Editorial: Tax tuition bill poor answer to education problem

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    Earlier this month, the Utah Senate approved giving parents a $2,132 income tax credit for each child they send to a private school, and it appears that the House will follow their example.

    Obviously public schools aren’t perfect, but are tax cuts the best way to handle education in Utah?

    The argument has been made that giving this money to parents who choose to send their children to private schools will give lower income families the opportunity to receive better education.

    This may seem sound in theory … until you consider private schooling costs. In Utah, private schools are less than plentiful, and on average cost more than $3000 annually. One school costs $7450 a year.

    And the costs don’t stop with admissions. Some private schools require all prospective students to take an admissions exam, which can cost another $100. There are books- $50-$150 – and the cost of uniforms. With costs hovering between $5000 and $10,000 a year, private education has its price – one that no working-class family can afford.

    Obviously, it is no more than a tax break for the wealthy.

    Proponents of the plan bring up the fact that kids in private schools are shown to perform better then students in the public education system.

    But if children are put into public school, are they doomed to fall behind and suffer from a poor educational environment? In some cases, perhaps. But it has been shown that public schools can and do succeed.

    The movie “Stand and Deliver”, based on a true story, demonstrated the potential public schooling has. It showed how one teacher, Jaime Escalante, succeeded against the odds in a ghetto high school in East Los Angeles.

    In 1983, both the enrollment in Escalante’s calculus class and the number of students passing the AP test more than doubled. Thirty-three individuals took the test and 30 passed. In 1987, 73 students passed and 12 more passed the “BC” version of the test.

    Obviously there are needs within the public schools that aren’t being met. This is understood. But until we know how tuition tax cuts will affect education in Utah, we would rather fix what we have – what has been sufficient in years past.

    Utah doesn’t need to change the way it allocates money for education. Utah just needs to improve the system it has.

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