Vocational education on both the college and secondary levels could be devastated if tax limitation proposals are approved by voters this fall, says state Vocational Education Director Joe O. Luke.
Luke, attending the state's annual vocational education conference at Utah Valley Community College, paused Wednesday to discuss the importance of vocational education in Utah's future.Luke said he welcomes Gov. Norm Bangerter's proposal to funnel $10 million of the state's budget surplus into public and private education, but said that amount will be a drop in the bucket should tax limitation initiatives pass. Bangerter also proposes to refund $80 million of the $110 million surplus to taxpayers and keep the remaining $20 million in a rainy-day budget account.
Refunds should be withheld at least until after the fate of the limitation movement has been decided, Luke said.
If the initiatives pass, vocational education will suffer and "elective courses in our public school system will be devastated," he said. "That's a biased position, I realize that. But the scenarios are uncertain at this point."
Despite projections by limitation supporters that approval of the initiatives won't necessarily mean elimination of any educational programs, Luke said school districts could expect budget reductions of about 15 percent. Such a reduction would take a heavy toll on elective courses and vocational courses, which are expensive to offer.
"In my opinion, it's impossible to have a tax rollback without curtailing elective courses," Luke said. "Vocational education is an elective course."