1.Average Tuition at Utah’s Private Schools is $4,520
Independent research conducted by Sutherland Institute shows the average tuition among the majority of voucher-eligible private schools in Utah is $4,520. And nearly 64 percent of these private schools are within the range of affordability for low-income families, having tuition below $4,500.
“Affordability is a subjective term,” said Sutherland Institute President, Paul T. Mero. “But consider a low-income family that receives the maximum school voucher amount of $3,000 per child. The difference between the average tuition rate and the maximum school voucher is $1,520, or $127 per month. That is less than the cost of a car payment.”
Of the 88 voucher-eligible schools contacted, 64 responded. The responding schools reported annual tuition charges from $1,600 to $52,200. Only six private schools are clearly unaffordable for low-income families the new voucher law is primarily intended to serve. Those six were omitted from Sutherland’s results.
“In addition to being affordable, private schools in Utah are also convenient and accessible. These are important factors for the families that vouchers are primarily intended to serve,” said Mero. “The current supply of private schools in Utah is within close proximity to 85 percent of Utah’s school-age population.”
From its research conducted in August 2007, Sutherland Institute found that there are private schools in 17 of Utah’s 29 counties. Most private, public and charter schools are concentrated in the Wasatch corridor and the St. George area. In the most recent school year, these areas accounted for 85 percent of school-age children in Utah, which means the majority of school-age children have access to private schools that meet the qualifications to accept vouchers.
2.Data Shows Utah’s Private Schools are as Diverse as Public Schools
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 the U.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.”
3.Mero and Byrne Team on Voucher Policy
School vouchers should not be about power or money, according to Sutherland President Paul T. Mero. In a two-hour debate aired September 25, 2007 on “FreeCapitalist Radio,” he said vouchers are about helping low-income, struggling public school students. “In Utah, HB 148, the law that was passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, is really targeted at low-income, minority students, to help them get a leg up. The public school system is failing them: over 40% of the students in Utah’s Hispanic and African-American communities do not graduate with a diploma.” Radio talk show host Rick Koerber moderated the discussion between Mero and three other guests, including Patrick M. Byrne, chairman of the board and CEO of Overstock.com.
Mark your calendars for Wednesday, October 3, for an opportunity to hear Mero and Byrne team up again to debate Kim Burningham, chair of the Utah State Board of Education, and Marilyn Kofford, from Utahns for Public Schools. This voucher debate is part of UVSC’s monthly ethics forum, a free event open to the public, starting at 7 pm in Room LC 243 of UVSC’s Learning Resource Center.