Independent research conducted by the non-profit Sutherland Institute shows that Utah’s private schools are as broadly diverse as its public schools. Considering the students that vouchers are primarily intended to serve, low-income and minority students, the Institute anticipates that private schools are likely to become even more diverse if HB 148 is approved in the November referendum.
Actual minority enrollment for the 2006-2007 school year, as a percentage of total student population, was 24.5 percent for voucher-eligible private schools and 24.8 percent for public schools. Further, federal data from 2003 shows Utah’s private schools have a slightly higher proportion of minority students compared to the public school system.
“A common misperception we hear is that vouchers will lead to segregation,” said Derek Monson, Sutherland Institute policy analyst. “The data shows this is not true. Wherever voucher policy has been implemented in theU.S., low-income, struggling minority students, not affluent white students, are the ones leaving public schools and switching over to the private alternative. This trend suggests that private schools will only become more diverse with the implementation of HB 148.”
Carmen Torres, a single mother of three from West Valley, noticed how quickly her children were assimilated into their private school in Park City. “My oldest daughter was very nervous about attending a private school because she is shy and was worried if she would fit in as a Hispanic. But her worries were erased after just one day at the school. In fact, all three of my children feel much more comfortable at private schools, because they feel accepted for who they are and have many friends.”