Salt Lake City Schools are hot on the Mayoral Agenda

Written by Patricia Hawke for

Vouchers System in Salt Lake City Schools Up for Vote 
Presidential candidate Rudy Guiliani recently said that education was the new civil rights issue in America.  From the looks of it, candidates in the running for the Salt Lake City’s mayoral office certainly seem to agree.  The issues concerning Salt Lake City schools have featured prominently on the agenda.  The issue of vouchers in Salt Lake City schools is an especially sensitive one.  Voters are set to vote on a referendum on the state’s voucher system, the most extensive in the country. The mayoral candidates have been clogging up air waves with their own takes on the topic.  And what a controversial issue it is. 
Debate over Vouchers in Salt Lake City Schools
The debate over the vouchers system in Salt Lake City schools is particularly passionate. Those in favor of the voucher system maintain that the spiraling standards of Latino, black and other minority students at Salt Lake City schools has led to an increasing number of these students being left behind.  Close to 40% of African American and Hispanic students in Utah and especially Salt Lake city schools don’t leave high school with a diploma.  Voucher proponents use these staggering statistics to underline their position that the use of vouchers would help boost minority education levels in Salt Lake City schools. The public school system in its present state has failed hundreds of thousands of students over the years and, they claim, long term damage can be expected unless vouchers are brought into effect. 
On the other end of the spectrum is the anti-voucher lobby. Comprised mainly of Salt Lake City schools’ authorities, public education officials and parts of the media, they claim the voucher system will have no positive effects on the low income children in Salt Lake City schools who remain at the bottom of the heap.  Under the Utah voucher law, a family earning less than $38,000 per year is eligible to receive a grant of $3,000 to send their child to a private Salt Lake City school.  Anti-voucher lobbyists claim most private institutions have set their fees above the $3,000 range which puts the burden for arranging the remaining tuition fee on the families.  Most low income families are unable to cough up the extra dollars that it will cost for them to use the voucher.  In many instances, private Salt Lake City schools are located far from these low income neighborhoods- which again brings up the issue of transportation.  Poor families who can’t afford an automobile are not in a position to drop their kids off at these schools, making the voucher system something of a joke.  
As the debate rages on leading up to the vote, mayoral candidates are making their positions clear – for or against the vouchers. In a political climate where education has suddenly been thrust center stage as the burning issue of the moment, one can’t blame them for grabbing at it with both hands.