Education Specialist Sandra Yi reportingControversy is brewing again over a tuition -tax credit bill that will be reintroduced this upcoming legislative session. The bill would give -tax credits to parents who want to send their kids to -private schools.
Today - people on both sides are speaking out.
Other states have passed similar 'school choice' programs.
Supporters say the bill - should it pass - will better some student's education. But opponents worry - it'll be at the expense of public schools.
The Utah Public Education Coalition gathered today - to oppose a tuition tax credit bill, 6 days before Utah lawmakers are to convene for the 2003 legislative session.
Susan Dayton/President, Utah PTA: "WHEN OVER 97% OF THE STUDENTS IN THE STATE OF UTAH ARE IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, THIS IS A BILL DESIGNED TO HELP 3% WHO ARE IN PRIVATE SCHOOLS."
The bill - sponsored by Senator Chris Buttars - would give Utahns who choose a private education for their kids - a 21 hundred dollar tax break.
A recent KSL-TV Deseret News poll by Dan Jones and Associates showed - 57 percent of Utah residents somewhat or strongly oppose tuition tax credits. 39 percent support them.
Opponents hope legislators will take notice. They say - the bill would take money away from public schools.
Administrators estimate districts would lose an average of 8 hundred to a thousand dollars per year. They say that would be devastating - especially now when public schools are in the midst of a budget crisis.
Susan Dayton/President, Utah PTA: "IF WE PAY THE PARENTS WHO ARE IN THERE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE, IF WE PAY THEM TO LEAVE, WHO WILL BE THERE TO BRING THAT SCHOOL UP AND TO HELP MAKE THINGS BETTER FOR THEM?"
But supporters say the bill would not drain public school coffers - but rather, increase the overall amount of money spent on state education. They also say - it would help low income and minority students - who aren't succeeding in public schools.
Carolyn Sharette/Children First Utah: "I JUST REALLY HOPE THAT WE CAN GET BACK TO TALKING ABOUT KIDS AND FOCUSING ON THE NEEDS OF KIDS AND NOT PROTECTING THE SYSTEM."
Representative Sheryl Allen wants the public to decide. She plans to put a question about tuition tax credits on the ballot of the the 2004 general election. It will be a non binding referendum - for the legislature to use - before making a decision. But lawmakers could vote on the tuition tax credit bill - before that could happens.
You can read more about this issue in today's Deseret News.