- The Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union will challenge the constitutionality of Initiative C, which would give parents of children in private schools a tax credit, if it is approved by voters Nov. 8.
Robyn E. Blumner, the chapter's executive director, said the third tax initiative on the general election ballot violates the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, which mandates the separation of church and state."Effectively, it's the same thing as the government taking money from the state's general fund and giving it to private schools," including those that provide a religious education, Blumner said.
The Utah Family Choice in Education Act would give parents who choose to send their children to a religious or other type of private school a tax credit. The amount would be based on what the state spends on public school students.
Proponents of the initiative say it would actually help education because the tax credit would be no more than 60 percent of what the state spends per student, meaning more money would be available for public schools.
They also argue that public schools would be forced to improve because local school districts would be in effect competing with private schools for students.
The CLU joins Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which also contends the initiative can't withstand a legal challenge.
- Granite School District has been actively involved in the effort to defeat Utah's tax initiatives, but took its first formal stand on the issue Tuesday. The board voted unanimously to adopt a resolution in opposition to the tax-cutting measures.
The district's PTA units have been conducting a grassroots campaign to alert voters to potential effects on district schools if the initiatives pass. School patrons have received handouts and will receive more as the election nears, said Arbra Johnson, area PTA leader.
"There are still those who fail to comprehend the effects the initiatives would have on schools and that we have no way to fix the damage," said Board Member Lynn D. Davidson. "Since the fall of 1985, we have added 5,500 students to our schools, despite $8 million to $9 million in budget cuts. If we have to cut more, it will take a great destructive toll on education."
Board member Patricia Sandstrom emphasized the need of the board to recognize the problems created by the state's tax burden and to pay attention to "the message of the tax protest." Those problems need to be addressed, she said, but not at the expense of education.
If the measures pass, she said, "We will do what the public dictates and continue to operate the best system possible."
- Utah State University President Stanford Cazier says there is reason for pride during the school's centennial celebration, but he warns that further progress may be stymied by "financial circumstances which are anything but ideal."
In his annual address to faculty and staff Friday, Cazier said he has faith that Utahns are too wise to approve the tax-cutting initiatives on the November ballot.
He said that even before the initiatives were proposed, the state Board of Regents had documented a cumulative budget needs backlog for state colleges and universities of $63.5 million.
"For this reason, the regents have recognized the need for major changes, which could mean down-sizing the system to better conform to projected available revenues, while maintaining quality," Cazier said.
Cazier said that because Utah State is a land- grant college, it has a historical mandate to provide access to any Utahn who can benefit from its programs.
"The regents have gone on record in defense of quality, before other attributes of the system," he said. "I would seek a balance by assuring quality programs sufficient to stretch the finest minds without sacrificing opportunity for all students."
Cazier appealed to faculty and staff members to provide the "finest learning environment we can muster" and said the necessary conditions are "effective, caring teachers and a curriculum of substance."
He also challenged every dean, department head and program director to assess specific programs and decide what is most essential to the mission of a university.
"The trimming we can and must do is to focus on fewer programs within disciplines, to combine similar offerings in two or more departments and to decide how much of a subject or program is purposeful," Cazier said. "We must be as creative and innovative as possible to meet this challenge."
- The board of control of University of Utah Alumni Association Emeritus Club has voted unanimously to oppose the tax limitation initiatives.
In a resolution, the board urges all U. alumni to vote against the initiatives, saying they would slice $13 million in state appropriations from the university.