“Some people argue that vouchers subsidize private schools, but that isn’t true. Rather, vouchers subsidize parents that choose to use the private school system, just as our income taxes subsidize parents who choose to use the public school system,” said Paul T. Mero, president of Sutherland Institute. “This is an important constitutional distinction.”
Based on tax-return data from the Utah Tax Commission, the Sutherland Institute estimates that in 2005, a $289.5 million income tax subsidy was provided to households with two or more children in public schools. In its initial year, the voucher subsidy, at most, will be $12.5 million, the amount allocated by voucher legislation.
“Subsidizing education with tax dollars is not new to Utah,” Mero added. According to his research for Sutherland’s historical publication, Vouchers, Vows, and Vexations, “Early in Utah’s education history, the Mormon pioneers used tax dollars to pay for schools in which religion was taught as core curriculum. These early-day private schools were referred to as ‘common schools.’”
Today, Utahns are familiar with college Pell Grants, which are based on the same principle as school vouchers. “In 2006, $160 million was provided to the students in no-strings subsidies for colleges of their choice,” said Derek Monson, education policy analyst for Sutherland Institute. “The new school voucher law extends this principle to a limited number of low-income, K-12 public school students struggling to succeed.”
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