interests that have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into state legislative campaigns. The Michigan-based "All Children Matter" group and other voucher supporters put more than $750,000 into state political races in 2006.12
Opponents of vouchers include public school parents, who are represented by the PTA; public school teachers; school board members; principals; superintendents; disability rights advocates; and the civil rights community.
9. Public schools won't disappear because of vouchers. Why not take the chance?
Our children are our future - Utah's future. We shouldn't risk their education on unaccountable voucher schools. The voucher law contains too many loopholes, unanswered questions, and little accountability for private voucher schools. Private schools do not have to be accredited, and they can employ teachers without a college degree or a state license. Furthermore, voucher schools aren't subject to any performance audit requirements, can discriminate based on religion or ability to pay and aren't required to dismiss teachers for criminal conduct.
Our children are worth more. We need to invest in our public schools where there is the greatest hope for a quality education for all our children.
1 Utah State University study - "Estimating Demand and Supply Response to Tuition Tax Credits for Private School Tuition in Utah."
2 Washington Times, 03.12.07.
5 Salt Lake Tribune, 03.08.07.
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