Sutherland Newsletter – October 18, 2007

1.Education Subsidies Aren’t New, Public School Students Already Subsidized

Income taxes collected from families with children in Utah’s public schools do not cover the full cost of educating them, so other Utahns (households with no school-age children, private school children, home school children, and wealthy public school families, etc.) provide a subsidy for them.

“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 publicationVouchers, 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.”


2.Sutherland Institute Hosting Four Voucher Experts From Across Nation Today

First-hand witnesses of school voucher success are making the media rounds in Utah today and tomorrow to help Sutherland Institute educate Utahns by providing them accurate information.  Katie Christensen, public relations manager for Sutherland said, “These experts have either seen vouchers work in their own backyard or participated in the legal debate regarding this ground-breaking policy.”  In addition to the media programs during which these four voucher experts will be interviewed, they will also take part in a press conference today at 2:00 pm in the Sutherland office conference room in the Crane Building, 307 West 200 South, Suite 5005, Salt Lake City.

Sutherland’s guests include the following:

Representative Jason Fields (D), Wisconsin House of Representatives: Rep. Fields is one of the leading African-American advocates for the Milwaukee voucher program and will describe what vouchers in Milwaukee have done to help this minority group. He will discuss the realities of the program, what has worked and what has not worked.

Rebeca Nieves Huffman, president and CEO of Hispanic CREO:Huffman leads national efforts to improve the educational outcomes for Hispanic children and will explain why school vouchers can help improve academic achievement and graduation rates for Utah’s largest minority population. She was noted by Hispanic Magazine as a “Top Latina Leader in Education.”

Clint Bolick, director of the Center for Constitutional Litigation at the Goldwater Institute: A legal pioneer in defending state-based school choice programs, Bolick will address the legality of HB 148. He has argued and won significant cases in both state and federal courts, winning school choice victories in the Supreme Courts of Wisconsin, Ohio, and Arizona, as well as in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Jamie Story, education analyst for the Center for Education Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation: Based on her extensive education research, Story will explain why vouchers make good public policy for Utah and how voucher programs have helped minority students in Texas.


3.Voucher PowerPoint Now with Voice Track Online

Sutherland Institute’s PowerPoint “The Utah Voucher Program Primer” is now available online with a voice track.  The presentation shows that the new school voucher program is easy to understand, easy to use, easy to defend constitutionally and gives Utah’s neediest families a boost while holding participating private schools accountable.  The PowerPoint can be viewed as a QuickTime movie on Sutherland’s“ABC’s of Vouchers” webpage under “Other Resources.”


4.What Utah’s History Teaches Us About Vouchers: Part 6 of 6

On October 7, 2007, the Deseret Morning News and Salt Lake Tribune published the sixth and final part of the series written by Sutherland Institute.  The series examines the major forces from Utah’s historical records and cites their relevancy for today’s school vouchers debate.  Part Six concludes with an attempt to describe the necessary elements for a lasting consensus, a diminishment of political contention, and a livable view of Utah’s “education identity.”

Bringing us to the present moment in Utah history, no honest person who has studied the historical record prior to statehood could conclude anything other than that our forefathers would have embraced what we now call vouchers.  A lasting education identity for Utah will push us evermore toward a “seamless” approach to education — an educational environment, sustained by law, economy, and culture, that will allow Utah’s families to move freely across the spectrum of educational opportunities that best serves the needs of each one of their children.


This excerpt is from the Sutherland Institute’s Vouchers, Vows, and Vexations: The Historic Dilemma over Utah’s Education Identity.