Tuition Tax Credits Won't Help Rural Utah
The state legislature is considering a bill that will hurt us in rural Utah while benefiting wealthy Wasatch Front residents. There's nothing new in that, but for some strange reason, this time our rural legislators are supporting it. The bill is House Bill 39, Tuition Tax Credits. Tuition tax credits are a scheme to pay people (with our tax dollars) to send their kids to private elementary and secondary schools.
Those who favor tax credits say that it will give parents more choice. Which parents are these? They don't live in my neighborhood. I don't know of a private school south of Santaquin that doesn't exclusively cater to out-of-state teens who have either a) behavior problems, b) drug problems, or c) both behavior and drug problems. Even if good private schools did suddenly pop up in rural Utah, how many of us would be able to afford them? Private schools cost about $6,000 a year for tuition alone. Most of the people I know in rural Utah couldn't afford to send their kids to private schools - even if they were given $3,000 by the government to help with tuition.
Some say that we need to pay people to keep their kids out of public schools because there is going to be a big increase in the number of students over the next 10 years. Most rural school districts are losing kids. Our tax dollars are going to be sent to private schools so that the public schools on the Wasatch Front don't grow too much. Even assuming that works up there, how does that help rural Utah?
Some legislators say that rural districts won't be hurt by tuition tax credits because the bill has $1.5 million to hold them harmless. The State Office of Education estimates that tuition tax credits will cost the state about $30 million a year. That means the pot of money for all Utah schools - including our rural schools - will shrink by that much each year. How can a one-time appropriation of $1.5 million fill that hole?
Tuition tax credits don't make sense for rural Utah. We need to ask our legislators why they are supporting it.