We've all heard, ad nauseum, the claim from the Taxpayers-Should-Pay-Parents-Not-To-Send-Their-Children-To-A-Public-School special interest lobby Parents for Choice in Education that vouchers won't cost our schools one red cent and therefore must be a swell idea. By now, you've probably seen the TV spots and read the fliers. It's all over the blogosphere as well, so it MUST be true...
But is it? Do vouchers actually hold public schools harmless? Follow this logic and see for yourself:
Consider these facts (ironic source material courtesy of Sen. Stephenson's lobbying arm - Utah Taxpayers Association blog):
- Funding for the voucher scheme does originate from the General Fund. This fund consists primarily of revenue generated from sales taxes.
- Funding for public schools originates from the Uniform School Fund, consisting primarily of revenue generated from income taxes.
- BEFORE 1996, every dollar of income tax revenue in Utah went to support public schools.
- AFTER 1996, a constitutional amendment allowed the legislature to raid the Uniform School Fund (instead of the General Fund) to offset skyrocketing costs associated with higher education.
- We have BILLIONS in unmet transportation needs. To help meet these needs, the legislature has recently tapped into the General Fund (previously unheard of). Governor Huntsman's FY2008 proposed budget calls for more than 700 MILLION dollars to be spent on transportation from the general fund. We used to get by with user fees such as gas taxes and motor vehicle registration fees paying for our transportation needs. That day has come and gone.
- Since there isn't enough money in the General Fund to pay for both transportation and higher education ($674 MILLION in Huntsman's FY2008 proposed budget), guess where higher education must go? You guessed it...the Uniform School Fund!
- Therefore, every dollar that vouchers take out of the general fund is a dollar that higher education must go fetch from the Uniform School Fund.
With the analysis from the Hill that vouchers could cost Utah taxpayers over 420 MILLION DOLLARS in the next 13 years, are PCE and their paid-for legislators being completely honest with us that our public schools will indeed be held harmless? Are they saying that 420 million dollars to pay for new computers, textbooks, supplies, teaching assistants, professional development, curriculum design, or to pay for construction now instead of later wouldn't help our children's education?
If vouchers in reality are paid for by the Uniform School Fund, why didn't the bill simply have the money coming directly from public schools in the first place?
Study the PCE soundbites, see what they're trying to sell you, and decide for yourself.