Pros and Cons of School Vouchers

Pros and Cons of School Vouchers

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Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

Paul Nelson, KSL Newsradio

On October 17, 2007, KSL 5 Eyewitness News aired a report evaluating the truth of certain claims made in recent political advertisements. One portion of this report evaluated ads being aired by both proponents and opponents of Referendum 1. In the story, KSL took no position for or against Referendum 1, and no position either for or against Referendum 1 was intended to be implied by the story. Recently, an organization that supports Referendum 1 sent out a direct mail flyer quoting portions of KSL's news story as support for that organization's views about Referendum 1. KSL believes that the flyer implies that KSL itself produced, or was at least involved in producing, the flyer. This is not the case.

Indeed, the KSL Editorial Board has aired an editorial stating that it is opposed to Referendum 1. KSL strongly encourages all citizens to carefully and independently research this and other political issues before casting their votes at the polls.

It's probably the hottest topic in the upcoming election. Commercials both for and against school vouchers are all over your television. Let's turn the TV off and ask both supporters and critics of State Referendum 1 to answer some questions.

Parents For Choice In Education Spokesman Lincoln Fillmore says, "It's a very small program, but it benefits thousands of kids."

Fillmore is supporting Referendum 1. Opposing the referendum is Utahns For Public Schools spokeswoman Lisa Johnson.

She says, "If there's extra money to go into education, we'd like to see that money go into public schools where 96 percent of the kids go."

One of the few things both sides agree on is how vouchers work. A voucher up to $3,000 can help a low-income child to pay for private school tuition, and both sides acknowledge that money comes from the general fund, not the uniform school fund. So, what about the claims that vouchers take away resources from public schools? Fillmore says it's not true.

"[The] public education pot stays as large as it always was," Fillmore says.

But Johnson says it's not that simple.

"The tricky thing is there is not a clear line between those two funds because higher education is funded from both," she says.

Johnson says if vouchers get too expensive, less money would be left for higher education in the general fund, and lawmakers could take money from the uniform education fund to make up the difference.

Next topic…

Johnson says, "Teachers at voucher schools are not required to have any certification or license or even a college degree."

This is true. However, Fillmore says if they don't have their degree, teachers are required to have years of experience in the field they teach.

Fillmore says, "For example, you could have a computer programmer teach computer programming."

However, critics say not all private schools are accredited like public schools.

Next topic… referendum opponents say there is no accountability in voucher schools.

Johnson says, "There are no basic curriculum requirements or attendance requirements for voucher schools."

Fillmore says, "All the accountability really rests with parents. ‘Is this the school for my child?' The parents will always be the ones that are best able to make that decision."

As far as how much this program costs, an impartial state analysis says it would cost Utah $5.5 million for the first year, but it could cost the state $71 million in its thirteenth year, when more students are eligible. However, the same report says it could save school districts $28 million in the thirteenth year.

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