Voucher Ads Attacked in Debate for Oversimplifying the Issue

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Cookies in TV ads came under attack today in a debate over whether Utah voters should approve public money for private schools.

At issue: A commercial featuring Richard Eyre, a 1992 gubernatorial candidate and longtime voucher supporter, who uses stacks of cookies to represent students and the money spent educating them in public schools.

Eyre says if families decide to send kids to private schools and receive $500 to $3,000, that helps reduce class sizes in public schools, which still would receive money to increase per-student funding.

In his ad, there are fewer stacks of cookies in public schools but the stacks are larger.

But in a debate at the Salt Lake Rotary Club, voucher opponent and state school board chairman Kim Burningham said Eyre's cookie metaphor was flawed and oversimplified.

Burningham's key points are: public schools would lose federal money if enrollment falls; the Legislature doesn't spend the same amount for the same programs every year; the cost of paying building debt and many staff salaries would remain the same regardless of how many students are in public school; kids with special needs cost more to educate, and private schools don't have to accept them.

In a Nov. 6 referendum, Utah voters will decide whether to scrap a program that would give parents money to spend on tuition at a private school. Even affluent families would qualify. Over 13 years, the program is expected to cost more than $400 million.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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