Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How do rural parents benefit from vouchers?

When the sponsors of House Bill 148 met with Parents for Choice in Education and/or their major funders -- maybe to collect a campaign check or two -- did anyone talk about the parents and students who live great distances from urban areas where the majority of these 138 private schools in Utah is found? If they did, did they make a conscious decision to exclude these rural parents from consideration, or was it accidental?

Last week, I said I might need to rename my blog "Accessibility First" because I was interested in where parents would have to live to use public-funded vouchers. I found a link to a Trib article showing a map of the 138 private schools in Utah, most clustered along I-15 from Ogden through Salt Lake City to Provo. (You can see the map again here http://www.sltrib.com//ci_5060104.)

The map said that St. George and Park City had four each; Brigham City, Escalante, Hurricane, Koosharem and Logan had two each, and these cities, towns and communities had one each: Castle Valley, Cedar City, Erda, Helper, Kanab, La Verkin, Moa, Manti, Monroe, Montezuma Creek, Monument Valley, Mount Pleasant, Oakley, Roosevelt, Tooele and Toquerville.

In looking at that list, I thought about people I know across the state, wondered where might be the nearest private school to them, wondered how far they would have to drive to get to a school where they could use a voucher. For example, I know there's not a single private school in Eureka or in all of Tintic School District. There's not one in Kamas or the South Summit School District. And there's not one in Randolph or the Rich School District.

Do you realize how far of a drive it is from Randolph to Ogden, the northern end of the clusters of private schools in the Trib map? It's roughly 100 miles, depending on where you live. That's just one way, and that assumes that the roads are always open. From Eureka to the private school in Spanish Fork, the one furthest south on I-15 on the Trib map, is almost 50 miles, each way.

So how are parents supposed to feel if they live in the remote rural communities of the state, are asked to support public-funded vouchers for private schools, but they live an hour or more from the nearest one themselves?