Congratulations, Mayor-elect Becker

by Senator Mike Dmitrich
Senate Minority Leader

It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? MAYOR BECKER

Congratulations to House Minority Leader Ralph Becker on snagging a new office in the City & County Building down the street from the Capitol. Ralph brings to the office many years of experience in public service. Although he will be missed on Capitol Hill, we look forward to working with him on issues pertaining to Utah’s highly regarded capital city. Way to go, Ralph.

Voucher Costs Will Exceed Savings

by Senator Mike Dmitrich
Senate Minority Leader

Senator Mike DmitrichOn November 6, 2007, voters in Utah will vote for or against the implementation of HB 148, Education Vouchers, passed by the Legislature in February 2007. HB 148 establishes a voucher program to funnel taxpayer dollars to private schools. The amount of a voucher ranges from $500 to $3,000, depending on family income and size. Families at EVERY income level are eligible.

CHOICE is the nucleus of the voucher program. Parents can choose to send their child to a private school and use the voucher to offset the cost. In actuality, if the voucher law is implemented, parents WILL NOT be making the choice. Private schools will be making the choice. Private schools will exercise their prerogative to accept or reject students according to their subjective criteria.

Fewer than half of Utah‘s counties have private schools in their communities. Rural legislators who voted for the voucher program have done a disservice to their constituency. Private school is not an option in their districts, and therefore, the voucher program is not applicable to rural Utah.

Prior to voting November 6, please read the Impartial Analysis of Referendum 1 in the Voter Information Pamphlet. If you are a newspaper subscriber, you should have received a copy with your newspaper within the past two weeks. You should have also received one in the mail. If you do not have a copy of the pamphlet, they are available at public libraries and in all county offices. The entire pamphlet can be viewed online at http://www.utah.gov/ltgovernor (click on the red arrow at the upper left). You can also call Lieutenant Governor Herbert’s office at 801-538-1041, and one will be mailed to you.

During the first five years, the taxpayer will pay the cost of the voucher to the private school from the General Fund AND a portion of the per-student state funding to the school district from the Uniform School Fund for each student who accepts a voucher. The Legislative Fiscal Analyst estimates the total cumulative General Fund cost to be $429 million just for the vouchers for years 1 through 13 (when the voucher program is fully implemented). A tax dollar is a tax dollar, and it is naive to presume that citizens will feel no impact by funding vouchers from the General Fund. Voucher proponents erroneously assert that the implementation of vouchers will bring savings to our public schools. Read the Impartial Analysis carefully and you will see that costs will exceed savings.

Voucher proponents assert that the implementation of vouchers will reduce class size. There is no guarantee this will happen. Even though some students may leave the public school system, fixed costs remain unchanged. There are still buildings to construct and maintain, teachers and staff to pay, utilities to pay, supplies to purchase, etc. If enrollment decreases by a class size, a teacher may be terminated and the students redistributed among a fewer number of teachers, which may result in even larger class sizes.

A typical request for an appropriation of state funds entails a grueling process of accountability before, during, and after the monies are appropriated. I am wondering why taxpayers would vote to forego accountability for their tax dollars by giving a blank check to private schools where there will be essentially no oversight of monies spent.

The public school system is exactly that-education for the public-an opportunity for EVERY school-age child to have a quality education. Utah is a public school state; 96 percent of Utah‘s children attend public school. The core issue is whether or not it is in the best interest of our public education system to subsidize private schools. In a state with the lowest per-pupil expenditure in the nation, it makes sense to spend our limited resources for the benefit of the 96 percent. I urge you to vote against Referendum 1 on November 6.

Welcome to our Site and Blog

Welcome to the Web site and blog of the Utah Senate Democrats, where you can become acquainted with the views and perceptions of Democrats in Utah.

We bring to the table a diverse conglomerate of backgrounds offering expertise in natural resources and mining, higher education administration, public relations, labor and industrial organization management, law, political polling and research, and engineering. We represent a diverse aggregate of citizens in both rural and urban Senate districts, and we believe our diversity complements their diversity.

We take our lawmaking responsibilities seriously and are committed to quality representation for our constituents. Please visit our site often for Utah’s sound, sensible outlook.

Mike Dmitrich
Senate Minority Leader