To the editor:

The need for a student voucher system can be seen by reviewing how the state Educational Technology Initiative's $203,000 was spent at Hawthorne Elementary.The tax money bought a 70 computer/software system and enough printers for each of the 27 classrooms. Estimate each printer to cost $200 and that puts each computer with software around $2,800.

Many private schools and a few public schools use cheap, obsolete systems like the Atari 8-bit computers. The local Atari users club probably would have been happy to turn a school on to Atari computers. Many local residents would probably be happy to donate Atari equipment just for the IRS tax deduction.

Even if the systems had to be purchased, they would not cost more than $500 each. This would include necessary cables, table, surge protectors, etc. Ample education software is available and shared among schools using the Atari systems. There are also a couple of firms who provide Atari curriculum software for a meager price.

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Of course, the Ataris are slower, but they should be more than adequate for the needs of elementary students; certainly the speed and interconnectedness of the present Hawthorne system isn't worth paying five times as much money for. The low-tech computers also would have been more durable and cheaper to repair or replace.

Many of these types of purchase decisions are not reviewed by parents because they have such little control on how and where their children get educated. If parents had more choices regarding their children's education, they would probably get more value out of each tax dollar. A voucher system would be a big step in this direction.

Anthony Arnason

Salt Lake City

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