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Tuition tax credits needed

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Innovation is one of the hallmarks of America's productivity. And that certainly applies to education.

It therefore is disappointing that various Utah school groups are apparently opposed to anything that differs from the status quo.

Their latest target is tuition tax credits. The Utah Public Education Coalition has put forth an eight-minute video — "Their Educational Birthright — that urges viewers to tell lawmakers to oppose this idea. The coalition includes Utah Education Association teachers, school boards, superintendents, principals and the Utah PTA.

Public education is in need of reform. It isn't offering the best possible educational opportunities for all. To try to pretend otherwise is foolish. Charter schools, school vouchers and tuition tax credits are gaining momentum throughout the country because they provide attractive alternatives to a stale system.

But Utah educators don't even want to give the tuition tax credit idea a chance to see if it can make a difference.

As we have stated in the past, competition strengthens public schools. Tuition tax credits, school vouchers and charter schools would make public schools better because they would make it imperative that public schools become more interested in treating students and their parents as customers, rather than as people who have no choice but to attend classes.

Tuition tax credits allow parents to choose private schools that might better address their children's needs. They allow businesses and others to pay to help low-income children have the same choice.

Critics claim the tax credits would harm an already cash-strapped public education system. That's misleading.

In the last legislative session Rep. John Swallow, R-Sandy, proposed phasing in a tuition tax credit of up to $1,500. On average, the state pays about $4,000 for each student in the public school system. Under Swallow's proposal, every student who left for a private school would leave $2,500 behind. The school districts would be able to free up space without losing significant funds.

Swallow removed his tuition tax credits bill from consideration as it likely wasn't going to pass. We hope someone decides to revive it for the next session.

Tuition tax credits and other innovations like school vouchers and charter schools don't endanger public education, as critics claim, they enhance it. Utah residents deserve to have choices when it comes to public education.