School Vouchers

Josei Valdez, administrator of the Office of Diversity for the Salt Lake City mayor, had this piece in Friday’s Salt Lake Tribune:

School vouchers would hurt most low-income children
Josie Valdez

The pro-voucher people keep touting how Referendum 1 would help those who can least afford a private education. They represent that vouchers will provide the opportunity for low-income parents to send their children to private schools. They deceitfully call it “parental choice.”
As administrator for the Salt Lake City Office of Diversity, I work every day with residents of Salt Lake City’s diverse communities. Many of these residents fall into the category of economically disadvantaged.
With more than 30 years experience in working in our ethnically diverse community, I have learned to ask the people who will be affected by a rule, regulation or law and find out what they think and what their experience has been.
So, I asked. I asked parents in our Asian, Latino, black, Pacific Island, Bosnian, Native American, African and Russian communities how they feel about vouchers.
The majority of the parents I spoke with said they did not know much about the issue, that they work long hours or have two jobs. Most parents were bewildered and hadn’t thought that they would ever be able to afford to send their children to a private school.

They asked me to tell them about vouchers. I explained that, depending on their total family income, families could be eligible for a voucher for each of their children from $500 to $3000. This money was to send their children to a private school if they chose to do so.
Most of the parents with whom I spoke with had no idea what it would cost to send their children to a private school. I didn’t have an answer off the top of my head.
I researched the tuition costs for private schools in our city. Some pro-voucher proponents claim that the average tuition cost is $4,000 per year. Anti-voucher folks are stating $8,000 per year.
I found Rowland Hall charges $15,000 for 12th-grade tuition. Juan Diego Catholic High School charges $8,522 for high school enrollment. Carden Memorial’s tuition is $4,150 for kindergarten and $7,195 for seventh- and eighth-grade enrollment. Meridian School’s tuition is $3,950 for kindergarten and $6,250 for high school.
These schools also have fees ranging from $125 to $635 per student. In addition, as transportation is not provided, parents would have to find a way to get their children to and from private schools which, most likely, would not be in their neighborhoods.
I told these parents that the average tuition is around $5,000 annually. If they qualify for the maximum voucher amount, which is $3000, they would still have to find another $2,000, not including the various fees and uniform costs.
Most of the parents with whom I spoke have four or five children. They know that there is no way they could afford to send all of their children to private school, and they do not feel that they could choose one child over another to take advantage of the $3,000 voucher.
They said that because of additional tuition cost, required fees and uniform costs, they could not afford to send their children to private schools.
These families are aware that private schools are not located in their neighborhoods. Most of these parents have multiple shift jobs and cannot take time off from work to drive their children to and from these schools. Some low-income families do not own an automobile.
The bottom line is: low-income families are all too aware there would simply be no benefit to them from this program. Vouchers would only serve to further segregate school and, in the long run, undermine our public schools.



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