Most Utahns are against school vouchers |

Most Utahns are against school vouchers

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Recent poll numbers show most Utahns will vote against private school vouchers when they enter ballot booths in November, which means supporters of the controversial measure must work to change minds before Election Day.

"There is a considerable amount of promotion in the works for this election," Summit County Chief Deputy Clerk Scott Hogensen said. "Both sides will be making their case to the voters."

In a Dan Jones and Associates poll conducted for the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV, about 57 percent of those asked said they would most likely vote against the school voucher program authorized this year by the Legislature. The poll, with a margin of error of five percent, surveyed 410 Utahns from June 26-28, according to a Deseret Morning News article.

Utah has the nation’s broadest school tax voucher program, which gives parents $500 to $3,000 of public money per child to spend on tuition at a private school. At issue are two voucher laws the Legislature passed in 2007.

One law is on hold pending the Nov. 6 referendum vote. A statewide petition drive by voucher opponents resulted in a decision to place the referendum before voters during the general election.

Voucher opponents say the program would hurt the state’s ability to fund schools by taking money away from public education.

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But because money for vouchers is expected to be taken from general funds and not state education coffers, supporters of the program counter that school vouchers simply provide parents more choices for educating their children.

"It will enable middle class people that can’t afford [The Colby School]," said Ellie Goldberg, a spokeswoman for The Colby School, a private school in the Snyderville Basin.

About a third of the children who currently attend The Colby School receive financial aid from the school, Goldberg explained in a telephone interview Tuesday.

"It’s not just Park City, it’s not just Deer Valley, it’s not just rich kids," she said. "By being able to utilize vouchers we would definitely be able to diversify."

Election could be costly

State election officials allocated about $40,000 to Summit County to conduct the voucher election in November, Summit County Chief Deputy Clerk Scott Hogensen said.

"I think it can be done within a budget of that size," Hogensen said. "It’ll be the only issue on the ballot in some of the unincorporated areas in the county."

Because lawmakers failed to provide funding for an election when the voucher law passed in the 2007 legislative general session, they took money from funds earmarked for Utah’s 2008 presidential primary, which will be replenished by lawmakers next year, he added.

"Everybody is trying to figure out what our anticipated turnout is going to be," Hogensen said. "The bigger the turnout, probably the more voting stations we’re going to have."

Hogensen said he expects about 10 percent of the voters in Summit County to cast ballots in November.

"If you’re going to have an election that has big turnout, you’ll want to have more polling places and have them in the places where people tend to vote the most," he said. "It’s always a decision about trying to get the best election done without having election workers sitting around all day with nothing to do at empty polling places."

Meanwhile, voters will likely cast ballots with the controversial electronic voting machines purchased by Summit County officials last year.

"They’ll be used in one form or another," Hogensen said about the touch-screen ballot machines.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.