This week the Utah State Legislature will be debating HB-271, a proposed act of legislation that will allow tuition tax credits for parents who send their students to a private school. The bill presumes that parents will have the opportunity of school choice for their children and at the same time claim an income tax exemption for doing so.
The fact remains, however, that Utah students already have the right to attend any public school in the state that is not over crowded. What tuition tax credit proponents are really arguing for is not choice, choice already exists. What they are seeking is for a new government entitlement program.
There are now 100 private schools in Utah. Where are they? Two-thirds are located in Salt Lake County. Where does Carbon, Emery or other rural counties come in where very few and small private schools are functioning. Leave the Wasatch Front and chances of finding a private school are very slim.
The projection of 145,000 new students headed for Utah schools in the next 10 years is certainly cause for concern. In view of existing private schools with their limited facilities, unless there is some untapped existing capacity of private schools, it is improbable to see how tuition tax credits can ameliorate the population boom.
For the most part, private schools, as with public schools, do a great job of educating students. Should HB-271 become law, private schools will not continue to provide such a standard without state interference.
Tuition tax credits will not only affect public schools, they also will affect the tax code. While HB-271 makes tuition tax credits refundable, it will tend to dry up charitable contributions. The credit is for a dollar for a dollar tax savings while charitable contributions offer only .42 cents on the dollar. It is easy to see where the contributions will go if, indeed, HR-271 is enacted into law.
HB-271 needs to be defeated.
On an unrelated subject, may I compliment James Franklin Rinehart for his enlightening letter concerning war to the editor in the February 17 issue of the Sun Advocate. His letter should be required reading for all clear thinking subscribers to the paper.